by Frank Melling

Arai RX-7 Corsair

There are a number of fine helmets currently on the market but the only one I would consider wearing is the Arai RX-7. Why? First, the RX-7 is as safe as anything on sale today.

Let’s start with the shell. Arai call this a structural net complex. Arai claim that their “superfiber” is 40% stronger than conventional glass fibers.

Certainly, with its aerospace “superfibers” and resins it is a world away from the glass fiber shells of old but it still enjoys the benefits of resin and glass fiber construction. Primarily, these are that the shell is designed to be sacrificial in an accident. In practice this means that the shell self destructs during impact and in so doing reduces the impact on the inner shell.

What makes the RX-7 clever is that the shell varies in thickness in different parts of the helmet. This means that areas not likely to impact the road – for example adjacent to the wearer’s ear- are thin whilst the front and rear of the shell are much thicker.

The lighter the helmet the safer it will be since a large heavy object waving around on the end of a human neck, in addition to the rider’s head, is highly undesirable. In terms of accident safety, and rider fatigue, light is good.

Ironically, the real life saver in a helmet is the inner polystyrene liner rather than the outer shell. The liner absorbs the initial impact and in so doing reduces the risk of the brain accelerating into the skull. This might sound a little gruesome but it is what happens in an accident – and that’s why only dumb people ride without a helmet.

The RX-7 has a triple density inner shell, again designed to give maximum protection in critical areas. Inside the polystyrene liner is the foam padding. Technically this does not form part of the helmet’s safety structure but it is critical for another reason. A good helmet should be completely and utterly unobtrusive and not impinge on the rider’s concentration in any way.

With an RX-7, the comfort level is extraordinarily high. Make sure that you get a firm fit and the RX-7 will be like wearing a second skin. Whether for long periods on the road, or the cut and thrust of racing, the RX-7 never causes any distraction.

The helmet’s strap is highly safety critical. The Arai uses a traditional double “D” ring fastening. New riders sometimes find this system difficult to master but it is fail safe. Double “Ds” are also infinitely adjustable so that the helmet can be tightened really firmly on the rider’s head.

Some riders have an “Arai Head” – and others don’t. You need to spend an hour – and at the price of an Arai this should be expected – taking care to find the precise size to fit. Or maybe not. Some riders just don’t get on with an Arai and then it’s best to walk away.

It is also a very practical helmet – again in all conditions, racing or road. The ventilation system really does work and the visor can be held partially raised in traffic jams or when riding slowly in really bad rain.

There are quieter helmets than an Arai and when riding without ear plugs the wind noise can be almost obtrusive. Arai need to start thinking about this area of design in the future.

Some riders complain about the difficulty of changing visors but this is simply a matter of practice. The secret is to make sure that the two release bars on either side of the visor are fully disengaged and then the visor will slide out effortlessly. The system is not idiot proof but it works well.

At very high speeds, the RX-7 is completely stable. I like the fact that I can turn round during a race and my head is not ripped off by wind buffeting.

Finally, the finish is impeccable. Beautiful fittings and superb paintwork don’t make a helmet any safer – but there is no doubt that there is a real pleasure every time I come to use my Arai.

For me, the RX-7 is my helmet of choice.