For the last ten years or so I have been wearing Arai helmets on the road and when out and about on the Adventure, and they've been very comfortable and are well made: nothing has broken or worn excessively over the five or so years I've been wearing them. I've taken the linings out and washed them and they've come up well.
|Arai Astro-R at Cadwell Park|
My road helmet is currently an Astro-R and from the track day stickers on it, I can tell I've been using it for seven years. Current thinking is that helmets ought to be replaced every five years or so if they're used regularly; or if you use it infrequently and it's looked after, you can stretch it a bit.
|Seven years: six of them in the slow group!|
Slightly younger is my Arai Tour-X (or Tour-Cross) which I bought in 2008 and gets used both on and off road. The visor makes on-road use much nicer than relying on goggles, yet there's enough room to use goggles with it off road, and there's plenty of room between the chin-bar and your... err... chin to let you use a hydration pack - which is vital off road or in the heat of the Sahara.
|Arai Tour-X somewhere in Wales|
It goes without saying that a helmet used off road is going to have a harder life than a road helmet, and mine is no exception. Despite not testing it on the ground in a fall, various tree branches, stone-chips and mud have all left their mark, not to mention the effect of dirt, sweat and whatever on the inside too.
At this year's NEC show, Arai Helmets had a display stand with samples of all their current designs in various sizes to try out. The Astro-R has been discontinued, and the Tour-X is now up to version four. I tried on a selection, and decided that the Astro-R's replacement could be a Chaser-V, and the evolved Tour-X4 is still a good fit, but there's a problem...
|You shouldn't perch your helmet on your seat in case it falls...|
The Tour-X4 has a much sleeker shape for the chin-bar, and as a result there's no longer enough room to use a hydration pack. This puts it out of contention and means that either my current one will need to last longer or I will have to look elsewhere.
Head Shape: One or the Other?
Also at the NEC show was Shoei. There's a long standing urban myth that you have either an Arai or Shoei shaped head, and consequently if one fits you, the other won't. This is nonsense.
Both manufacturers make helmets to suit different head shapes, and additionally the padding inside can be changed for thicker or thinner pads to help get the right fit - and a premier dealer for each respective brand should do this for you free of charge.
Shoei had fewer helmets to try, but lucky most of them were in my size. They're also one of the few manufacturers to produce a hybrid helmet like the Tour-X: Shoei call theirs Hornet-DS.
And it fitted me pretty well, although I might need to swap to thinner pads for a little extra room for my ears!
Their road helmets were also a good, snug fit, so could 2014 be the year I switch allegiance from Arai to Shoei? More time and trip to a local stockist is in order, I think.