Arai

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Defiant X And Classic Z

Article By: J. Ken Conte

Originally Published In The June 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

Helmets have become an accessory for a lot of riders, showing off new fancy paint jobs or an old-school aesthetic. Essentially, though, helmets are meant to protect, and what I discovered at the Arai launch is that not all helmets are created equal. Arai is a family-owned company, started in 1926 by Hirotake Arai, who was a hat maker and also a motorcycle daredevil. He developed the first helmet in Japan, and Arai took off from there, but it has always been a family-owned business. They pride themselves on hand-laying the complex layer construction of fiberglass, which H makes their helmets unusually strong and resilient. Each shell has the signature of the person who laid the glass and can be scrapped by the maker or the shell inspector. They aren’t completely old school, though; they employ the use of modern technology when possible, like precision cutting for the face openings.

After we got through the history and some hellacious crash videos showing the strength of their helmets, even with multiple impacts, we moved on to the helmets Arai was unveiling for the cruiser market: the Defiant X and Classic V. What took me about the helmets was the snug— but not uncomfortable— fit, the adjustability of the fit and the thought put into all aspects of the helmet, from safety to styling. The Defiant X is a full-face cruiser helmet, with aggressive styling, smooth lines and ventilation like no other. The styling of this helmet doesn’t scream cruiser, but it has a more aggressively styled chin bar to give it a non-sport-bike look. Many helmets have all sorts of fins and ridges, but the Defiant X has the typical Arai shape, so if an impact occurs there is less chance for the helmet to catch and cause a neck injury.

Arai was the first helmet company to offer ventilation in, so you can imagine they take great pride in offering multiple ways to ventilate the Defiant X. I found the air circulation remarkable with all the vents open: I didn’t notice air circulating, just that the helmet was cooler. The visor on the Arai is different from other visors in the way it locks in place (providing less wind inside the helmet) and has an optional Pro Shade. The Pro Shade hooks easily onto the outside of the helmet, leaving the interior free for additional padding and protection and bringing the face of the helmet closer to the rider’s face, which helps mitigate distortion. It took a bit getting used to the mechanism of the Pro Shade, but once I did, I saw that riding with this helmet provided peace of mind, in addition to comfort and styling.

The Classic V is Arai’s modern take on the classic three-quarter helmet. What makes it different is the hand-laid shell, plush interior, and vents. Why would you need vents on a full-face helmet? Have you ever sat in traffic in a no-vent helmet? There’s nowhere for the air to go, and your brain starts to cook. The venting allows channels and rear venture-exhaust ports to force cool air over your scalp and out the back, putting this three-quarter helmet a notch above the rest. After hearing the tech talk, we went to the Daytona short track and got outfitted for some flat track lessons and training by 10 Training owner Johnny Lewis. The track was very dry and slick, almost like talc. They had some TTR 125s, a Husquavarna and a few Alta electric bikes. I’ve done a few days on a flat track before, but I still consider myself a novice.

After the brief safety overview, I hopped on the 125 and got a few laps in immediately, so that I didn’t have too much time to analyze the situation and scare myself. Part of life, for me, even at 45, is doing things that make me uncomfortable, and—trust me—getting on an unfamiliar bike, on an unfamiliar track, with unfamiliar gear in front of my peers ranks right up there. After that (because we had limited boots), Johnny hooked me up with Gary Kinzler of Light Shoe, and I got boots with an accompanying hot shoe. I started to feel like I knew what I was doing, so I hopped on the Alta. It is direct drive, quiet and with a ton of torque!

I went easy on the first lap, but then started breaking it loose a bit, and the weight, combined with my inexperience, made for some hair-raising sideways moments that I ultimately pulled out of. After 25 to 30 laps, I finally had my fill, and we headed out on the bikes to St. Augustine. The ride up was great, and I finally got to experience the Arai Defiant X at speed and experiment with the vents and Pro Shade. I adjusted quickly and found it to be a great fit, with no hot spots and very good visibility. I started closing up the vents as it got colder and marked the good heat retention. That night found us in downtown St. Augustine, which is beautiful and worth the trip. I called it an early night and left at sunrise the next morning, heading back to Daytona in time for Willie’s ChopperTime.

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