Now on test: 2018 Arai Tour-X4 adv helmet
The Arai Tour-X4 is not a new helmet. The original X4 series dates back to 2011 which in motorcycles years might be a long time ago. But motorcycle helmets do not evolve quite that fast. As we learnt from our experience of the Arai RX-7V, the Japanese company's flagship helmet, the difference between the visually identical ones from 2016 and 2017 was actually significant. The 2016 Arai RX-7V Vinales felt heavier and the 2017 Arai RX-7V Ghost felt lighter as well as better balanced. So what's the Tour-X4 about, then?
Who is Arai?
If you haven't heard of Arai... Arai was started in Japan by founder Hirotake Arai who got his break designing helmets that the Japanese army rather liked. Arai was an inventor and it was him that first put the combination of a fibreglass shell and (expanded) styrofoam together. It's a combination that still powers almost every helmet money can buy. The level of detail and technology in both the shell and the shock-absorbing liner has moved on, but the principles and basic materials remains the same. The company, Arai Helmet, dates back to 1926, when it started out as a maker of hats. Today, Michio Arai, son of Hirotake runs the company. Michio reiterates the essential values that make Arai Helmets such a hallowed brand in motorcycling have not changed and safety and protection, above all else, is Arai's goal for all of their helmets. Even today, all Arai helmets are made by hand and carry the name of the shell's maker proudly inside the helmet. Arai also proudly reminds everyone that each helmet is inspected at each stage of the manufacturing process to ensure that each Arai Helmet meets their own stringent standards.
Who is Performance Racing?
Performance Racing was started by Vivek Jaising and his team in the early 2000s. Vivek - or Vicky as everyone calls him - is on the CNBC-TV18 OVERDRIVE Awards jury for two-wheelers today and has been a serious motorcyclists for decades. Owning a series of superbikes along the way, Vicky started Performance Racing because he realised how hard it was for riders to find good riding gear. Today, the market has changed and there are many players, but it was Vicky and Performance Racing that set the ball rolling. Today, Performance Racing distributes and sell Arai Helmets as well as a series of other brands in India, including French gear maker Ixon, Sidi boots, Forma boots and many more.
The Arai Tour-X4
The Tour-X line dates back to around 2004. Arai created a helmet with a visor and a peak for the growing adventure tourer market. In fact, Ewan and Charlie, the duo widely held responsible for putting BMW's R 1200 GS on the map, as it were, were wearing Arai Tour X-series helmets in their Long Way Round series. The latest generation of that line is the Tour-X4 you see on these pages.
It still follows the same essential pattern. The shell is as round as possible - an Arai stable. But the jaw bar is slightly elongated to resemble a dirt helmet. A curved visor closes off the eyeport and atop that is the dirt bike helmet-style peak. The helmet looks cohesive as a design and a shape although it mixes elements of full-face and dirt-bike helmets.
The idea of the mixture of styles makes for a versatile helmet. You can ride it with the peak and visor on an adv. If you have a big screen, this works rather well. You can also take the dirt more seriously by replacing the visor with a pair of MX goggles if you like. Or, you could turn the Tour-X4 into a more serious road helmet by removing the peak.
The reason why motocross helmets tend not to use visors, partly, is because of your ability to breathe freely. Riding dirt is hard work and the ability to oxygenate is critical. The Arai Tour-X4's chin bar is heavily vented. There are two side vents with a metal mesh cover as well as a vertical central vent with two separately controlled inlets. All four can be closed individually, though Arai says the bottom-centre vent closes primarily to stop dirt from entering the helmet in dusty conditions.
The top of the helmet has two intake vents, again with individual on-off buttons. The peak is designed not only to minimise buffeting but to also drive air into these two vents. At the back of the helmet are two upper exhaust vents, low lower vents as well as the usual central vent just above the neck.
Moving to the inside, the Arai Tour-X4 has a completely removable interior. The cheek pads and the temple pads on the crown have 5mm of thin layers of sponge that can be peeled off to tailor the fit exactly to the rider's head. As usual, Arai uses double-D rings for retention. These are slightly fiddly to learn to use but the best retention mechanism of all because you cannot wear the helmet with a loose chin strap.
Compared to the RX-7V, the Tour-X4 uses a slightly lower spec material for the shell since it isn't a race helmet. This allows the helmet to be lighter and I have more space around my ears. This is good for long rides and for those who use helmet intercoms, it might provide a little more space for speakers as well. As with all Arais, the helmet feels fantastic next to skin. So the first impression is of a plush, well-fitting, light-weight helmet. As it is, Arai's are particularly well-balanced once worn and the Tour-X4 is excellent as well.
On the move, I was surprised at how much air flows into the helmet. The four vents on the chin are excellent! However, I did have an issue with fogging initially. Then I installed the included Pinlock. The Pinlock is an insert that creates a small transparent air pocket in the visor that totally ends fogging. Arai, I've been told, prefers this to chemical anti-fog coatings because the latter wear out over time.
I was worried about the peak causing the helmet to lift at speed. And it does too. But first, I noticed that even at high speed, the helmet never buffets or shakes. Score! On the flip side, the peak catches air and lift the helmet a bit but you learn to tilt your head forward just enough to prevent this rapidly. Will this work on an extended highway run? I think it should but we shall see.
The other thing that's making me really happy is the colours. You see, the white, black and green scheme looks fantastic. But what none of the photos tell you is that the grey parts are actually a reflective grey. So once you're riding in the night, the helmet lights up from all sides and that's a huge score for your visibility and safety at night.
I really like the Arai Tour-X4. I've been using race helmets as my daily helmet for just over 10 years. I'm rather enjoying the lightness of this Arai as well as the larger eye-port which dramatically improves vision. I've removed the peak as I write this and I want to ride the Arai as a pointy-jawed street helmet for a few days next. Stay tuned to OVERDRIVE as we put the new Arai Tour-X4 through its paces.
2018 Arai Tour-X4 Catch Yellow
Rs 57,000 (Mesh Yellow Pattern)
Team OD | 12 Feb 2019
Team OD | 14 Feb 2019
- The Forum Art Gallery Residency
- The Hindu Photojournalism Awards
- Book Review: The Red Cat and Other Stories | Ritesh Uttamchandani