By Jon Row
Sunshine can be hazardous to your health. Although it’s welcome on most rides, bright sun often has a dangerous downside. Even for the best riders, sun glare is always hard to manage in contrast to the shade controls cager’s have readily at hand.
Do you ever wish for those open face helmets three-snap sun visors that disappeared over the years? So do we. Early full coverage helmets had deeper set, narrow eye ports that effectively created a small brim effect. As full facers evolved though, the ports enlarged for better peripheral vision but allowed more sun in. For pure aerodynamics, road racers can’t use visor peaks which means there’s been no style incentive for those who must at least have the appearance of race speed capability.
When Daylight Savings Time kicks in this time of year, those persistently low solar arcs become more annoying and dangerous. Old, green-tint, visor brims have been gone so long now that we sometimes resort to taping our shields to fend off glare. This year though, we’re enjoying a “shady” helper: Arai’s XD4 dual sport helmet. Typically worn by “Adventure” and dual sport riders, Arai’s latest XD is a “cross over design”; a full face, visored genre which includes Shoei’s Hornet and AGV’s AX-8. All intended to blend the best features of dirt and street helmets.
The XD comes solely in Aria’s intermediate-oval head shape which fits lots of domes pretty well and some perfectly. One of our testers has the consummate, round-oval (yes it’s an oxymoron) shape but found the XD to still fit well. Arai facilitates adjustability by incorporating removable temple pads and their patented FCS, Facial Contour System cheek pads. The FCS allows owners to peel off 5mm layers to dial in the fit and possibly preclude the need to buy optional sized pads. Temple liners are also available in additional sizes to enable fit precision. Cheekpad covers and headliner are easily removable for cleaning and the cheekpads feature emergency removal pull tabs which could be invaluable should the need ever arise.
Bikeland tip: Reinstalling cheekpad covers on many helmets can be tricky. Take a pic so you’ll have a reference to go by after laundry day.
Venting and climate control
A good size chin vent with both inner and outer gates and diverters allows air to be directed up across the shield or directly onto the face. Shield brow vents help deter fogging and, for really cold weather, there’s even a drop down chin foil to keep frost off your Van Dyke. Twin top scoops and their exhausts each have individual controls and airflow is good. The side vents do a good job of evacuating air from the shell when you come up to road speed after a sweat-inducing trail section. If you frequently ride in foggy conditions, optional pin lock, anti-fog, shield inserts are also available.
For everyday street use the XD is superior to typical, visored, dirt bike helmets thanks to its refined aerodynamics and good sound suppression. The high quality twin cam shield pivot system keeps the shield and subsequently the peak close to the helmet when open. The shield offers plenty of peripheral vision, is easy to actuate and seals with a lock down snap. Arai offers the usual tinted shield options but given the brim benefits we never felt the need for anything other than clear.
The XD4’s newly designed visor peak is stable but flexible and has a mat black underside strip to further reduce glare and reflection. The peak is non adjustable, but the size is well proportioned and glare can be controlled with little head tilt… like having a perpetually perfect baseball cap brim.
Although not designed for high speeds, the visor peak is actually quite good up to about 80 mph. Bikeland did several 400 mile days at elevated speeds on unfaired bikes and experienced only mild neck fatigue, mostly from turning the head side to side. Of course, none of our staff could ever be deemed “pencil-necked” so your result could vary.
Like a Swiss Army knife, the XD can be used many ways: with or without its shield and with or without its visor. For serious dirt riding you can lose the shield and use goggles; the eye port accommodates most styles and sizes. If dust isn’t a big factor, trail riding with the shield in place still works well thanks to adequate venting. Goggles can, in fact, even be worn under the shield for light mud/slop conditions. For competition use or heavy mud, an optional shield with tear off posts is available. On track days or high road speed adventures, the peak can be removed but you’ll quickly find yourself missing its key benefit. For most street riding the shield and visor/peak combination work perfectly as is.
With the peak in place, the XD won’t fit into some of our favorite trunks or saddlebags but we can live with that. Arais aren’t inexpensive and the XD is no exception. MSRP on the five solid colors start at $599.95 and eight graphic selections are all $729.95. Sale prices are less of course but it’s still a top grade investment. As detailed in other Bikeland reviews, Arai’s state of the art materials, construction techniques and performance history help justify the price.
Is it for you?
The XD is a light, well-built lid with plenty of climate control, great features and a wide fit capability. With the peak in place at legal speeds, wind effects are almost unnoticeable and, in our opinion, totally worth the sun and glare protection provided. We also think the XD can eliminate some rider’s needs for separate use helmets. The XD has quickly become one of our favorite go-to helmets. Given its versatility, we wouldn’t be surprised if it was the Swiss Army’s favorite too.
More details at: http://www.araiamericas.com/default.aspx?pageid=57#/helmets/moto/xd4