Having worn one for all of my riding life I really mean it when I say a motorcycle helmet is a lot like a pair of really well-made boxers. If they fit well you don’t notice them, they’re a nice bit of extra protection between you and the roughness of the outside world and if you don’t clean them often enough they can get a bit rank. Plus, as they age they get more comfortable up to a point but then they start to decline in quality until it’s time for a change.
The decline point came for one of my helmets three Xmases ago. When I bought my first Arai helmet a decade ago it was with the sure and certain knowledge, quite unexpected in a mook as young as I that shouldn’t scrimp on it (again with the self-preservation.) I laid out almost $500 for that helmet and never regretted it for a moment. As with a lot of things, when you buy a helmet you really get what you pay for, above and beyond the simple aspect of personal safety in the event of an unplanned get off. That Arai fit like a dream. Like a really good hug from a really enthusiastic but thoughtful lover it was snug in all the right places but didn’t constrict. Looking out of the visor when it was clean was like staring through a window—-the edges of the helmet were just past the periphery of vision so there was never any feeling of being hemmed in, or of having your vision limited.
The chinstrap had a soft flannel lining on the skin side and leather on the business end, so that when the strap was threaded through the steel D-rings there was security without pain. And vents—-there were more vents and cleverly designed air channels through the inside of the helmet that you could shake a windsock at. With a few simple adjustments you could have any amount of air moving through there and across your scalp. The soft padding around the neck was close without being choking, and the whole effect was light and silent.
Seven years later it was time for a new one. The useful lifespan of a helmet is five years, and mine was showing its years of hard use. Oh, I’d kept it clean and mostly free of scratches and dings, but seven years of nearly daily use has a way of doing in anything. So that Xmas I asked for and received a brand new Arai helmet, same style and model, different colours and seven years more advanced.
Bliss! Comfort! Joy!
I was astounded at how much further an already excellent design had come. Lighter, better air flow from a different variety and shape of vents, and the padding design inside made the helmet fit even better. A year and a month later one of the side covers that conceals and protects the visor mechanism broke off, leaving me with a visor that wouldn't lock in place. No big deal. I simply requested warranty work on it (five year warranty!) and in no time I had the free part, installed it, and was back riding in comfort.
Then I fell down went boom one October afternoon.
Actually the sound was less of a boom and more of a muffled thump, but we're splitting hairs here (and not skulls.) The manufacturer says that helmets, like car seats, must be inspected by the manufacturer before you use it again for safety's sake. Now, I'm no moron, so I started worrying and ordered a new one. Which promptly backordered. Since the other guy's insurance was paying, I bought another (my third) Arai. This time the price had climbed a bit, but again, this is my brains we're talking about, not a pair of socks. I ponied up happily. It arrived yesterday evening, and I unpacked it and took a deep, meditative breath of that marvelous New Helmet Smell--fresh material, new foam, the faint whiff of long-chain polymers...mmmmmm...smells safe AND sexy. Then I slipped it on.
Showers of golden light and angels farting rainbows, this one is even better that the last two!
It's hard for me to believe that in three short years a company can advance THIS FAR with something as basic as a motorcycle helmet's design, but they did. My gawd did they. Noticeably lighter, vastly improved airflow (with a sort of wing across the back to create negative pressure on the outside of the vent, drawing air through) and quiet, far quieter than the old designs, which goes a LONG way toward rider comfort. Wind roar can leave your ears ringing. This helmet is quiet as a tomb. Plus it matches Sally to a tee.
So yeah, I'm smiling. I'm safe, I'm comfortable, I can't wait to NOT sweat in my helmet this summer, and I've got a silver mirror-finish visor so I can be Just. That. Much. Cooler.
We're talking State of The Badass Art here, kids.
This morning at work I got a clever idea, which I found out this evening is a LOT harder to pull off with a real camera, and a cellular phone camera hides a lot of evils. Since I'm no whiz with Photoshop (can't actually AFFORD it, wot?) you get to see me, the camera, my aquarium and a fair bit of the corner of my office. Bonus!
And remember kids, like the man says--keep the shiny side up.