The RX-7 GP is the top of the line model for Arai worn by top level racers like Leon Haslam and Cal Crutchlow.
I need to start this report with the sort of disclaimers you normally only find on the rear of very strong cough medicine bottle. I have been using Arais since they first became available in Europe and I am, therefore, very favorably biased towards the make. Further, I have never bought an Arai and I currently enjoy sponsorship from Phoenix Distribution, the British Arai distributor. Finally, I am an enthusiastic Arai owner and this is my helmet make of choice. However, I am not a mindless fan of the marque and would migrate to another make the moment I thought there was a better alternative on the market – helmet safety is too serious a business to be influenced by emotion.
For Arai fans, the arrival of the all new RX-7 GP was something akin to the birth of a new Prince in the Royal Family. This was Arai’s absolute top of the range helmet – the head protection of choice for MotoGP riders like Colin Edwards, World Superbike stars such as Leon Haslam and Cal Crutchlow…and classic racers like me.
We read all the press releases, scanned the pictures and then waited for the first sight of the new heir to the throne. Unwrapping the holy infant was not disappointing. The Arai comes inside a box, naturally, and then there is the fine quality fabric bag, silicone lube for the visor hinges and an instruction manual. None of this will help you one iota in the case of an accident, but the accessories do at least begin to give you justification for the Arai’s price – and more on that later.
The actual helmet is finished, internally and externally, to standards which everyone else in the helmet business is still trying to achieve. Quite simply, an Arai is stunning to look at and can, potentially, fit impeccably. But there is a vital caveat. Arais come in a vast range of outer shell, and inner liner, sizes and the company has a very definite view on the
Although the helmet may be difficult to get correctly fitted, the RX-7 GP is extremely comfortable and lightweight.
shape of the human skull. If you don’t have an “Arai head” it will be impossible to ever get totally comfortable in one. It is also critical to take the time and trouble to get the fit absolutely right – perhaps more so than most other helmets – because there is so much room for fine tuning.
Your patience will be rewarded because once a rider has an Arai “set-up” for him or her, it is like wearing a second skin. Quite literally, the helmet will disappear from your consciousness and allow 100% focus on riding.
I would add a personal tip in this respect: It is possible to wear an Arai tighter than most makes and, within the all-important caveat of comfort, the tighter the helmet fits the safer it will be. With the double “D ring” strap tightened, a well fitted RX-7 should not move at all on the rider’s head, even at very high speeds.
Arai claim that the new RX-7 has a larger aperture and so is easier to put on. In all honesty, I couldn’t tell the difference. However, a clever new feature which is worth noting is the emergency release cheek pads. Assuming that the medic who is dealing with you knows about the feature, the quick release pads permit the helmet to be removed more easily and so reduce the chance of neck injury.
Comfort is a key factor when choosing an Arai and existing Arai owners migrating from the RX-7 Corsair to the RX-7 GP will find an odd phenomenon. The new Arai is still extremely comfortable, either for racing or all day touring, but it is comfortable with a different feel. This isn’t a problem if you haven’t ridden in an RX-7 before, but it feels different if you have.
In terms of safety, Arai claims to have raised the bar with the new RX-7 GP. Let’s start with the shell. Arai call this a structural net complex. Arai claims that their “superfiber” is 40% stronger than conventional glass fibers. With its aerospace “superfibers” and resins it is a world away from the glass fiber shells of old but it still enjoys the benefits of resin and glass fiber construction. Primarily, these allow the shell to be sacrificial in an accident. In practice,
The RX-7 GP has varying thickness, placing more protection in areas which are likely to be impacted.
this means that the shell self-destructs during impact and in so doing reduces the impact on the inner shell.
What makes the RX-7 clever is that the shell varies in thickness in different parts of the helmet. This means that areas not likely to impact the road – for example adjacent to the wearer’s ear- are thin whilst the front and rear of the shell are much thicker. The area directly adjacent to the visor aperture is particularly strengthened to prevent flexing in the case of a face down impact.
The lighter the helmet the safer it will be since a large, heavy object waving around at the end of a human neck, in addition to the rider’s head, is highly undesirable. In terms of accident safety, and rider fatigue, light is good. There are many other good, safe shells being made by premium brand manufacturers today but an RX-7 is as good as it gets.
The real life saver in a helmet is the inner polystyrene liner rather than the outer shell. The liner absorbs the initial impact and in so doing reduces the risk of the brain accelerating into the skull. This might sound a little gruesome but it is what happens in an accident. That’s why only dumb people ride without a helmet – or bits of kitchenware molded to look like Second World War military gear.
The RX-7 has a triple density inner shell again designed to give maximum protection to critical areas.
Arai claims that having an extremely hard, and tough, outer shell allows a very soft inner lining to be fitted. Reducing acceleration and deceleration of the brain is the name of the game.
The RX-7 meets the ECE 22-05 standards, which doesn’t say much, but also the new Snell M2010. Away from the lab and in the real world, the visor aperture is now 5mm bigger than on the old Corsair. Now no one would have thought that 1/5 of an inch was going to have any practical effect on helmet safety – which just goes to show how wrong we all were. The extra 2.5mm on each side means that it is virtually impossible to see the edge of the visor aperture even with
The helmet comes with a well-designed ventilation system that can be fine-tuned for desired air flow.
your eyes at maximum peripheral vision. On the track, this is invaluable because a surprising amount can be seen with the quick, rearward glance. On the road, that extra sliver can be the difference between noticing the truck which is about to squash you or not.
Another new feature is the adjustable rear spoiler. For the first couple of races, I was like a “Top Gun” trainee adjusting the trim on my supersonic jet. Then the novelty wore off. Again, in practical terms the RX-7 is completely stable even in the dirty air which comes off a classic race bike at high speed.
On our V-Strom, where owner forums are always criticizing the poorly designed screen which causes turbulence, the RX-7 was effortless even after eight hours of riding. It’s worth repeating that, given correct fitting, an RX-7 GP can be just like having your own exoskeleton.
I have worn my RX-7 GP a lot this year both racing and on the road, and one of my favorite features is the really clever ventilation system which, at maximum, puts a lot of air through the helmet. Fine tuning is also possible so that a road ride can be started with one’s head toasty warm and then gradually cooled down during the day.
I am not a fan of the Arai demisting system and, in heavy rain on the road, I always need the visor lifted a few mm to allow a lot of air through the inside of the helmet.
So, to the punch line: The oil breather pipe on our G.50 cracked – not by much, but enough to put a hint of oil on the rear tire and launch me down the track at 75 mph head first. At this point, the debate about the need to wear a premium quality helmet became rather academic. The front of the RX-7 GP, directly above my nose, was badly worn away as was the visor and chin guard. I had a sore nose from where the helmet chin guard was pushed into my face but I did not lose consciousness or suffer any other ill effects.
The accident answers the question which you may be asking. If I had to, would I spend $900 of my very hard earned dollars on buying an RX-7 GP, or would I prefer to have another premium make for free? The truthful answer is that I would buy an Arai for one reason: I don’t want to be worrying about what protection my head has when I am racing or riding on the road. For me, the RX-7 GP removes this concern and this makes the helmet worth the money. For more information contact Why Arai.