1985 was the year that I first heard of Arai helmets: I had been riding for a year or so, wearing a cheap £20 polycarbonate Nolan N24 whilst zinging around on my knackered old RD50M when my sister’s boyfriend turned up wearing an Arai Supervent Freddie Spencer Replica. Fast Freddie was on his way to winning both the 250 and 500 Championships and he was my idol. To see the replica helmet in the flesh was, to 17 year old me, just as good as seeing man in person. I wanted that helmet but it was way out of my price range.
Roll forward 25 years (gulp!) to 2010 and I am purchasing an Arai Chaser Legend with the sublime Phil Read graphics. I had been looking to buy this helmet for a while as I think the black and white design makes it one of the most classy looking full-face helmets on the market. I was always told that you either had an Arai or a Shoei head and since I had previously owned four Shoeis, I was a little cautious so I kept returning to the shop to try the lid on.
Straight away the helmet felt comfortable: yes, it was different from a Shoei but just as comfortable if a little noisier. The shell was light and the internal padding cosseted my bonce giving me the reassurance that I had made the correct choice. On the first ride, however, I didn’t realise that I needed to slide the little clip on the visor in order to lock it in position; this resulted in the visor unexpectedly flipping up as soon as I looked over my shoulder! My previous Shoei helmets had a ratchet visor system giving you the option of several openings and a secure closing of the shield. Once I found out that the Chaser’s visor needed locking, it became second nature. The catch is held on by a little screw which came loose after a while so I had to replace the catch and screw in order to keep the visor down.
Visor changing was also a different experience: Shoei employs a couple of levers that pull down a catch at each hinge so that the visor pops straight off. With the Arai, you need to open the visor fully, then two levers appear from inside the hinge covers: when you pull these, the visor can be removed but is makes a terrible noise which made me think that I was breaking some plastic components within the mechanism. Refitting is rather awkward, as you have to slide the visor in between the hinge covers and push really hard until it clicks into place. All of this was rather worrying when you’ve just shelled out around £300 for the lid! Once you get used to this system, it becomes easier, however, I did manage to break both hinge mechanisms on two separate occasions, showing just how delicate the set-up can be.
One of my biggest issues with the Arai Chaser was the fact that the lining in the chin guard was so prone to falling apart. Like most people, I carry my helmet by the chin guard: I had done this for 6 years with my previous Shoei XR1000 with no problems at all. I took the helmet in to my local dealer (not the shop that sold me the lid) and they sent it off to Arai to have the padding repaired. When it came back, I was told that I was carrying the helmet incorrectly and this is what caused the damage: I mentioned that this is how I had always carried helmets and this was the first to suffer from this fault. A year later and I had to return the helmet for a second time to have the same repair.
Ventilation is very good on the Chaser with a chin vent, two more in the visor and a fourth on the top all of which can be opened when required. Exhausts are located to the rear of the shell and at the nape of the neck. The vents are so good that my head was sometimes too cold; such is the perfectly designed route that the air takes through the shell. The vent in the chin guard became loose after some use but was also repaired on the second return to the factory.
As with most top-line helmets, the Chaser has a fully removable lining allowing for easy maintenance and, if you should need them, replaceable components to ensure a comfortable fit throughout the lid’s lifetime.
These days, the Arai Chaser is a mid-priced helmet from one of the most respected manufacturers. Unfortunately, my experience was one of frustration. Although the helmet was always comfortable and Arai did repair the chin guard lining twice, I felt that, compared to the Shoei helmets that I had previously owned, the Arai was just too delicate for everyday use – or maybe I’m just too ham-fisted! Luckily, my nearest Arai supplier was only a mile from where I lived, so getting the helmet repaired wasn’t too much of a hassle, just an inconvenience. When I’m spending several hundred of my hard earned pounds, I expect the product to work at all times without having to be handled with kid gloves.