In this week's show, Ray talked us through his insurance win, we have another look
The last time we talked on the subject of helmets, I laid out my previous lids, and the 3 contenders I was looking at. If you haven't seen that story, check it out HERE.
As part of my research, I spoke with many people. One of them, Ben Wilkins, the editor of Kiwi Rider magazine, and he put forward a very good case for the Arai XD4, and Arai in general. Hand-made in Japan, by a family-owned company with no compromise on safety. This is one of the reasons you won't find an Arai with a dropdown sun visor. If it requires removing some of the protective EPS, or a compromise in how the helmet will react in a crash, they just don't want to know.
During my research, I heard some favorable things about Airoh also, Hand made in Italy, tested against the European ECE rating standards, and a host of awesome features.
Interestingly in my conversations, no one mentioned the Bell option. It was all Arai or Airoh. But in the end, it came down to budget, and the Airoh is around $250 cheaper than the Arai.
So, sitting on my desk right now is the Airoh Commander in Progress Red/Blue. I've been wearing and testing the Airoh Commander helmet for the past few weeks and coming from an HJC i70 and an LS2 Pioneer Evo, a few things stand out. Firstly, this is the most I've ever spent on a helmet, But as soon as I took the helmet out of its box, I was instantly impressed with the finish, features, and quality. When I say quality, it's a hard thing to quantify, but it really just comes down to the feel of the components, and the experience using the thing. This helmet is just beautiful to hold in your hands and to wear. Without looking at the actual numbers, I'm sure it's the lightest helmet I've ever worn as well. It fits my head very nicely indeed with a nice small shell size.
Many companies the world over have identified the unboxing process as the first experience a consumer will have with the brand, and so work hard to make it special. Airoh's box has a nice sheen, looks classy, but not over the top. Open the lid, remove the packing, and you're greeted with a silky white bag, with the Airoh logo in blue. This feels like quality, and when you take the helmet out, this high-quality feel is hammered home even more. The Airoh Commander in Progress Red/Blue is a mat finish, red at the front, blue at the back, with a white Airoh logo across the lower rear. The peak is a sort of gunmetal grey.
The Airoh Commander is not just Pinlock ready like most other helmets, but it actually comes with a Pinlock insert. The screen is wide and gives an impressive field of vision.
The helmet comes with an action camera mount from the factory which is a nice addition and allows you to mount the camera to the top of the peak, instead of adhesive directly to the shell. This is a good safety feature, meaning that in a crash the camera mount is likely to break off, and less likely to punch a hole through the shell and cause a head injury.
There is a large 3 stage air vent in the chin bar, as well as exhaust vents in the top and back of the helmet.
The ASiroh Commander is coms ready also, with a small rubber grommet covering a hole in the shell through which to pass the cables for your Cardo intercom or another Bluetooth device. It's the little things that really increase the feel of a product, and it's clear Airoh has really put some effort in here.
Included in the box, along with the action camera mount, are some grommets/blanking plates if you wish to run the helmet without its peak. These cover the screw holes etc to help keep the wind noise down. I've opted to keep the peak on the helmet.
On the road, it feels really good with large air channels in the peak to reduce catching the wind. It's remarkably quiet and stable, even on the motorway. As the Airoh Commander is comms-compatible, I have the Cardo Freecom X installed, and I am able to keep the volume at around halfway and still hear the music clearly while riding at 100kph. It's a tight fit from new, but over a few house it has loosened slightly, and now it's just really comfortable.
I've often thought of drop-down sun visors as a bit of a gimmick, preferring to wear sunglasses or a tinted visor instead, but this drop-down sun visor actually works, and it's far enough away from my face to be able to wear glasses inside it. Operated by a small lever positioned on the left-hand side beside the visor pivot, it requires some voice to put up or down but operates with a reassuring "clunk into place in both directions.
I went out and did some "Hard-Adventure" riding with Todd Heslin not long after the Airoh arrived. It was my first real outing wearing the helmet. I'm happy to report that it handled it all really well. I didn't get a single bit of fog on the visor, even though I was working pretty hard. The lining does a great job of sapping the moisture away from your skin. The ventilation worked really well, And when I got home I got my first chance to disassemble the helmet for cleaning. I'm used to helmets where the shell is stuck to the EPS, and you unclip the lining from there to remove and wash. In the Airoh, the EPS fits into pockets in the lining, and all fits in the shell very snugly, In a way each section of EPS and lining holds each other piece in. So if you remove one cheek pad, the rest of the EPS kind of comes out as well. I took the PES out of the lining pockets, washed the lining, and then sat down to play a game of Tetris to reassemble the helmet. not difficult, but allow yourself 5-10 minutes to get it all in right.
So, yes, I'm pretty stoked with my Airoh Commander helmet. It just feels great, seems to have all the bells and whistles I need/want, and comes with a European ECE 22.05 safety rating. Although I've heard big things about Arai, I've also heard once you try one on, nothing else compares. sp maybe next time I'll make the step up to an Arai, but for now, I'm stoked with my Airoh. My next big ride is the Yamaha Adventure Ride on the Tenere 700 from Hastings to Martinborough over 3 days at the end of March, so I'll let you know how we go after then.