For obvious reasons, perhaps, there hasn’t been a lot of new product development in the helmet market in the last 12 months or so. In 2021, we’re going to see a lot of new colourways from manufacturers, but not a lot of totally new helmets are going to be released this year. But one of the high spots in 2021 is going to be this new Arai Quantic.
Now any new Arai is exciting news; and to be honest, as a sport-touring helmet, this one is pretty much right up our street. It features a new, lighter-weight, shell construction. And given that Arais tend to be bigger and heavier than other helmets, that’s welcome news.
But the most exciting thing about the Quantic is that it’s probably going to be the very first ECE 22-06 helmet to come to market. Now we’re shortly going to be doing a video review all about ECE 22-06, but suffice it to say that it’s a new higher standard that heralds a generation of safer and more protective helmets.
The current standard, ECE 22-05, in truth, is not particularly impressive. You can meet it with a £50 helmet. The ECE standard was originally introduced in the seventies, although 22-05 itself dates back to 1982. But the pass threshold for energy absorption in an impact is not set particularly high, and at that threshold the likelihood of brain injuries is over 90%. The new standard is a variation on the one that has more recently been developed by the FIM for Moto GP riders. Obviously, any moves to make motorcycle helmets safer are welcome, but it will be quite a few years before all helmets meet the new standard. As I’ve said, we’ll review the new standard shortly. It’s interesting stuff, and should be important to all motorcyclists, but it is not, per se, the central theme of this particular review.
Arai make great helmets. If one is being totally honest, it would have to be admitted that the iron grip of the founder has stopped the brand developing into new markets and arenas. Mr. Arai likes to do things his way, so you won’t find an Arai with a drop-down visor or an integrated comms. facility. And he would never contemplate something as heinous as a flip-lid helmet!
Now, in the early days, Arai helmets were tested by the Snell Institute in America; and the Snell standard was originally designed for car helmets. Car helmets need to have particularly strong outer shells that won’t crack even after repeated impacts with, say, a roll cage. In a car helmet, the strength of the outer shell is, in relative terms, more important than the helmet’s ability to absorb and dissipate energy in an impact. But it’s different in motorcycling; in a motorcycle helmet, it is the absorbtion of the energy of an impact that is more important, because it is this that can save your life and prevent head injuries.
From the very early days, and as a result of its experience with Snell, Arais have always had phenomenally strong shells. But because a strong shell won’t be particularly good at absorbing energy, Arais have needed to have an extra thick, energy-absorbing eps. What this means is that Arais tend to be heavier and bigger than other helmets. Put, for example, a Shoei Glamster next to an Arai Rapide, and the difference is plain to see. The end result, of course, is a helmet you can rely on. Strong, yet still energy absorbing. Potentially the best of both worlds, provided of course that you are prepared to live with a bit of extra girth and a bit of extra weight.
One of the things that has perhaps hampered the development of the Arai brand into other markets is its obsession with racing. Mr. Arai is a fan of racing, and of how it helps him to create a better product. The shape of an Arai, for example, is always very round to help it glance off the track surface if there’s a coming together. And it’s true that a round shell is better in this regard. Look at any Arai, and compare it with a Shark or an AGV, and you’ll notice how much smoother and more rounded the shell is. We have absolutely no issue with rounder shells; they work better, and from a design perspective, we reckon they look better too.
The other feature that Arai has always built into its helmets, again because of racing, is enhanced ventilation. Racing is hot work. To stay cool, you need to be able to get large amounts of air into the helmet. Arais, therefore, are always extremely well vented. The downside is that Arais can, as a result of the large amount of incoming air, sometimes be a little noisier than other helmets.
So that’s Arai helmets. Arais are immensely reassuring to ride in. They feel solid. And they are beautifully put together. Arais are not inexpensive. But when you buy an Arai you are not paying a premium for the brand’s cool and fashionable credentials. You are paying for the research that has gone into Arai’s development programme. For their in-house testing that way exceeds any statutory requirement. For their years of experience in racing, and for the uncompromising attention to detail that goes into the construction of every single helmet. Arai helmets are made entirely by hand. It takes 18 hours to make just one helmet. And every helmet is inspected five times before it is allowed to leave the factory. On one level, nothing can match an Arai.
So now let’s talk about the Quantic itself in a bit more detail.
In what follows, we are going to talk through all the key features of the Arai Quantic. We have briefly had access to an example here in the office, but it was only a prototype, and so we were not able to ride in it. As a consequence, we have no experience of how it is going to perform on the road.
But, despite this, we are not going to trot out all the blurb prepared by Arai’s press office; so we won’t be talking about how the Quantic will ‘wrap its wearer in a cocoon of luxury’. Nor will we be eulogising about how it ‘wears with comfort and ease, day-in-day-out, with zero compromise’. We are going to try and keep it just a little bit real!
Now, we’ve already mentioned that the Quantic has a new, lighter shell. The shell has a ‘peripherally belted e-Complex Laminate Construction’. Now that means no more to us than it does to you. The bottom line is that it allows Arai to create a lighter and thinner shell without any compromise in terms of strength and rigidity. It means that the Quantic will be less heavy and smaller than it might otherwise have been. But whilst there’s no change in the shape of the shell, it still very much accords with Arai’s rounder shape for better glancing off abilities.
There is one thing about the Quantic that we’re not massively excited about; and it’s the large spoiler on the back of the helmet. It’s apparently inspired by the spoiler on the RX-7V. It’s meant to improve stability and reduce buffeting, as a result of which it is supposed to reduce rider fatigue. Apparently, it’s been tested at 300 kph at Suzuka, which makes their sports-tourer motorcycle much faster than mine! But whatever the functional benefits, we think it looks out of place on a helmet like this. In our view, it is simply too racy and aggressive; too boy racer. But that’s just us; that’s an opinion; no more.
And here we have an admission to make. We love the Arai Rapide, but that Simpson Bandit-esque nose extension is not exactly what we would have wanted on a retro helmet. Ironically, what people were looking for was an updating of a classic, eighties Arai. Totally smooth and totally round. In our view, the Quantic without the spoiler would be the perfect retro helmet. Anyway, we’re just saying; just in case anybody in Japan is listening!
So, now let’s take a look at the helmet in a bit more detail. Let’s start with the venting.
In total, the Quantic has 12 ventilation ports: six intake, six exhaust.
One thing that is brand new for the Quantic is the way the Arai logo on the brow acts as an inlet to two intake ports. It sits just 3.5mm off the shell, and has an open and closed position. At just 30 mph it channels 40% more air into the helmet; at 75 mph that becomes 70% more air. The switch for the duct has been designed to be operated easily with gloved hands. Air also flows into the helmet through the Formula One-derived, very neat, tear duct intakes.
The chin vent incorporates a new design that has been created to increase the volume of air passing over the visor. There are three positions for the vent: open, closed and halfway.
As with many Arais, you also get eyebrow vents into the top of the visor. Now, we like eyebrow vents. They are very effective when it comes to cooling down on a hot day. If there’s a downside it can be that, when open, they can be a little noisy.
Which brings us to our least favourite feature on the Quantic! That spoiler. The spoiler is not just a spoiler. It is also an exhaust vent, and is operated by means of a three-way switch. It efficiently allows air that enters the helmet through the brow, the eyebrow vents and the tear ducts to exit the helmet. You also get, on either side of the helmet, exhaust vents that are integrated into the shell. These exhausts help create negative pressure inside the helmet to better draw out warm air.
So, as ever with an Arai, the Quantic is well furnished with inlet vents and exhaust vents. We have no doubt that they will work well. But, right now, we can’t say how they will affect the wearer in terms of noise; that is still to be seen.
The Quantic comes with Arai’s standard VAS Max Vision visor. It locks into place by means of new shield latch mechanism that, apparently, Arai has lifted from its Formula one helmets. It operates smoothly and intuitively, and is easy to operate even with a gloved hand.
The helmet also comes as standard with a Pinlock 120-equivalent visor.
As with most Arai helmets, the interior parts of the helmet can be swapped out. This is useful if you want to clean and refresh the interior but, more importantly, it means that here at Motolegends we can custom fit the helmet for a perfect fit, as you can get thicker and thinner pieces for every size of helmet.
The helmet has also been designed with ear-pocket recesses so that intercom speakers can be fitted without pressure being applied to the ear lobes. But, unlike with Shoei, there’s no integrated comms. package designed to work with the Quantic. You’ll have to stick something from the likes of Sena, Cardo or Interphone on the side.
The helmet is equipped with an Emergency Release System (ERS). Basically, there are red pulls on the cheekpads that allow a first responder to yank the pads out, to allow the helmet to be removed more easily.
You also get, as standard, a breath guard and a fixed chin curtain, which at least shows that Arai has taken steps to reduce noise. Closure is by means of a Double-D ring.
The Quantic comes in five sizes, from XS (53-54) up to XL (61-62). There are three shell sizes to accommodate these five sizes; one for XS and S, one exclusively for M, and one for L and XL.
We are genuinely excited at the prospect of the Quantic. That spoiler aside, it promises to be the kind of helmet that will work on just about any bike. You get Arai quality and Arai levels of protection and comfort. And for the first time, you’ll get an Arai tested to the new, more demanding, ECE 22-06 standard. And that makes it even more exciting.
It means, in our view, that this helmet is going to prove hugely popular, as a lot of people are going to want their next helmet to meet the new, higher standard. There is, therefore, a strong possibility that the first production of the new helmet will sell out entirely to pre-orders. We can’t say this for sure, but 22-06 will be a huge deal, and in the early days helmet buyers won’t have a huge choice. I’ve put my name down for one already, despite that spoiler! If you’re an Arai wearer, know your size, and don’t want to risk missing out, then it might be worth putting in an order now.
But Arai will not be the only player in town at this end of the market, because we expect its equivalent, the Shoei NXR, to also be released later this year. In fact, the NXR has already been released in the USA, where it is known as the Shoei RF1400, and if you want to look at one we already have one here at Motolegends. But, don’t grey import one. The American helmet is only DOT approved, and therefore you cannot legally ride in it over here. The European version will be much more protective. The American fit is also quite different to the European fit.
Now, coincidentally, the Shoei NXR is the most obvious direct competitor to the Arai Quantic. They are both sports-touring helmets. Neither comes with a drop-down sun visor. They are going to be similarly priced. The Shoei will be smaller and lighter, we suspect, and will come with better provision for a comms. system. The Arai, we are thinking, will feel more solid and robust. Now both have an oval-shaped interior, but the Arai is nonetheless a slightly rounder oval. Some people will be able to comfortably wear both. Others, like the author, with wider, rounder heads will probably end up having to go for the Arai.
The problem with the Shoei is that we don’t yet know when it is going to arrive. The Arai is scheduled for May; the Shoei might not reach the UK until somewhat later in the summer. But both helmets are going to be much in demand, as they’re going to be amongst the very first in the country to be 22-06 accredited. If you’re thinking that it might soon be time for a change, you should look at both the new NXR and the Quantic. And maybe even place an order.
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