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Arai Concept-XE helmet review

Published on: 08 March 2024






In 2019, when Arai introduced the 'Rapide', they changed the way we thought about retro helmets. It was the first truly modern, retro-styled, full-face helmet. In 2023, the Rapide was relaunched as an ECE 22-06 helmet, and its name was changed to the Arai Concept-XE.

For a number of years prior to the Rapide's launch we had petitioned the major helmet manufacturers to produce a high-quality, retro helmet. And that was because, whilst there were lots of retro helmets out there, most were little more than over-priced, novelty pieces. Some of them looked great, some had fabulous graphics, but most simply didn’t work on the bike in the way one expected a modern helmet to.

They usually didn’t fit well. Indeed, with chin bars that sometimes left the chin exposed, we actually thought a number of them were dangerous to ride in. Very few were comfortable. Nearly all of them were noisy. The idea of variable venting didn’t exist on these helmets. Not a single one was Pinlock prepared. And in heavy rain, most of these retro helmets were as watertight as a leaky bucket, because there was no rubber seal between the visor and the shell.


retro motorcycle helmet


Before Arai and Shoei intervened, most retro helmets were just toys!


Not that an Arai is the right helmet for everybody. Arais are, for reasons connected to the thickness of their outer shells, bigger and heavier than some other helmets. And because Arai comes out of racing, their helmets can sometimes be noisier. And that’s down to the fact that, in all forms of racing, airflow is important. That makes sense, but lots of air coming into a helmet can mean extra noise too. You will also never get with an Arai niceties such as a drop-down sun visor, a flip-up chin bar or an integrated comms. facility. And that’s to do with the founder’s philosophy, and the company's adherence to his fundamental design principles.


Arai Concept-XE helmet front


The Arai Concept-XE


The Concept-XE's shell is round, smooth, and totally totally uncluttered. It has a very authentic, classic look. The helmet does, however, have a bit of a Simpson Bandit-esque nose treatment. Still very retro, but perhaps a bit more eighties and nineties than seventies. The Concept-XE will look good on any retro bike, but what Arai also wanted was that this helmet should work on any modern custom bike, street fighter or cruiser. And it will do.

Ventilation on the Concept-XE is acceptable, but not outstanding. There are six vent slots in the chin; these are closeable from inside the helmet. You also get eyebrow vents. These really work, but when they’re open they do increase noise levels a bit. Which is not to suggest that the Arai is a noisy helmet. It’s not. In fact, we reckon it’s quieter than almost any other Arai we’ve ridden in. Air exhausts through outlets at the back and side of the helmet.




The Concept-XE is positively festooned with technical detail.


Now the visor is of the Grade 1 optical quality that you would expect. Obviously, as the Concept-XE's an Arai there’s no drop-down sun visor. The visor opens and closes using a system called VAS. It pivots the visor, so that it pulls tightly into the aperture to create a better seal. It gives a cleaner, smoother look to the helmet, but it also makes for an excellent seal to keep out both the wind and the rain. Personally, we really like the old-fashioned, screw-in side panels that secure the visor. They look the part, but we also suspect that they contribute to the helmet’s relative lack of noise. You also get, and this is exclusive to the UK version, a Pinlock 120 in the box.




You get a Pinlock 120 in the box.


The interior is what you would expect of an Arai. All the facings are comfortable. They can be removed for cleaning and, as with Shoei, we here at Motolegends carry all the headliners and cheekpads to enable us to customise the fit. In proper, retro style, fastening is by means of a double d-ring.

We often go on about the fact that there’s no such thing as an Arai head, because every Arai model has a slightly different head shape, but the whilst an Arai is still oval in shape, it is nonetheless a bit rounder than a Shoei. So if you find that the Shoei Glamster 06 is too narrow for you, you might find the Concept-XE just a bit more accommodating.




So where do we get to with the Concept-XE?

What do we think about it? How do we rate it?


The Arai Concept-XE is a modern, supremely-safe, reasonably well-vented, quiet helmet that you can ride in all year round, all day long. Inevitably, people are going to compare it with the Shoei Glamster, and indeed the two helmets are direct competitors. The Shoei is lighter and easier to wear. It has more of a classic profile, perhaps.

The Arai Concept-XE feels like a traditional Arai which, of course, is what it is. If you like your Arais, the Concept-XE is going to feel familiar. It is solid, robust and beautifully put together. It doesn’t pander to the Hipster brigade. It’s a proper old-fashioned helmet. It’s not a pastiche; it’s the real deal.


Shoei Glamster 06 and Arai Concept-Xe


The Rapide and Glamster changed perceptions of retro helmets.


The Shoei is also a great helmet; it’s a very similar helmet, but it’s a typical Shoei in the way that the Concept-XE is a typical Arai. If you want just one helmet that you can commute and tour in, or throw on to pop out to pick up the newspapers, we could make a case for the Arai. If you’re more of a weekend rider, want something light, easy and cool to ride in then you may be more drawn to the Shoei. The Shoei is cheaper and, although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the Glamster is probably more in line with what most people expect a retro helmet to look like.

But we reckon that the choice will largely be down to aesthetics and, importantly, fit. Both are great helmets. From a technical and functional standpoint, both blow every other retro helmet on the market into the weeds. And, what’s more, given what these helmets are, and who makes them, we reckon they’re both fairly priced.

You can see all the different colours of the Arai Concept-XE helmet here. There aren't many!



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