The Arai Tour-X is the original adventure bike helmet, and could well be considered the benchmark for dual sport lids. The basic design had been around for 20 years or so, but it’s only in the last two that I’ve had the chance to become properly acquainted with this latest version, the Tour-X 4 – and what a piece of kit it has turned out to be.
Arai Tour-X 4
Tested by Justin Hayzelden for two years, 5,500 miles
Quality 5/5, Value 5/5
Just opening the box is an experience in itself. Cleverly packaged without the need for tape or staples, it's a masterclass in simple origami and opens to reveal the helmet cocooned in a neatly tied, fleecy storage bag, along with stickers, instructions (including a small bottle of silicone lubricant for the visor mechanism) and the Pinlock anti-fog insert.
Slipping it out of the bag and seeing the graphics in the flesh for the first time actually drew oohs and aahs, and then there's the smell when you first put it on - new Arais have a unique aroma that immerses the wearer in a sensation of quality and craftsmanship.
The Tour-X 4's shell is based on Arai’s distinctive rounded R75 shape, a design that it shares with all the Japanese manufacturer's top helmets, including the latest RX7-V race lid. It has been specifically developed to 'glance off' during an impact, thus reducing energy transfer and the chance of greater injury.
The construction is 'Complex Fibre Laminate', which consists of multiple hand-laid sheets of fibre bonded together with a special resin. This gives the shell both the structure and flexibility to absorb an impact across its entire surface. All external elements, such as the peak and air vents, are designed to simply break off to prevent them from catching on anything.
On the inside, there's an EPS layer, which provides protection at the point of impact by deforming to cushion your head. Should the worst happen, the cheek pads have a quick release feature to assist emergency services with helmet removal. The Tour-X 4 has ECE 22-05 approval, in addition to Arai's own stringent in-house testing, and meets the ACU Gold standard - meaning you could use it on the track too.
It gives me great piece of mind to know how much work goes into development and production on the safety side, after all that's a helmet's primary purpose, but in typical Arai fashion, the finished article is a true joy to behold. Every fixture and fitting has been added with the same inscrutable level of detail, not to mention the eye-catching Aldo Drudi-designed sparkly graphics, which set the ‘Depart Gun Metallic’ Tour-X 4 off a treat.
The interior features a fully removable and washable moisture-wicking Dry-Cool liner, which is ultra plush and incredibly comfortable to wear. It works well too, drawing away sweat and remaining dry against the skin. I usually wear a size 58/M size hand found the fit spot on straight out of the box, however it is fully customisable by using different sized padding elements (available separately). There are also 5mm ‘peel away’ sections at both forehead and cheek pads/ear cups to tailor the Tour-X 4 to individual head shapes.
I’ve yet to find a helmet that is as pleasant to wear as an Arai, and with that cavernous opening, the Tour-X 4 may well be the best in the range. The weight distribution is so good, that it barely feels like there’s anything on your head, even after a full day on the trails. And that’s from a helmet weighing 1670g (on our scales), hardly the lightest in its class. The double D-ring strap ensures an infinitely secure fit and the extendable chin spoiler does a great job of keeping the wind out when you don’t want it. There’s also very little drag from the aerodynamically designed peak.
The Tour-X 4 isn't the quietest of helmets, especially with the peak in place, but if you wear earplugs when riding (as I do) wind noise shouldn't be a problem.
The visor is prepared for a Pinlock anti-fog shield (which comes in the box and is easy enough to fit) and is fixed together with the peak via four plastic screws. This makes removal a slightly more drawn-out affair than with the quick release mechanism featured on Arai’s racier lids - and certainly something that can't be done yourself whilst wearing it. That said, it only takes me about two minutes to switch visors using a 50p piece as a screwdriver, so not really a big deal. Just be sure not to overtighten as it would be easy to destroy the screws.
Unlike much of the competition, the Tour-X 4 doesn't have a drop-down internal sun shield, so if you want a tinted view it means carrying a spare visor or slipping on some sunglasses. I ride in specs anyway and can confirm that there are no issues with fit or comfort at all, even after a full day in the saddle. Personally, I'm not a fan of drop-down devices, as I feel it's something else to break and they take up space that could be better used for protection.
The aperture seal has proved to be watertight, even in heavy rain, and the visor profile causes water droplets to disperse to the sides without the need to turn my head. It's one of the most effective helmets I've worn in that respect.
I tend to use goggles when riding off-road and like the fact that the strap fits with the visor installed, regardless of whether it’s open or closed. However, if the going gets messy it can also be removed entirely to prevent damage from mud and grit, turning the Tour-X into a traditional off-road style lid.
The Tour-X 4 scores massively for ventilation, with seven intake ports and five exhaust. I used it on a ride around the Peak District on the hottest day of the year and can say hand on heart that a lack of airflow was never an issue. All of the vents are easy to operate, even in chunky gloves, and are suitably robust in operation. Each one can be operated independently, save for those at the lower rear and the back end of the lining which are permanently open. The internal sliders on the intakes on either side of the chin bar are particularly neat.
I've worn the Tour-X 4 in the depths of winter too and with everything closed it insulated my head just fine. Although the Pinlock insert kept the visor fog-free, I can't say the same about my glasses, but fortunately, the visor has a two-stage catch which allows it to be cracked open just enough to allow a flow of air to solve the issue.
This brings me to versatility – with the peak removed, the Tour-X 4 makes a unique, and in my opinion, pretty awesome, streetfighter style lid. Although it’s designed that way and comes with additional side pods for running peakless, I can’t say that I’ve ever actually seen one being used in this fashion on the street. Which is a shame, as personally I love the look and have been using it more and more in this configuration on all kinds of bikes, from nakeds and scramblers to retro and cruiser machines.
I've intentionally left talking about price until the end, purely down to the versatility aspect. At a penny under £600 (RRP) the cost is not to be sniffed at, but for a handmade helmet that oozes quality both inside and out, not to mention the pleasure of simply wearing it, it's right on the money. Add to that the fact that it's essentially three helmets in one and the value should become clear - for trail riding, touring or even tearing up the track, the Arai Tour-X 4 could well be the only helmet you’ll ever need.
• Visor change mechanism could be easier
More adventure bike helmets to consider
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