If you’ve done even a bit of research on protective headgear for motorcycles or even cars, you will know of Arai. The Japanese company has been churning out helmets for about 70 years now, and it’s really one of the best brands out there, or at least so I’ve been told.
On a recent trip to Japan, I decided to bring home a nice souvenir for myself, this Arai Astro GX in Platinum Grey—a stunning matte colorway if you ask me. I didn’t think twice when I bought it at Ricoland Shinonome. I remember parting with ¥59,120 JPY for the helmet that I got. The breakdown of my purchase is ¥53,000 JPY for the helmet, ¥4,500 for the dark smoke visor, and ¥2,300 for a UGAM “Pinlock” insert. There was a 10 percent discount deducted from the accessories that I bought. (In total, the whole package cost me $455 USD). Considering the exchange rates, this was a great deal!
Apparently, Arai is one of the more affordable premium helmets in Japan. Shoei’s actually a bit more expensive than good ol’ Arai, and forget affordable if you want to go with AGV, Nolan, or even HJC. There is a bit of a premium attached to foreign brands, at least that’s what I saw in Ricoland. So I was quite literally getting the best deal in the room, or at least I thought so at the time.
Dustin reviewed the North American version of the helmet that I bought, the Arai Contour-X, and while the Astro GX is more tailored for Asian heads, and standardized for safety regulations in Japan, it’s largely the same lid with the same pads and the same features. My point of view will be more nitpicky. Since the technicalities of this helmet’s shell were already covered, I’ll weigh in on the more “princess and the pea” stuff.
There is no mistaking this lid. It’s an Arai through and through. The R75 shell is iconic in its shape and unmistakably Arai. From the top-of-the-line to the entry-level, Arai helmets always tend to look the same, but the Astro GX is a rather oddball in the lineup, and that rear spoiler is to blame.
When I picked up this helmet for the first time, I was astounded by the density, heft, and quality of the shell. The finish was what drew me in, and the shell made me take out my wallet. Arai does a great job when it comes to paintwork and shell quality and I believe that that’s where most of your money goes whenever you buy an Arai.
The Peripherally Belted Complex Laminate Construction (PB-cLc2) is now stronger than before, made evident by Arai’s decision to put two ventilation holes in the forehead under the new 3D Logo Duct, but more on that later. I’m not the biggest fan of the top vents as they’re very tiny and kind of look like an afterthought. However, after a while, I did grow to like the design of the little vents since it gives the helmet a somewhat classic and retro look in the front. It’s all party in the back, however, thanks to a sizeable spoiler at the back which has an exhaust vent at the back that is also switchable.
Overall, this is a nice-looking lid with a little aerodynamic flare at the back. Half classic with a modern touch at the back, it got my attention. Picking it up, it met my expectations based on all the great things I’ve been hearing about Arai.
While Arai’s shell and the brand’s reputation had me sold, it wasn’t the same story when I strapped the helmet on and dissected the pads. They say that Arai helmets have a hand-made quality to them, and that’s rather true, but not in a totally good way. The Astro GX has a rather round-oval shape, unlike the more intermediate oval that the Contour-X has, and it fits close to my head so I got a size small.
Back to the “hand-made” thing, while the shell is immaculate the interior is not exactly class A in my book. The interior lining is a little scratchy, not exactly tier-one premium. I expected a little more from Arai. The material used is a more comfy cloth than moisture-wicking sporty fabric which would have been good if the cloth was actually comfy. At least it is odor-resistant, so at least it has that going for it.
It’s also quite a big deal for the cheek pads to be adjustable with peel-away foam layers and a headliner with a reconfigurable top pad. For all of its options, however, the foam’s not exactly springy. It does have a nice initial fit but what worries me is the long-term durability of the interior. I might have to buy some extra pads down the line should the pads deteriorate beyond what I’m comfortable with. Other than that, the pads also feel a little looser than my other helmets, especially in the forehead area which isn’t even tethered down to anything and moves around every time I put on the helmet.
In summary, it’s a so-so interior. I expected a little more from Arai. The fact that not all of the interior parts are removable, only the cheek pads and the headliner can be removed, is a little bit of a con in terms of helmet sanitation, but that’s just me being extremely picky. The good thing about this is that you won’t have to worry much about a break-in period, but the question is how long will the pads last? That remains to be seen.
The ventilation performance of this helmet was excellent. The chin, brow, forehead, top vent, and exhaust ports were all top-notch. I had a good time riding with this helmet on my head on hot days, and the aerodynamic properties of this helmet were quite nice too offering stable performance at high speeds up until about 100 miles per hour or thereabout. The helmet remained quiet until 60 miles per hour, with noise starting to creep in at the 80-mile-per-hour mark, which is just about right for a sport-touring helmet.
The helmet did feel a bit heavy on my head, however, which is expected for an Arai. The helmet felt balanced and its visibility was excellent on the road thanks to Arai’s VAS-V system. The only problem is that the visor is very finicky to open and close. In Arai’s never-ending quest to deliver an absolutely safe helmet, it left out a bit of convenience off the table. The visor mechanism will always be locked when fully closed which is good, but it takes a bit of finesse to open it up. Opening it requires two motions, one unlatching the lock, then the other to lift up the visor. Closing it is another ordeal in itself. The thumb tab on the visor is way too small to be used to close and lock the visor. It’s not unusual to see reviewers and owners of this helmet pulling down the visor from the top in order to close it.
As for its safety ratings, the Astro GX itself has the Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) certification as well as the approval of the Motorcycle Federation of Japan (MFJ), on top of that, the helmet is Snell SA2020 certified. While the model that I have is the Japanese version, the helmet is known for being ECE 22.06-certified under the Quantic model name and also Snell-rated for the Contour-X model in the states.
So yes, it performs well on the bike and it’s one of the safest helmets around, but it’s not exactly a seamless experience. I appreciate the safety standards that the Astro GX and its other counterparts but there were a few shortcomings that made me reach for other helmets in my collection.
For about $500 USD, I’d say that it is a fair deal if you want the hallowed Arai name to adorn your head. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll probably be really safe putting your head into an Arai, but that doesn’t make it the absolute best option out there. I understand there are riders out there that swear by Arai and only ride in Arai, but I can’t help but feel a little short-changed after all the hype.
At the end of the day, I’m still happy to strap an Arai onto my head, and I’m quite content with my purchase. It’s just that there are a few things that bug me with this helmet and it is because of those things that I find myself reaching for other lids in my collection.
So would I recommend this helmet? I think I still would. You just have to know its quirks before making the purchase. I like the looks of the Astro GX, I like the shell construction, and I like the small bits of innovation plus the aerodynamic properties of the helmet. The interior leaves something to be desired while the visor is a hassle to use, but if those are the only quirks to get Arai’s name on your forehead, then so be it. Objectively, however, I found myself using the HJC RPHA 1N and the Shark Spartan RS Carbon Skin more so perhaps my subconscious choices speak louder than what I’ve actually written down in this review.