Akihito Arai is grandson of Hirotake Arai and Director of Arai Europe. motorcycle helmets have been his whole life...
When I was born my grandfather had almost retired from the company, but I still remember him being at the factory. Everyday he would go to the company, to the factory, looking around, seeing everything was okay, meeting visitors or important guests. He loved to visit the company and loved motorcycles and remained very involved until he was too old. Unfortunately he died when I was young, on June 14, 1986. Looking back I don’t remember ever seeing him riding motorcycles, he was very old when I was born, but I remember him travelling to many, many countries. I have also seen pictures of him riding, he looked like he was having a lot of fun. I especially like the picture of him standing on a bike’s seat wearing only a straw boater and white suit! At least he had a tie on, always looking smart.
I think I was always going to work for Arai. The company’s knowledge has been passed down from my grandfather to my father and now to me, Arai is a family business and I’m still learning. Maybe when I was younger I wanted to be a pirate or an astronaut, but when I graduated from university I already knew what I wanted to do, to help run Arai, so I joined Arai Europe in Holland. I am now president of Arai Europe, it is a very responsible job, I have to work very hard and learn quickly.
When I started I thought Arai was only for the Japanese market, because I didn’t know exactly all the information on the company, but when I came to Europe I was amazed how big it is. We make about 300,000 helmets a year worldwide. And we are always trying to make them better and safer. The best crash helmet is not today’s, but tomorrow’s. We are always trying to improve our helmets and we use many different techniques. As well involvement with our sponsored MotoGP racers such as Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden we do a lot of wind tunnel testing and also talk with F1 drivers to discover what works. Sometimes the development teams from car and bike crash helmets can learn from each other, wind tunnel testing came from our involvement with F1.
I can’t say what I can create in the future, but I want to create something for Arai. We are looking at possibilities for added protection, but we can’t forget the human head hasn’t changed for millions of years. We have to keep the helmet so it fits the head, we can’t change this policy, only modify it. The basic helmet will always stay the same. If advances such as an airbag will help the helmet then we will develop them, but now I’m not so sure, such a system is heavy and we would have to develop a function like that very carefully. We have recently developed the Arai Emergency Release System, which is in our motocross lids and new RX-7 GP, and I believe this is an important safety aid for riders.
As you would expect motorcycles have always been a part of my life. I started riding when I was 18. My father never said I couldn’t ride a bike, but he never pushed me into riding either. I did it because I wanted to. Now I ride as much as I can, at the moment I have a Triumph Speed Triple, it’s very good. I love the feeling of riding a bike, it creates an emotion, which is what we want our helmets to do, create a feeling for the rider. I also ride a Duacti and a Harley Davidson, but they are my father Mitch’s bikes. I only have the Triumph, he has a few more, maybe three or five, I’m not sure, a Honda, Ducati, BMW…
Of course I wear an Arai when I ride, but in white, no colour or MotoGP replica. I prefer using a white or silver crash helmet because you can see the design of the lid, the shell’s lines and contours. I am proud of the design of Arai crash helmets and I like to look at them, not hide them behind a lot of different colours or graphics.
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