Arai Concept XE Review: Retro-Look Lid With Modern Features

Arai’s new Concept XE intends to evoke the look of helmets from the 1980s, but with all the modern safety features you’d expect from a lid in the 2020s

Arai Concept XE helmet - side
Arai Concept XE helmet - side
Brand
Category
Pros
Comfortable, looks great, reasonably quiet


Cons
Visor not as easy to open as some, whistling noise at speed, finish can be easy to chip

There’s no shortage of motorcycle helmets that hark back to the 1950s and 1960s, but what about the 80s? It’s perhaps a lesser visited decade for lids, but Arai is attempting to change that with the Concept XE. It replaces the Rapide, with a very similar look that Arai says “gives a nod to the 1980s with the aggressive naked and streetfighter style”. With retro throwback bikes like the Yamaha XSR900 GP becoming a big deal, we can see the Concept XE being particularly popular. 

 

I’ve had one of these on test since late 2023 and have covered roughly 3,000 miles of riding while wearing the helmet on multiple types of bikes - nakeds, sports, cruisers and adventure.

 

Price: From £459.99

 

Key features:

 

  • Antibacterial liner 
  • Exhaust vents 
  • ‘Glancing off’ impact protection 
  • Intercom speaker pockets
Arai Concept XE helmet - side
Arai Concept XE helmet - side

 

The most important change of all for the Concept XE concerns regulation - it conforms to the new ECE 22.06 rules, which focus on protecting the rider against rotational forces during an oblique impact. Sounds boring, but this might well save your life in some accidents. It also includes an Emergency Quick Release System (EQRS) so that first responders can easily and safely remove the helmet after an accident. 

 

Arai makes a big deal out of its ‘Glancing Off’ impact protection, which the Japanese manufacturer claims lowers the impact energy the helmet needs to absorb by using a “rounder, smoother and stronger” outer shell. 

 

Not that you can tell any of these changes by looking at it. Aesthetically the Concept is much the same as the Rapide, with its classic Arai-shaped shell and aggressively styled chin bar design with mesh venting. You also still get a wide range of finishes from subtle, solid colour options to lurid liveries, with our chosen Overland Olive Khaki test sample sitting somewhere in the middle.

Arai Concept XE helmet - front
Arai Concept XE helmet - front

The fit is typical Arai, and that’s to say, very comfortable, with an even amount of pressure over the whole head and no annoying pinchy points. A medium came up roughly as expected, but had it been a little tight, I’d have been able to utilise the 5mm thick peelaway sections around the cheek and temple areas of the liner. Meanwhile, removing the cheek pads to fit intercom speakers (I have a Cardo Packtalk Pro attached to the lid) was a quick and easy process. 

 

It’s noticeably quieter than other Arai helmets I’ve worn in the past. Noise suppression hasn’t seemed to have been high up on the brand’s agenda in recent years, but there’s a clear difference between the Concept XE and the RX7-GP I’ve been switching between for the last few months. There is, though, a high-pitched whistling from about 40mph and up, the source of which I still haven’t found. 

Arai Concept XE helmet - inside
Arai Concept XE helmet - inside

For riding in warmer weather, there’s a decent amount of ventilation, via the meshed venting on the chin bar, opened via an easy-to-reach flap on the inside, and the usual Arai eyebrow vents in the visor. These channel air through to exhaust vents at the rear of the helmet, reducing negative pressure inside the lid.

 

I wore the Concept XE for a European tour in biblically wet weather, during which time I had one or two drops of rain coming through either the visor seal or the eyebrow vents, but that was it. The liner did become quite soggy along the bottom and took some time to dry out, but given the sheer level of rain and spray the lid had to deal with, it’s to be expected.

Arai Concept XE helmet - on rider
Arai Concept XE helmet - on rider

Removing the visor to switch to one with a smoked lens, to which I then attached a Pinlock insert, wasn’t too arduous, but putting everything back together proved fiddly. The Pinlock, plus the chin bar vents, have generally been enough to stop excessive fogging. When removing the visor, make sure you use a well-sized coin for the plastic screws that hold the side panels on, and they’re easy to deform if you’re an idiot like me and try a flat-blade screwdriver first. Oops.

 

Should you buy an Arai Concept XE helmet? 

 

It’s likely you’re attracted to the Concept XE for its styling first and foremost, but it’s pleasing this doesn’t mean scrimping on safety features. We haven’t, thankfully, completed the ultimate test with the Concept XE. That the helmet comes from a brand like Arai, combined with all its upgrades to conform to the latest regulations, gives peace of mind that the lid should perform as hoped should the worst happen. 

 

Arai helmets are far from the cheapest out there, but the value of the Concept XE seems fair, and if you aren’t too picky in terms of finishes, there are some good deals on the helmet out there when we looked. It’s done very little to annoy us - other than the whistling noise, which you tune out after a while anyway, the only other less-good elements are a visor system that can be a bit tricky to unlock with your right hand when sat in traffic, and some chips in the matte finish which have appeared despite me being pretty careful with the helmet since taking delivery. 

 

Otherwise, it’s one of the best motorcycle helmets we've tried in a while, and one that’s become my go-to lid regardless of the kind of bike I’m riding. 

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