Goodbye Arai, hello X-Lite

MF's breaking 25 years of helmet habit

Since 1986 I have been mostly (sporadically) smashing my head against Tarmac whilst wearing an Arai safety helmet. Blimey, that's quarter of a century. I'm still here, though.

I bought my first one (a Wes Cooley replica) secondhand during my first year of club racing. After the hideous self-painted Bell Star 2 I had previously been blagging my way through scrutineering in, it was complete luxury. Even without doing the chin strap up it felt safe, snug and secure.

It was eighty quid and had a small scuff on it. I had, after all, bought it off another impoverished but retiring club racer with a similar sized, medium head. A small amount of Isopon, a light sanding with a sheet of 800 grade and the red bits of Wes Cooley's design were sprayed green to match my leathers and bike. It wasn't exactly a full factory affair but it was pretty posh for club racing.

My first really big Arai accident was at Donington where I managed to flip myself like a cheese omelette into the back of  waiting St Johns ambulance. It was to be the first of many fast crashes at Donington. Never have clicked with that place. 

Then a year later I crashed a test bike at Bruntingthorpe flat out in top gear. The injuries? A small scab on my thumb and mild concussion that lasted nearly two weeks. Should have been dead, really.

Later, the same year I got run over in a Supersport 600 start line accident at Oulton Park (broken ribs, mild concussion) and threw myself at the tarmac at Craner Curves just at the point where you flick right to left. Injuries? Only to my helmet's paint job. In subsequent years I also packed in some crashing at Oliver's Mount, Mallory Park, Timaru, Ruapuna, Mansfield, Misano and Assen.

I take a lot of convincing but even by then - five or six years into a very intimate helmet/head relationship - I was convinced. Utterly. 

So the fact that I've just placed my last Arai amongst my Arai hall-of-memorabillia and taken delivery of a plain white X-Lite X802 is a big moment. X-Lite are imported by the same firm that have kept me in Arai for two decades, so by now I've just about started to trust their judgement.

I've only tried it on so far (I'll use it next week for my first trip to Portimao) but the first impressions are good. It's super-light (1340g), the visor mechanism is really easy to do a quick dark/clear swap and the finish, fit and comfort appears to be right up there with the what I've previously been used to. A quick tip: X-Lite's sizing appears t be slightly adrift from Arai's. Normally I'm a 57-58 medium but the best fit in X-Lite's  range was a 60 Large. Maybe my head's grown but regardless, I'd recommend trying one on first before buying the best deal on-line.

Sizes range from XXS (pea-head) to XXL (fat head). Plain colours like mine start at £319.99 and fancier stuff is a hundred sheets more. Visors are £41.44 regardless of clearness or tintidness. Big on-line X-Lite retailers are folks like and

Space this watch.