Tested: New ARAI XD-5 Helmet

ARAI  XD-5 ADV helmet: Culmination of technology and tradition

By: Olivier de Vaulx

Made by hand

When Aki Arai, grandson of the founder of the 70-year-old Arai company, personally changes the cheek pads of your helmet to custom fit it to your face, you know that Arai means it when they say that their helmets are “hand made”. In Japan, every helmet is indeed built the old-fashioned way by highly trained technicians who pride themselves on doing their very best, to the point of writing their name inside every shell. Therefore, from Moto GP world champions to weekend warriors, every Arai customer receives a helmet built on order, by hand, with the same level of quality and attention to detail. 

Timeless design and principles

But tradition doesn’t mean immobilism. At Arai, it means a cautious approach, based on experience, to accomplish a mission that has never changed: producing a helmet to protect riders in the real world, not merely passing a standardized test. It means that Arai’s helmets are designed to protect their riders at 65 mph over multiple impacts and slides whereas a standard test only takes into account one impact at 35 mph. In terms of energy, it’s the difference between falling from the 5 th floor or the 15 th floor...

With no shareholder to please, the family-owned Japanese company is therefore only developing new models when a technological breakthrough is available, without having to cut corners or expand production to the detriment of quality. However, the foundations have stayed the same: A 25-piece hand-made fiber shell strong enough to support the weight of a Formula 2 car, resist multiple impacts at full speed, slide and glance on every texture from tarmac to grass, and made with a multi-density soft liner to dissipate the energy. Both the shell and the unique-in-the-industry one-piece liner are designed around the timeless egg shape, the strongest and most effective shape in the world when it comes to impact resistance, sliding, and glancing capabilities. This combination of strong and soft layers associated with the rounded shape makes the most of the limited space between the ground and our head to prevent as much energy as possible from entering inside the helmet.

New features

Succeeding the XD-4, the hallmark of ADV helmets for a decade, the XD-5 comes with new features. Some obvious and some well-hidden, but no less important. The interior shape is now closer to the most common head shape, longer front to back and narrower side-to-side. The ventilation has been redesigned, with removable chin vents, ducts included inside the Arai logo in front, and some more aerodynamic openings in the rear. With no vents but a flat spot for communication devices, the chin bar is now stronger. The VAS-A shield follows the contour of the helmet closely despite the size-dependent radius of the shell and now comes with an included Pinlock anti-fog screen. The redesigned anti-odor foam pads are wider in front for easy on/off, and include spaces needed to insert headphones and hide cables. The cheek pads are also available in 6 different sizes to accommodate every face and a 5mm foam layer on both sides can be removed for micro-fitting. Some will argue that the new helmet doesn’t come with a MIPS-like system to prevent concussions. This is a typical case of technology that you cannot see, and Arai answers with a polite smile that the company’s liners have been rotating (like MIPS) inside the shield for more than 40 years now, and therefore were preventing concussions way before the Swedish system had even been invented…

Real step up over XD-4

After a few years of riding with the XD-4 in the USA and as far as Bolivia, trying the XD-5 comes with a lot of expectations… which are exceeded after the first seconds of riding. The noise is drastically reduced, to the point where forgetting earplugs will not be a punishment anymore. The new screen offers crystal-clear vision on the center and periphery, and the chilly temps in the morning didn’t bring any condensation thanks to the included Pinlock screen. At higher speeds, the buffeting is virtually nonexistent, and even turning the head left or right to admire the scenery doesn’t pull on your neck like before. The XD-5 would already be a big step-up over the XD-4 with these qualities alone, but it comes with a toolless system to remove peak and shield, which makes it more versatile than ever. Off-road, with the shield removed, we can now use goggles with no restriction. Charging and bouncing on a bumpy hard-packed trail in SoCal, the bike suffers but the XD-5 doesn’t move on the head, the combination of new shape, new pads, and goggle straps making it as steady as a motocross helmet. When the time comes to quit the dirt and head back home, the shield can be put back in no time, with the option to remove the peak: on the highway, the peakless XD-5 is now shaped like a street helmet, with an even more neutral balance face to the air pressure and absolutely no pull when turning the head to check traffic or passing a truck. That doesn’t make the highway less boring but at least it is less tiring! The wind noise stays very low in this configuration, and the music diffused via the Cardo system mounted for this test stayed perfectly audible at high speed. 

All you need… and more!

Being a 3-in-1 helmet, the XD-5 now offers a complete package that can appeal to a broader audience. Ultra-comfortable and secure, it beats the XD-4 in any aspect and should be a no-brainer for any serious traveler. Now to address the polemical question of the price. No helmet, regardless of brand or design, can protect against all possible impacts. The Arai family knows it, and they have put all their experience into the development of the XD-5, didn’t cut any corners during the production, and made sure that each shell was inspected twice during the process. All so they could sleep at night knowing they did their best. The sticker price reflects this search for perfection, as it’s simply the cost for the best protection offered to this day by the oldest helmet company in the world. Therefore, and besides the novelty effect, buying a XD-5 helmet could well be one of the most valuable investments an ADV rider might make in 2024…


• Perfect aerodynamics

• Versatility (ADV, MX, Street)

• Toolless shield change

• Comes with Pinlock screen

• Hand-made quality

• Exceed all standards


• Nobody will believe it’s that good before trying it

• Price (even if justified)