This is the continuing story of the evolution of my gear. What I wore and how I got to what I wear now to ride motorcycles.
When I bought my first bike, gear was not really a big consideration beyond a helmet. It was summertime in Colorado and cold weather was not on the horizon. Even the helmet was just what was available at the dealer when I picked the bike up. A red metalflake Hondaline open face helmet.
In the above photograph, I’m pictured on my second bike. Six months into this motorcycle life. The helmet is my first with the third screen that was billed as fog free, but of course was not. It was also supposed to easily flip up, but that also failed in cold weather. A very short time after this photo was taken it was in the dumpster.
That original Hondaline helmet padding wore to where the wind would blow the helmet around and it was loud as well as cold. I replaced it with a Bell Magnum II. Still open face, but now I was using flat shields and riding behind a big frame mounted Vetter Windjammer II fairing.
Our helmets became Bell Magnum II helmets. I traded off the Honda for the Norton in December of 1974. I bought my wife her Bell Magnum II for her birthday shortly after that and found a black full face Arai for myself. That Arai turned out to be a bit too large, but worked well enough over the winter. By summer the soft foam inside had taken a set that allowed the helmet to wobble so I replaced it with a Bell Magnum II of my own. While I was working as a BMW mechanic in California, I got a Nava. A molded plastic helmet with better lenses, but still not scratch resistant or fog free. When we moved back to Colorado in 1980 I was working as a BMW motorcycle mechanic and had access to early release BMW brand helmets.
The BMW System helmet folded open at the jaw so the whole front tilted up. Easy glasses integration and easy to talk with people when stopped. It did require two practiced hands to manipulate the release and lift. They were light and hideously expensive to buy retail. The face shields were fragile to stretching. There was one that was supposed to be fog free and was not in winter. The face shield leaked enough it would steam up in the rain so it had to be propped open to see. This allowed rain to fill the helmet since there was a sort of skirt that ran around the bottom of the helmet, effectively sealing it against a neck warmer offered a handy blow in which to slowly drown in a heavy rain.
A feature I discovered one evening on my then more than sixty mile commute home from work. I noticed the water rising in my ears first as a cold chill of rain, I thought was just water running by, but, soon noticed it rising along my jaw. I began looking for a place to safely move out of traffic and protection from what was now hail mixed with rain. I found an overpass to take refuge under just as the water level in the helmet had risen to cover my nose. I got the front opened up and drained, but I had to pull the front skirt out first, then pull my gloves off and pry the helmet open. When I’d latched it shut, I’d caught my rain jacket collar in the latch. That made it too tight to move as usual. A tense few minutes there.
We moved back to California in the late 90’s and after a season of rain, I noticed my System II helmet was very worn. So worn the front skirt blew out one day on the freeway and was gone. No possibility of replacement parts. I replaced the helmet with a Shoei. The Shoes was both quieter and had better ventilation than the BMW. The face shield was a bit more robust as well. It still fogged. I discovered facemark fog shields from Respro These things work great. a bit fiddly to get in the right spot, but, once you do they are great. Marine layer ground fog and drizzle to rain and sub freezing weather worked the ticket. I tried Pin Lock shields and found they would pop on elevation changes filling the screen covered by them with mist, you can’t wipe away.
I had a couple of Italian Suomy helmets too, mainly because they were brightly colored replicas of racers paint schemes and I got deals on them. My daily use quickly wore the interiors and faded the paint that had no UV fixer on it. The distributor and sales rep, said I abused the helmets. They were faded on one side only and when not on my head were stored in a closed cabinet in my office or my garage. I bought an Arai next.
My last sport bike helmet was my favorite, the Arai Corsair. In bright red. The screens were nearly indestructible and great ventilation so even hot trackdays were survivable.
I think I finally gave that helmet away. It is very old since I bought it sometime in in 2002, or 2003. I sold the CBR about a half year after buying the BMW 1150 GS Adventure and getting into traveling upright on less than perfect roads. Fun, but required more air. The Arai XD series was a great fit for me. The XD series have all fit exactly the same as my Corsair. I’ve worn several out in around 370,000 miles of traveling and riding in them.
The first XD was eventually replaced with the XD3, updated design, more vents, some reshaped this and that.
In the photo below you can see how I wore the neck skirt out with the jacket collar.
In one hundred thousand miles of use, that photo displayed the wear from my jacket collar rubbing on the helmet. Daily use for commuting and travel. The XD3 was worn out at the neck and replacement parts for the cheekpads and strap pads were not available through the distributor yet. I couldn’t even get the replacement liner. I could buy face shields. And only replaced one after taking a direct hit from a stone. It did not break, but left a big scrape across the middle of my vision. I found that I almost always ride with the visor fully open while wearing wraparound sunglasses. I get a nice breeze that way with the small fly screen on the KTM, making for a comfortable ride. I replaced the XD3 with an XD4, getting a good price on one with some color details. My first ever white helmet.
I scrapped up this helmet and had to replace it and bought a plain white XD4.
Shortly after I noticed I was wearing the liner of the white XD4, I got a deal on a closeout of a KTM XD4 and jumped at it. This became my helmet. I have since replaced most of the replaceable interior parts. The face shield is the original. I did use a Pin Lock for a while until it burped on the freeway, in the dark, in the rain. An event that renders the shield opaque.
I have been really happy with the Arai XD series. They always fit the same as the last model did. The Arai in this model range fit my head perfectly. No hotspots, no jiggling, nice stable fit. Spare parts are finally available too. That took long enough. For years one could log into an online Arai distributor account, but could not actually buy spare parts. For the Corsair, I was never able to get a hinge cover in the correct color. Even when three different authorized dealers special ordered the pieces for me. Pre-paid by the way. I gave up on that quest long ago. And now finally the XD4 can be maintained. I have never seen any spare parts in stock at any brick and mortar dealer. There may be, but none I’ve seen.
I tried on the Shoei adventure helmet, and a few others at motorcycle shoes and dealers over the years. None fit quite as well as the XD. The XD is expensive. The last bit of wear on the helmet that is not replaceable is the neck skirt. Arai should address that.
I’ve never experienced any buffeting with either the BMW 1150 GS Adventure or the KTM 990R Adventure when wearing any of the XD helmets I’ve owned and used extensively. The only times my head has been knocked around my the wind has been when riding in severe crosswinds. Both motorcycles I used the OEM fly screens in the poem positions and configurations. I’m only five foot eight inches so short enough the screens work great for riding with the face shield open in all conditions other than full hard rain. I have taller friends who have fought this buffeting issue with all sorts of screen configurations and helmets.