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When it comes to motorcycle helmets, hands down, two of the top brands are Arai and Shoei. But where do they stand head-to-head in a comparison against each other?
While the companies have many similarities, they also have some significant differences.
To find out what they are, keep reading.
Who is Arai?
For decades, Arai has been the leader in industry innovation and standards, and it produced the best helmets on the market. It has only been in recent years that any other company has even come close to being a rival.
What Does Arai Mean?
Arai is named after founder Hirotake Arai and its headquarters are in Ōmiya-Ku, Saitama, Saitama Prefecture, Japan.
The company is most notably known for handcrafting each helmet to perfection, without mass-producing any of their stock. They take the same care whether they are making a helmet for one of their sponsored athletes or someone purchasing their first Arai helmet.
Where Are Arai Helmets Made?
Arai helmets are made in Japan. Their main manufacturing plant is located in Shintō while four other locations are scattered throughout Ōmiya-ku.
History of Arai
In 1926, hatmaker Hirotake Arai, a hatmaker and motorcycle enthusiast, wanted to take safety precautions while he rode. There were no helmet makers in Japan, and the country had a closed market. He couldn’t get anything good delivered, so he decided to open his factory, which turned out to be the first helmet making company.
Arai is currently a third-generation, family-owned company, and we don’t see it leaving the family any time soon.
Not only is the family full of motorcycle enthusiasts, but they appear to be Formula One enthusiasts as well, going by the styles of helmets they produce, plus they sponsor Formula One riders.
Safety and quality are the two most important factors for the folks at Arai, and they believe it begins with the shell - more specifically, the thickness and consistency of the build.
To this day, each hand made shell is quality checked by two different people before moving on in the production process, to ensure the best safety standards possible.
Types of Helmets and Other Accessories by Arai
Arai produces the following styles of helmets:
- Street full face
- Street open face
- Dual sport
- Automobile full face
- Automobile open face
Within each of the categories are different series of designs. These designs could be based on price point or tailored to a specific type of rider or head shape, or for someone who is looking for all the bells and whistles, etc. All of Arai’s helmets meet the basic safety standards, and many go beyond that and exceed them by meeting the track standards for road bikes.
Arai has four series of full-face street helmets, one dual-sport and one off-road, which are the same styles that we will compare against Shoei.
The Corsair has long been renowned as one of the most advanced, highest quality helmets available anywhere in the world.
The Signet is a go-to if you have more of a long oval-shaped head. It prides itself on comfort, quiet, stability, and ventilation.
Defiant’s design is bold yet refined, a helmet that is round and smooth to create a strong shell that disperses energy upon impact.
As the Signet is a great go-to helmet if you have an oval-shaped head, the Quantum is a great go-to helmet if you have a rounder head.
A handcrafted helmet, that exceeds road safety standards with many comfortable and convenient features.
This helmet is a visual demonstration of Arai’s commitment to maintaining the integrity of the shell with real-world impact performance.
Who is Shoei?
Shoei has had many advances and firsts along the way, especially when it has come to using materials. It has been the first to introduce lightweight carbon-fiber helmets, and its GRV helmet was the first to introduce lightweight carbon-fiber helmets. Shoei also promoted their X-Spirit as the most advanced helmet in the world.
How To Pronounce Shoei
The president of Shoei, Hiroshi Mizushima, clarified the pronunciations to RevZilla on a visit to their headquarters. Here is the official word on how to pronounce both company names:
"First things first. Phonetically, they are pronounced “SHOW-ay” and a-”WRY.” I have heard multiple variations in pronunciation, from Shoo to Aree-ah and even combinations thereof (Shooria?). If you want to sound like you know what you are talking about, it is important to get the words straight."
Where Are Shoei Helmets Made?
Shoei Co., Ltd. is headquartered in Taitō, Tokyo, Japan, and can be traced back to 1954 when it was Kamata Polyester Co., and it manufactured construction helmets.
To date, all helmets are still manufactured in Japan, though they are distributed around the world. Shoei has manufactured their own wind tunnel in their factory to perform accurate testing instead of computer-based testing.
History of Shoei
Though the company can be traced back to Kamata Polyester Co., founder Eitaro Kamata started making motorcycle helmets in 1959. A year later, in 1960, the company began making helmets to meet the Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS).
1965 proved to be when they hit their big break. Honda Motor Co. began using Shoei’s helmets as their official or genuine helmets. This increased Shoei’s popularity, demand, and availability, not only across Japan but worldwide.
Though the company mass produces many helmets and is revered by many as the top of the line, the company remains pretty small, with just around 500 employees worldwide.
With a background in construction helmets and a large following in the motorsport world, it’s surprising that Shoei strictly makes helmets for motorcycles and parts to go with them. They have not gotten into the accessories or gear game, nor have they gone back to their roots and started making better PPE.
Types of Helmets and Other Accessories by Shoei
Shoei has a few different motorcycle helmets; however, they do not produce any accessories at all.
The X-Series is the flagship model of Shoei’s premium lineup. It has earned the praise and respect of many of the world’s top racers.
The RF-Series is the longest-standing and most decorated full-face helmet model in the Shoei lineup. The newest version uses an extensive array of proprietary material.
The GT-Series was Shoei’s premiere full-face touring helmet, where functionality and performance meet.
When you want the go-to helmet for everyday riding, the convenient flip-up versatility of a true two-in-one will have you loving this hybrid helmet design.
The J∙O is a vintage-inspired open face helmet with an adjustable retractable CJ-3 shield that provides relief from the wind while protecting against harsh UV rays.
The dual-sport helmet is perfect for off-road or on-road, in all weather.
J-Cruise gets its name just for that, cruising. Not only is it lightweight and aerodynamic, but it’s also packed full of innovative technology.
The VFX-EVO is Shoei’s motocross helmet, engineered to protect against rotational acceleration energy to the head in the event of an accident.
This model is another heritage-inspired, open face helmet with a contemporary design.
Arai vs Shoei Similarities and Differences
When you’re dealing with motorcycle helmet companies, there are always similarities as well as differences, which is usually where readers and customers take a closer look to help them make a decision. Depending on the difference, there may be a deal-breaker for some.
Arai and Shoei Similarities
Here are some of the major similarities between these well-known brands.
Both companies are based in Japan and continue to manufacture exclusively in Japan, exporting their finished products worldwide through licensed distributors. Both companies sponsor pro drivers on different track circuits.
Both Arai and Shoei have similar ventilation systems. They each have multiple intake vents on the front, chin, upper head, and some on the sides, as well as extractors in the rear. In reviews, they always come in neck and neck with their ventilation system, as neither has an advantage.
The EPS liner sits inside the helmet shell, and its main purpose is to absorb the energy of an impact, protecting the head and brain. While each may claim their technology, both Arai and Shoei have a multi-density EPS liner, which means they have varying levels of foam density in key areas around the head.
While they may not be identical, Arai and Shoei have very similar interior systems that include removable, replaceable, washable, and adjustable 3D pieces that are made to fit the contours of the rider’s head comfortably and snuggly.
Arai and Shoei Differences
There are several differences between Arai and Shoei, starting with the fact that Arai handcrafts its helmets. Shoei uses the latest technology, including their own wind tunnel.
When it comes to price, both Arai and Shoei tend to be on the pricier side; however, Arai is still a little pricier than Shoei, though, those who own Arai helmets swear they are worth every penny.
Both Arai’s and Shoe’s warranty coverage lasts from seven years from the manufacturing date and five years from the purchase date.
More people are happier with their purchase of an Arai helmet as many find the Shoei helmets difficult to fit. People say that either the Shoei’s fit you or they don’t, and there isn’t much you can do. Most people have an intermediate oval head, which Arai fits best. Shoei fits a rounder head best.
Variety/Fit of Helmets
Both Arai and Shoei have safety at the forefront of their minds; however, both companies go about it differently. Shoei considers convenience and comfort as part of safety, whereas Arai feels that some of that could interfere with the safety design. Arai’s has a higher safety certification for more of its helmets than Shoei does.
Top Pick Between Arai and Shoei
Our top pick between Arai and Shoei is Arai, though, we were impressed that Shoei has an agreement with Honda Motor Co. Arai’s sponsorship with Formula One is nothing to laugh at, but we’re just looking at motorcycle helmets here, and not car helmets for the time being.
We are impressed with the safety and quality standards of the handcrafted helmets, and that Arai ensures the shells go through two quality checks before moving to the next phase of production.
Also, we felt that Arai built more innovative features and helmets. Shoei has a small selection of helmets, some of which seemed like duplicates, many of which focused on track and motocross, while Arai had an array of helmets for all riders with multiple experiences and price points.
When we looked at reviews and comments on forums, it looks like most customers felt the same way we did. There were several who felt it was too close to call, and there were still a bunch who felt that Shoei was the greater brand, but even a lot of those voters admitted that Arai was the more comfortable fit.
Both Arai and Shoei are very respectable helmet manufacturers out of Japan and lead the industry worldwide. There are many similarities between the two, enough that many times it’s hard to choose a winner when reviewing the two. We were able to come up with our winner and give our reasons why.
People Also Ask
If you still haven't made out your mind and have more questions about these two brands, check out some of the frequently asked questions below.
Are Arai Helmets Worth The Money?
If you ask owners of Arai helmets if they are worth the money, just about all of them will tell you yes. Many of them own more than one or have purchased another one when their previous one is no longer good. A handcrafted helmet made with premium materials? Yes, Arai helmets are worth the money.
Why is Arai So Expensive?
Each Arai helmet is handcrafted with premium materials by individuals in Japan via multi-stage processes with rigorous quality control. Many of them are then safety tested for certification that exceeds road requirements. Once they finish making your helmet, Arai sends it to wherever you live, so the price includes these additional fees and taxes.
How Long Do Arai Helmets Last?
Arai recommends replacing your helmet seven years after the manufactured date and five years after the date of purchase, which also lines up perfectly with its warranty. While everything might look perfect on the outside, the EPS can start to lose its air pockets, becoming less effective, which can be detrimental in an accident.
How Long Do Shoei Helmets Last?
Shoei also recommends replacing your helmet seven years after the manufactured date and five years after the date of purchase, which lines up perfectly with its warranty. Just as with any helmet, it can begin to wear and tear and become less effective, even if it still looks good to the naked eye.
Why Are Shoei Helmets So Expensive?
Shoei uses the most up to date technology to ensure their helmets are safe and comfortable for their customers. It has created its own wind tunnel in its factory to produce more accurate testing instead of relying on computer testing. They have the best technology you can buy in a quest to keep you safe.