My five-year-old HJC helmet was showing some wear — rock chips in the paint, some small tears in the liner. It’s still sound, I’m sure, but a number of sources recommend that helmets be replaced every 4 or 5 years. It’s not just because of expected wear-and-tear; the DOT and Snell safety standards are periodically revised.
I’d lusted after Arai helmets for several years, and this year I decided to give myself an early birthday present. Some reviewers describe the Arai Vector 2 helmet as an “entry level” helmet — that just means that it isn’t designed to be used as a race helmet. The ~$450 price hardly qualifies as “entry level” in my book (or wallet). I rationalized it by dividing the price by its expected 5-year lifespan. Of course, there are the “how much is your brain worth?” arguments. And I’ll admit that the hi-viz yellow paint appealed to my desire to be visible (for miles). At last — a helmet that matches my DayGlo jacket. By the way, the selection, price, and service at Helmet City are great.
Handling the HJC’s strap and vents had long since become an unconscious set of actions; now I have to fumble a bit to buckle up. It’s a snug (but not overly tight) fit. Wind noise is considerably less than in the old HJC, and the Arai is much more aerodynamic; buffeting on windy rides is substantially reduced. I haven’t even tried using the earplugs yet.
That’s the good news.
While searching for this helmet online, I came across a disturbing number of YouTube videos devoted to removing and replacing Arai visors. I thought, pffft, I’m good at stuff like that. How hard could it be? (It’s never a good idea to ask that, is it?) Why remove the visor? So I could put one of those swell sunblocker strips inside it.
I am not exaggerating when I say I have removed a Volkswagen engine (4 bolts, throttle cable, fuel line) in less time and with less frustration. “Arai” is apparently Japanese for “mechanical engineering degree required.” X-ray vision wouldn’t hurt, either. I’m glad I live out in the sticks, where [hopefully] my neighbors couldn’t hear my uncivilized language and primal screams. I tried holding the helmet in my lap; the friction-free shell shot out of my hands. So I sat on the floor, hugging it with my knees, but could not persuade the visor to come loose from its unseen anchors. I watched numerous videos, wherein smug Arai owners showed that a blindfolded spider monkey could quickly and easily remove the visor. I popped one sidepod off more than once; while this was frustrating, it gave me some insight into the underpinnings.
Finally! With several disturbing cracking sounds, I managed to free the visor. I have a spare, so, fueled by anger and frustration, I had become more aggressive in my technique. Apparently it likes that.
Relieved, I installed the green sunblocker strip. (They’re great, by the way — they cut down on sun glare without impairing visibility.) Then it was time to reinstall the visor. I steeled myself. By which I mean I poured a generous glass of Bailey’s. I tried from every conceivable angle. I tried squeezing the sides of the visor, as one YouTuber advised. I cussed. I screamed. I walked away. I worked on a writing project for a while. I took out the trash. I did a load of laundry.
Finally, I squared off with the helmet. I refused to let something that small (and expensive) beat me. I know that Anger Leads to the Dark Side, but it fueled my triumph. Somehow, I solved the puzzle and got the sumbitch back in place.
I hope I never have to go through that again. I hate defeat, especially by an inanimate object. If something happens to this visor, I’m just gonna get goggles.