…not quite the same as the old boss. Very similar, for sure. But better at the same time.
The world is a funny place at the best of times. And the last couple of years have not, it’s fair to say, been the best of times for most people. One of the things that seems to have happened as a by-product of the craziness is that time seems to have got distorted. For instance, I was sat here thinking that, especially in Arai product life terms, it’s really quite a short time since we were trumpeting their new flagship helmet, and here we are with a replacement already. Just, um, six years later. Six years. Crikey.
So yes, Arai have replaced the top of the line RX-7V with the RX-7V Evo. Actually it’s not really a replacement as the older helmet is still available, it’s more of a supplement though it does slot in at the top of the range. As before there’s still a carbon fibre RX-7V as well, but as that now swings in at £2799 I think we can disregard that until we win the lottery. For the real racers among you there’s also the RX-7V Race FIM which has an FIM approved aero kit and loses the adjustable elements of the regular road version. It’s also a very niche product, so we’ll pass on that as well except to say it’s about £50 more expensive.
So now we’ve done the family profile, how does the new arrival compare with its illustrious predecessor? Open the box and a few familiar things will strike you. That wonderful New Arai Smell. It’s not patented but it should be. The quality helmet bag, the little tool to adjust the rear wing and release the side pods should they need replacing. The actual helmet itself. Everything is very familiar, in fact the only oddity is a piece of tinted acrylic in its own bag with some instructions. More on that later.
I’ve reviewed at least three generations of this helmet on MotorbikesToday and the story with this and the previous two is the same. The visor aperture is wide and visibility is excellent. The visor mechanism is positive, it seals properly and is easily operated with one hand. Likewise the ventilation, which can be easily adjusted on the move without needing recourse to using the mirrors to find awkward little levers. There are no awkward little levers – everything is sized and positioned for gloved adult hands. Knurled wheels on some other helmets look nice but you can’t feel the knurling through gloves and they’re difficult to turn in anything but ideal conditions. This has simple slide/click vent controls – they work well and they’re reliable. Experience also shows me that they’re easy to clean. It sounds trivial but actually it isn’t.
The strap is a traditional Double-D ring. It’s stood us in good stead for years as a pretty much idiot proof fastening, and Arai have demonstrated that they are adherents of the “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” philosophy. As with the earlier models there is an adjustable wing between the ventilation ducting on the top of the helmet, and there is also an adjustable chin spoiler which you can deploy if you want to (though you’ll need to remove the curtain which comes fitted under it to do so). Personally I haven’t bothered though with the current temperatures I’m wondering if some additional air mightn’t be a good idea.
Place this helmet next to its predecessor and, apart from six years and about seventy thousand miles of wear there is, literally, no difference at all. None. They are identical in every way. And yet…they aren’t.
You probably will never actually see the differences. I can’t see them though I suspect if I start taking both helmets apart then at least some will be revealed at the cost of having two wrecked helmets. In fact I was feeling quite hard done by until I actually wore the new helmet for real.
I truly have no idea how two identical looking helmets can feel so different in action. The earlier RX-7V is a brilliant helmet – the only reason I have for changing mine is age and wear and tear. But the RX-7V Evo moves things onto a different level. It’s noticeably quieter, the ventilation seems to work better, the visor definitely seals better and it’s more stable at speed. All that adds up to a helmet which is even closer to the ultimate goal – so good you don’t notice it. And it’s very close indeed.
And then the ultimate trick. That piece of tinted acrylic I mentioned earlier? It’s the additional bit of aerodynamics you can see in some of the pictures. It’s optional – to be honest in the pics it’s just temporarily fixed because I thought it was a bit of a gimmick. But for a full test I removed the protective film on the super strong 2 sided tape and stuck it in place properly. Then I rode a hundred and forty miles to a trackday, did a hundred miles on the track and rode home again.
Oh my word.
I will never, ever, doubt something that Arai-San puts in the box with a helmet again. At 155mph there was no buffet, no lift, no discomfort whatsoever. It’s not the bike and I wasn’t tucked in like a pro racer – if I had been it would have been faster - and I wanted to see how the lid performed in real conditions. The answer is “impeccably.”
It’s very hot in the UK at present. With the rear exhaust vents open (and yes, it’s more fiddly to adjust them now) the additional suction seems to massively increase airflow through the helmet, with the result that I never felt like my brain was boiling, even filtering at low speeds. The adjustable wing is good but there was always a little bit of buffet or even lifting and silly speeds. That definitely didn’t happen with the additional aero fitted.
So here’s the sum up. When I reviewed the RX-7V I said it was probably the best helmet on sale at the time. I stand by that comment – it’s a brilliant helmet. But the RX-7V Evo is simply better, and at £699 for a solid colour and about £100 more for a replica, the additional performance offered more than justifies the price premium. The only question that remains is how the heck will Arai improve on it?