One of the questions we constantly hear on RevZilla is “What is the difference between X and Y?” Quite often, clients solving X and Y wonder what makes Arai and Shoei different from each other.
Despite all the technological changes and innovations over the last decade, Arai and Shoei are still considered an aspiring option for many motorcycles looking for a premium helmet. But the question remains, what distinguishes the two premium Japanese manufacturers?
My goal with this article is not to come to a conclusion on which one is better, but rather to shed some light on the similarities and differences between the two manufacturers in some key areas. I own Shoei and Arai helmets so I thought it would be a great opportunity to better educate myself and share my knowledge with you.
Founded in 1937 by Hirotake Arai, Arai Helmets was originally a hat maker. The shift to protective helmets took place in the late 1940s with the introduction of construction safety helmets. Motorcycle helmets followed shortly after with their introduction to the line in 1952.
After World War II, Japan operated as a closed economy and it was difficult to import motorcycle helmets. While it could be argued that Arai seized an opportunity, most reports show that he was just looking for a good helmet to stay safe on a motorcycle. So he decided to build his own.
Arai used a fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) shell and switched from cork to an expanded polystyrene inner liner in 1958. This has been the basic standard for helmet manufacturing for the past 60 years. While the American manufacturer Bell Helmets introduced the world’s first full-face helmet, the Bell Star, in 1963, Arai would soon follow. Arai introduced Japan’s first full face helmet in March 1967.
In a 2015 interview with VENTOS, Arai President and CEO Michio Arai, son of Hirotake Arai, spoke about his father’s legacy.
“My father didn’t know much about chemicals. He read an article on fiberglass. He said, ‘This can be good.’ I still don’t know what he did, but he went to a professor at a university and figured out how to make a… fiberglass shell. There was another helmet company: Bell. Roy Richter was the owner. I knew him very well. My father started on the other side of the world, so we don’t know who was the first, but my father didn’t copy anyone ”.
Eitaro Kamata founded Kamata Polyester Company in 1954 before switching production to motorcycle helmets in 1959. Unlike Arai, who switched to motorcycle helmets for personal use, Kamata immediately began designing Shoei helmets with a focus on motorcycle racing. . One of his earliest accomplishments was being adopted as an official Honda racing helmet in 1965.
In the early 1970s, fiberglass was the material of choice for the construction of the helmet shell. That lasted until 1976, when Shoei introduced the first carbon fiber and Kevlar helmet, the GR-Z. It was a revolutionary revolution that remains one of Shoei’s most notable achievements. They were also the first to introduce ventilation into their helmet design, as well as the first unshielded face shield system, which debuted in the 1990 Shoei X-8. The unshielded face shield is a feature that has been embraced by almost all other manufacturers of full face helmets.
To this day, that remains one of the biggest differences between these two manufacturers. Arai remains one of the few manufacturers that refuses to implement an uncovered face shield system on their helmets. They argue that it would jeopardize the safety and integrity of their helmets. This goes back to a fundamental difference in core values between the way the two companies view security standards.
While Arai and Shoei have the …