Whether you are new to riding or have been at it for 30 years, you are almost certainly familiar with both Shoei and Arai helmets. Moreover, you have likely seen the ferociously loyal helmet owners that will honour their lid to the death on both sides of the camp. Either brand can be easily recognised as an industry leader in helmet safety and technology, but how do they stack up against each other? Having spent time in both helmet types, We look forward to removing the veil on these Japanese manufacturers to give you a better understanding of what makes them succeed and which one is best suited for you.
First things first. Phonetically, they are pronounced “SHOW-ay” and a-”WRY”. We 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.
Shoei and Arai share a number of traits: both are based out of Japan, both claim to offer the very best in rider-focused design and safety, both certify the majority of their helmets to the European safety standard, and both are renowned worldwide for their products as evidenced by their prominent use in racing motorsports. While their reputation is defined in motorsport racing, Shoei and Arai both offer an extensive line-up that meets the dirt, touring, adventure, and sport markets.
Models per Class
Generally, the brands are equally matched in terms of quantity of models offered per bike market. However, On the flip side, Shoei offers its Neotec modular option, while Arai has none. Arai’s stance on modular helmets is rather conservative, and to date they remain modular-less. So for those of you after a flip helmet, Shoei is the obvious choice. Otherwise, neither manufacturer pulls ahead based on helmet class offering alone.
Another consideration as we look at this list of helmets is head-shape. Arai covers a broad variety with a long-oval Quantum ST, intermediate-oval Quantum ST Pro, and neutral oval Chaser-V. Shoei comes close, but is missing a true long oval. Round oval is covered by Shoei with the Qwest and Neotec , whereas the XR1100 and the GT-Air are on the long side of intermediate-oval, and the rest fall in-between. Arai has consistently been heralded as the master of fit and this is evidenced by their commitment to running the gamut of headshapes.
Venting: Shoei’s venting gets better with price point, while Arai’s stays fairly consistent across their models. Both offer track helmets that are renowned for their venting capabilities. (Arai RX-7 GP and Shoei X-Spirit III)
Noise: While neither Brand is known as the quietest in class, both beat out the majority in this category. Shoei in particular leads with their Qwest and Neotec models that are exceptionally quiet.
Drop-down Sunvisors: Arai has none since this feature would compromise their philosophies on safety and shell construction. Shoei offers the Neotec currently, with the GT Air and J-Cruise.
Interiors: We personally feel that Shoei’s padding is plusher and more comfortable. However, both offer different size paddings for a more custom fit.
Durability and Longevity
Lastly, We should spend a moment talking about durability and longevity of the product. Both Shoei and Arai offer a substantial warranty that will cover your lid up to 5 years after date of purchase, or 7 years from the manufacturing date. I literally have not heard from a single rider that they have had an issue with a Shoei. Their helmets simply don’t seem to break! Arai, conversely, has their fair share of issues, but the advantage is that every part on an Arai helmet is replaceable and serviceable. This comes especially in handy if you have cosmetic damage since the side pods and vents can be swapped out. If you can’t make the repair yourself, Arai will do it for you. Don’t get us wrong, we can count the number of people to give us fault feedback on Arai’s on 1 hand, but they have all related to issues with their side pods, or vents needing replacing or re-seating.
Arai can be more finicky to deal with, but will likely last you longer in the end since everything is easily serviceable and replaceable. Shoei won’t break within your 5 years of use, so reap the benefit of peace of mind. When it does break, you will be out of your warranty period and you probably won’t be able to fix it yourself. But by then, if you’re one to follow general safety standards, it will be time to invest in a new lid anyway, regardless of the condition of your current one.
Overall, both brands are an excellent choice. You won’t be disappointed with either purchase. Hopefully, our thoughts and experience here will tell you which brand is a better fit for you, your bike, and your riding style.