Arai prides itself on producing world-class helmets with cutting-edge safety technology, so I was kind of surprised to see the basic, Classic-V open-face lid enter its lineup last year. Seems the retro-inspired craze is going bonkers and everyone wants in on it, so we snagged a Classic-V and wondered out loud how this latest three-quarter offering would fare in a sea of Biltwell Bonanzas and Bell Custom 500s.

Arai’s Classic-V helmet
Arai’s Classic-V helmet is the company’s latest entry into the popular open face retro category. It’s one of the few Snell-rated lids in the class.Andrew Cherney

I probably should’ve known that with Arai involved this wasn’t going to be just your basic helmet. It’s taken the classic, stone-simple three-quarter style and tweaked it by subtly adding some premium features. The Classic-V’s shell utilizes the same complex laminate construction as Arai’s higher-end race helmets, and this model even gets a coveted Snell rating, which is something you don’t see too often in the open-face set (the only comparable one I can think of is Shoei’s RJ Platinum).

The medium Classic-V slid easily onto my noggin with its intermediate oval shell shape and fit true to size. As for the profile, the helmet sits low on the head but it’s not nearly as compact or narrow as some other less-padded options because the Classic-V rocks a pretty plush liner which uses the same moisture-wicking, antimicrobial fabrics as the higher-end full-face Arais. The cheek pads are removable on the Classic-V and there are speaker cutouts so you can slap in your comm device of choice, or speakers or whatever, but unfortunately that’s all you can remove—the comfort liner is permanently attached to the EPS liner. On the plus side, the helmet is relatively light, weighing in at 2 pounds, 10 ounces (even with a Snell rating) on our trusty Salter kitchen scale. I’ve been riding around with it for a couple of months now, and it feels well balanced and unobtrusive on my dome too.

Classic-V with hidden ventilation channels.
The Classic-V babies you with hidden ventilation channels to keep your sweaty dome cool while keeping the look sleek.Andrew Cherney

Another premium aspect is the patented ventilation system, which tucks three integrated (and hidden) intake channels in the forehead area to suck in the fresh air that’ll keep your crown cool. The warm air is then exhausted via two vents in the back (on the bottom of the back lip). It’s a functional set-up you don’t often get in this category, and it doesn’t ruin the simple lines of the Classic-V.

Goggle strap holder
A well-designed goggle strap holder out back keeps accessory eyewear put. That faux leather mimics the trim around the rest of the helmet.Andrew Cherney

Nicer details include contrast stitching across the faux leather trim running around the helmet’s edges. And while it doesn’t look or feel like cheesy vinyl, you can’t help but think, at this price, maybe that should be real leather or ostrich or something. Anyway, you also get low-key, inconspicuous logos to keep things on the down-low, while a nicely constructed goggle strap holder perches on the back and five snaps up front give you a way to attach any universal bubble shields, flat shields, visors, or what have you.

Arai helmet with two vents on the back bottom lip.
These two vents on the back bottom lip exhaust the warm, moist air out of the helmet’s interior.Andrew Cherney

Ready for the bummer? The Classic-V will run you $469.95. Ouch. We’re talking full-face territory here. The other gripe is that the Classic-V only comes in solids (though we hear new graphic options are on the way). Alas, I feel the Bell Custom and its bros will kill it on price, color options (there are endless metallic flake paint jobs to be had out there) and style -- the hipster lids have a far lower profile (and are also way less comfortable because of that) but by comparison, the Classic V comes close to making you look like the Great Gazoo. So what’s your priority -- looks or comfort? Would it help if I told you kids that the Classic V’s build quality is excellent, fit is ultra-comfortable, the ventilation really works, and you get optimal protection? And that it comes in six shell sizes, XS to XXL? The Classic-V goes for the retro look and mostly nails it, but it’s still a premium, modern and protective product, not a minimalist, thinly-padded brain bucket. It might be one of the priciest open-face helmets on the market, but it’s also one of the most protective.

MSRP: $469.95

Arai Classic-V helmet worn by the author.
The Classic V sits fairly low on your head, but all that interior padding (which is super-comfy, and protective, BTW) does give it a bigger moon-like profile.Andrew Cherney
Bell Custom 500 beside Arai Classic V.
Compared side by side, the Bell Custom 500 looks way more compact next to the more robust Arai Classic V (shown in gray).Andrew Cherney