The little bottle of lube was the first sign things were different. Then the lack of any noticeable gears, ratchets or levers was another. “What the hell do I do with this thing?!” I thought to myself. Realizing I might be in for a tougher challenge than I expected, I broke the first rule of the Guy Code. I read the manual.
Obviously, I’m talking about replacing the shield on my Arai helmet for the first time (get your mind out of the gutter, people). You never forget your first, and when it comes to changing Arai shields, I experienced the range of emotions my first time.
The lid was a gift from my dad after returning from a trip overseas. He was never a big fan of my decision to ride a motorcycle, but if I was going to do it, then I might as well wear the best protective gear I could. It was an RX-7 Corsair, black, with Arai logos prominently displayed.
My first order of business was yanking all those stickers — I wasn’t going to be a rolling advertisement! The second was replacing the clear faceshield for a tinted one, something I’d always wanted to do. As a broke college student, I could barely afford the lid I was wearing. Forget trying to buy a second, darker, faceshield. I made due with wearing sunglasses under my lid in the meantime, but along with the new Arai, Pops surprised me with a dark, mirrored shield. For a young impressionable kid like me, it didn’t get any cooler than that.
Actually taking the shield off was easy. Standing behind the helmet with the chinbar facing away from you and the shield in the full open position, flick two tabs up, then rotate the shield up and rearward. No problem. Putting the new shield in was the hard part, as anyone who’s done this before can tell you. Without any visual clues to tell you where anything lines up (like in virtually every other helmet), what the hell do you do?!
I read the manual, kinda understood, then broke the second rule of Guy Code: I watched a YouTube video on how to do it (the site was still fairly young. I was surprised to see a video like this already posted). To paraphrase, I lube up the sides of the faceshield, eye-ball where it should sit in the helmet with it open, then…jam it home.
“Really? Just shove it into the slot?” I thought. What happened to finesse, or simply clicking something into place? Since I didn’t know any better, I gave it a firm shove. All I heard next was the sound of plastic crunching. “Nope, that can’t be right,” I said, followed by a few choice curse words. I toiled with the faceshield for longer than I care to admit, re-reading the manual and re-watching the videos over and over again. Dammit, if Nicky Hayden can do it with the lid still on his head then I had no excuse with it sitting on my desk.
Finally, after taking a break to think about it, I tried again. I did as Arai said and approximated where the comma-shaped opening goes. With a gentle but firm push, it magically slipped into place. My God, I think I did it! Victory was mine!
I never took the shield off of that helmet again – too scared it would take me another 52 tries to put it back in again. A year or so later the helmet was retired after a minor spill at a trackday. Thankfully, plenty more Arais have come my way since then, giving me more opportunities to practice. I made it my mission to change an Arai shield without taking the helmet off, just like Nicky, and although I’ve only been able to do it a handful of occasions, no longer do I get anxiety if I need to make a shield change mid-ride. I can practically do it (with the helmet off my head) blindfolded.
I know I can’t be the only one with an embarrassing Arai faceshield story. I’m curious to hear your embarrassing moment, regardless of helmet, in the comments section.