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.

Arai Face Shields Lubricant

When it needs to slide in gently, don’t forget the lube. Of course I’m talking about faceshields…

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?!

Arai Faceshields Front Left

Since you can’t see through the sidepod, every first-time Arai owner I’ve talked to has experienced the same thing: extreme frustration when trying to replace a faceshield.

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!

Arai Faceshields Closeup

For me, visualizing the comma-shaped opening (seen on the dark shield) needing to sit in its slot (currently occupied by the clear shield) made all the difference.

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.

  • http://www.motorcycle.com/ Sean Alexander

    I was simply dumbfounded by my first Arai shield experience. After my first clumsy attempts, I left it alone for about two years. Then one day in the early ’90s I was watching footage from the Isle of Mann Senior TT and saw a crewchief reach-over and swap a rider’s Arai shield in about two seconds flat. he had the new shield palmed in his right hand, and just used his left to rip the old shield up and over the rider’s head, flinging it off into the pit stall while the right hand approached the rider’s now empty eye-port like a hand palming a basketball. Sure there was some skill and finesse long-ago perfected by that crewchief, but it literally looked like he just whacked that sucker right into the front of the helmet. Two seconds and it was all over…. old shield gone, new shield on and ready. Something clicked in me that day and I’ve never had a problem with an Arai shield since.

    • Frank Kevins

      Hah, I saw that same footage and marveled at how easy the Arai was… and also that when one of the Shoei riders pitted his crew simply swapped helmets! I’ve have a Shoei-head, and am on my 4th or 5th “easy-change” model, but while the clear ones are easy as pie I always seem to struggle with the dark ones, except sometimes it is super-easy, go figure. I typically remove it at the end of the season for deep cleaning around the helmet seals, but am always paranoid in the spring as one time I rode for a few days before realising it wasn’t mounted correctly and was about to fly off. Friends have had that happen, one on the very first ride after purchase – it is still a bit of a black art I guess.

  • edbob

    The first time I put mine back on, it wasn’t straight, but I was in a big hurry and I started riding anyhow because it seemed good enough. Within 1/2 mile it popped out of one side and was bouncing around in front of my face. I fixed it right there on the side of the road, and never again had a problem. Consult youtube – once you get used to it, it’s the easiest fastest shield out there.

  • michael franklin

    Or you could just get a Shoei

    • http://www.motorcycle.com/ Sean Alexander

      Not if you have a long-oval head. It’s Arai Signet series or bust for those of us with truly long-oval melons.

  • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

    “The little bottle of lube was the first sign things were different.”

    Must have been your birthday…

    • WTF

      hahaha

  • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

    But seriously, I was working on an MSF range and Lisa, one of the other RiderCoaches, asked me if I knew how to swap the sheild in her Corsair. “Sure!” said I, the big-time moto-journalist slumming it as a RiderCoach. I then proceeded to break her shield-release hardware. Goddamn that Nicky Hayden for making it look so easy…

  • B.Hoop

    I got my first Arai helmet in ’89 or ’90. On that helmet, the side plates popped completely off and then were held by little plastic tethers so they didn’t get lost. Removing and replacing shields was easy-peasy. Why they changed it, I’ll never understand. My last Arai street helmet was several helmets ago, and on that one I broke the side plate off trying to fit the shield. Since then, I have avoided their otherwise excellent helmets specifically because of this issue. That new external sun visor thingy might lure me back though…

  • Oslo Norway

    Arai face shields are like junior high sex, you just jam it in there and wiggle it around until somehow it works…Even NASA doesn’t understand how it works…

  • dinoSnake

    My gawd, another group of people who can’t handle the Arai face shield swap?!! I’m not going to insult anyone individually, but are you all a bunch of left-thumbed nimwits? Swapping an Arai face shield is SO EASY that I wonder just how bumblebrained you have to be in order to get it wrong.

    One of the MAJOR secrets, if the helmet is off your head, is to approach the helmet from the BACK. Trying to swap the shield out from any other position, of the helmet is off your head, will just work against the natural functioning order of your BODY – the shield is designed to mimic your hand!!

    Try this, people. A two-year old can do it:

    1) lift the shield fully open, a small release lever will appear from beneath the side plates of each side. The levers rotate “up” to activate.

    2) WHILE HOLDING THE LEVERS “UP”, “OVER-ROTATE” THE SHIELD RIGHT OUT OF THE SIDE PLATES. That is, do NOT pull the shield forward, Do NOT pull the shield straight “up”, in relation to the helmet. DO NOT PULL THE SIDES OF THE SHIELD AWAY FROM YOUR HELMET.

    Simply continue to “open” the shield, as if the shield can rotate from the fully closed position to all the way to the back-side of your head.

    Voila! The shield is out of the side plates!

    How do you put it back on? Simple! Reverse the process! But with a trick – note that the shield is shaped like a “comma” for the side plate interaction.

    Start by holding the shield correctly: with the shield’s viewport and outer surface pointing up to the sky, put a hand on each side of the shield with your fingers reaching into the shield’s viewport area and your thumbs over the “commas”. Now your hand and thumb form a comma THEMSELVES! When you rotate your hand through the axis of your palm, you’ll find that your hand automatically assumes the proper motion!

    So, here we go!

    3) REMEMBER THAT “COMMA HOOK”.

    With the shield started at a much higher “rotated” position than when already locked into the side plates – that is, start the shield at or past the position where it disengaged from the side plates in step (2) – hook the “comma” of the side plate into (what feels like) the “post” in each side plate

    4) Here is the trick: WHILE *SIMULTANEOUSLY* ROTATING THE SHIELD CLOSED, PUSH THE SHIELD **BOTH** DIRECTLY DOWNWARD (towards the ground) **AND** TOWARDS THE REAR OF THE HELMET (remember that “post” feel?) and close the shield fully.

    Again, remember that “comma”? Think that the side plate contains a “post” that the “comma” will hook into. When you look at the shield’s “comma” you come to understand that, in order to fit around a “post”, the shield must be “hooked” around said post – the “comma” would have to be simultaneously hooked BACK and AROUND any “post” in the side plate.

    So, that’s the ‘secret’. As you hook the shield into the side plate, think that you need to hook that “comma” around a “post”. Push downward AND rearward WHILE closing the shield – rotate your hand THROUGH THE PALM AXIS while pulling downward and you’ll find that your hand AUTOMATICALLY “hooks” the side plate’s “commas” into the “post”.

    The design is totally and COMPLETE ergonomic if you realize that your HAND can do the exact motion that is required to seat the shield, no pressure or force is required beyond making sure that you pull “down and back” (think “I have to pull diagonally towards the bottom-rear of the helmet, the back of my neck”) in order to accomplish that “hook”.

    Do NOT force the shield into ANY OTHER MOTION besides rotation, in the EXACT same rotation motion that opens and closes the shield normally.

    Get that understood – NO extra force beyond simple rotation – and it all makes sense.

    Maybe I should make a YouTube video – if you are taking more than 5 seconds to remove or replace an Arai shield, you are doing something wrong.

  • hANNABONE

    it made 2 – summer long trips unbearable because the plastic tabbed side “holders” broke the little plastic tab and I had to DUCT TAPE THE HOLDER IN PLACE TO RIDE THE REST OF MY VACATION WITH A HELMENT THAT COULDN’T FULLY OPEN THE SCREEN…T W I C E .!! Never again – I sold that hat & another one and am a happy Shoei owner and not looking back. I even sent a letter to ARAI USA and got the reply that they though I might want to change the helmet to a more “OfffRoad” version. WHAT? I’m done forever with ARAI.