Arai Signet-Q – Long-Term Review
Instead of sitting around scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to make the successful RX-Q even better, Arai went out and measured heads—nearly 750 of them across the US—before creating the Arai Signet-Q in 2012. For the past several years I’ve been wearing the ‘updated Q’ and it has become my helmet of choice for commuting and weekend fun riding.
Helmet choice starts with fit, and depending on your head shape, some helmet brands may not work for you. It’s all about interior EPS shape and possible pressure points.
I wear an XS helmet, and out of the box the Signet-Q is the perfect snug-but-comfortable fit that feels incredibly secure. Based on the intermediate oval shell design of its predecessor, the Signet-Q is elongated slightly to better fit a larger segment of the US population. Americans tend toward oval shaped heads, and Arai’s extensive research showed them that a few more millimeters in the right places would fit even better.
That extra 5mm front to back can make a huge difference, as anyone who has felt the pinch across the forehead knows—the one that starts as a mild discomfort but builds exponentially to a point where you want to pull off your helmet and throw it as far as you can. Comfort is absolutely key; no amount of graphics or stylish doodads on your helmet will matter when pressure points distract from your ride.
While you don’t want to be thinking about your helmet while riding, you do want to know you’ve put your head in good hands. The Signet-Q, like all Arai helmets, is designed around dispersing energy in an impact, hence the egg shape with no protruding pieces. Arai is rather passionate about this aspect of helmet design, as safety is a cornerstone of the Arai family philosophy.
The shell is constructed of a proprietary aerospace fiberglass, with a one-piece EPS liner to further absorb impact energy. The material that actually cradles your head and face is the foam liner. Had the helmet been slightly tight across my cheekbones, I could have made adjustments with the Foam Cheekpad System (FCS) Arai introduced with the Signet-Q. It’s a 5mm peel-away system that allows you to custom fit the foam.
The Arai Signet-Q is comfortable and safe, but how well does it function while riding? From venting to peripheral vision, from stability to faceshield operation, the Signet-Q checks all the right boxes.
I spend a lot of time on the freeway at high (and low!) speeds, so I appreciate both the wide eye-port (it allows me to see more while turning my head less) and the Signet-Q’s smooth aerodynamic shape.
The Signet-Q comes with a Pinlock Max Vision faceshield, giving you the flexibility to add tinted laminates for bright daytime rides. Another option, and my favorite, is the Pro Shade System—a tinted faceshield that installs over the helmet’s faceshield. This is the best of both worlds as you can switch between a clear and tinted faceshield by simply tilting the tinted visor up, yet you don’t have the added weight or “crowded” feel of an internal sunshade.
There are closable vents at the chin, eyebrows, top, and back of the Signet-Q, and they work well together. Operating them with gloved hands is effortless. In the morning I usually toggle the two top intake vents open and slide the rear exhaust down (open) as I roll down the street heading toward the freeway. I like the cool morning air flowing through the helmet to give me a little pick me up on the way to work. During the winter, I toggle and slide the three vents closed on my chilly night rides home.
I leave the faceshield eyebrow vents open pretty much 24/7/365, enjoying the extra bit of refreshing airflow they provide. Every once in awhile at the wrong time of day I’ll find the sun sneaking through these vents in a very distracting way, so I snap them shut. There are two open positions, but with gloved hands it’s not easy to distinguish between the positions as the pivot action is a bit stiff.
The chin vent also has two open positions—one directs air more fully on your face, the other up toward the faceshield for defogging—and manipulating between them is simple. Non-closeable exhaust vent cowls sit on the sides of the Signet-Q near the back, and there are additional exhaust channels built into in the neck roll.
The faceshield locks down with a definitive snap of the tab on front left side of the visor. Opening it is easy with a firm push of your thumb against the tab—98 percent of the time this is a simple one-handed action when rolling to a stop. Every once in awhile the shield gets stubborn and I’ll have to wait until I can use two hands—one to hold the helmet for leverage.
While it is not complicated to replace the faceshield, it does take a bit of practice to get a good feel for it without breaking the mechanism. Embarrassingly, I’ve never managed to master the process and Arai engineers have instructed me on the procedure! I always rely on fellow staff members who can do it with their eyes closed, and no tools are necessary.
The cheek pads, neck roll, and skullcap are all removable and washable, and this also makes it possible to install communication devices, including various intercoms systems by Sena.
Arai has been making helmets just a decade shy of 100 years and they take their job very seriously. Each one is built by hand and you feel the quality and comfort as soon as you slip one on. I wear a lot of different helmets in the course of testing various bikes, but when I’m simply commuting to work or riding for fun, the Arai Signet-Q is the one I reach for.