2011 Arai Signet-Q Helmet Overview

Because size definitely does matter


Five millimeters. Think of it as five individual grains of sugar. Or the size of a termite. Or five of those lines that are really close together on a ruler. That’s a rather insignificant number, right? Not if you’re the type that has a hard time finding a helmet that fits. For many “long-oval” heads out there, finding the right helmet can be problematic. It seems as though most helmets create “hot spots,” or the headache you get when the shell of the helmet presses against the forehead for a prolonged period of time.

Hardcore Arai fans will remember the Signet line of helmet. Its shape was a hit among the long-oval crowd whose heads were longer front to back than side to side. It was replaced in 2008 by the Profile, which didn’t quite see the same success. “I don’t personally feel we went long enough with the Profile,” is the reason Brian Weston, Arai’s Director of Operations for the U.S., cites for the Profile’s demise.

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Wanting to capitalize on the popularity of the Signet name, and bring back its faithful followers, the name is back in an all-new line from Arai — the Signet-Q. Similar in outward appearances to the RX-Q introduced last year, the Signet-Q differs in one major way: internally, it’s about five millimeters more elongated than the RX-Q front to back. Arai believes this simple elongation makes a considerable difference. According to Weston, between the RX-Q and Signet-Q, “they will fit 95% of the market.”

2011 Arai Signet-Q

The elongated interior isn’t just a benefit for long-oval head shapes, though. Even those with a less-pronounced forehead may find the Signet a better fit for them. In fact, after journalists went through the Arai presentation and got fitted, 14 of 19 went down a whole size. Indeed, I also went down a size, and as you’ll see in the accompanying video, even our own Pete Brissette bumped down to a small Signet-Q after years of wearing mediums in everything else. It’s important to pay attention to the video, as Bruce Porter, Arai’s Director of Motorsports for North America, imparts some very important advice on what to look for in a properly fitting helmet and how it should line up on your head. 

2011 Arai Signet-Q

North Americans pose a unique challenge as head shapes vary widely – a result of the “melting pot” effect as our country is comprised of many different ethnicities. To meet the challenge of creating a helmet to suit the wide array of noggins, Arai has trusted the shell shapes of the Corsair, RX-Q and Vector to do just that. The problem is that all three of these shapes are better suited to the “intermediate oval” type of head, which is less pronounced than long-oval domes. Adjustments could be made with the internal lining to better fit different skulls, but this is more of a band-aid fix. The Signet-Q effectively solves that issue, and because it was designed specifically for the American market, it will only be available here as well. This is nothing new, as the company sells market-specific lines in both Europe and Asia.

But there’s more than just the elongated shape that makes the Signet unique, there are other features that separate it from the rest of the Arai line as well. The eyeport opening has been expanded 10mm side-to-side (5mm on each side) to give the rider increased peripheral vision. As part of the Q package, there’s now a 5mm pad in the temple area that can be easily removed to provide more space for long-oval heads that also have a bit more girth side to side. The Signet-Q also sees a redesign of the FCS, or Facial Contour Support cheekpads. The pads now come underneath the chin to cradle the jawbone, but a sullen cheek area allows the rider to speak into communication devices, or simply chew gum, without worrying about biting the insides of their cheeks.

2011 Arai Signet-Q

This redesign also makes for a slightly quieter interior as well as making the helmet easier to pull over your head. Currently, the redesigned FCS cheek pads are exclusive to the Signet, but expect it to come standard on RX-Qs and Corsair-V in the near future. Further, the FCS can be retrofitted to Corsair and Vector models. Beyond the redesign of the pads, however, the foam itself is now noise-attenuating – another step in making the ride as quiet as possible. This feature was first introduced on the RX-Q is now also standard on the Corsair-V.

Weston pointed out that the new foam and liners within the Signet-Q (and all Arai helmets) memorizes and forms to the shape of its wearer quickly, making for a nearly custom fit. Because of this, he discouraged lending a helmet to a friend for any length of time as the liner likely won’t be the ideal contour for someone else’s head. That said, the interior of the Signet-Q is fully replaceable with either standard pads or pads of varying thicknesses.

As you might have noticed by now, the Signet-Q is introducing a series of firsts for Arai. Another one being the first Arai helmet to utilize Pinlock shield posts and inserts. For the uninitiated, Pinlock inserts do away with the need to replace faceshields, as there are a number of inserts that attach to the inside of the shield to perform essentially the same functions. Best of all, Pinlock shields are cheaper than faceshields — a whole $20 cheaper ($35 for a Pinlock; $55 for a new shield).

2011 Arai Signet-Q

The reason it took so long for Arai to incorporate Pinlock compared to some rival helmet companies is because Arai worked in close relation with Pinlock to ensure the shape of the inserts didn’t interfere with the eyebrow ports seen on Arai’s current faceshields. Also, care was taken to create a proper seal between the Pinlock, the inner shield and the eyeport when the shield is closed. Currently, all Signet-Qs will include an anti-fog Pinlock insert, with smoke and orange versions available separately. If this is well received, then expect to see this trend on the rest of the Arai lineup.

2011 Arai Signet-Q

I’ve been a big fan of the RX-Q since its introduction, as it’s one of the most comfortable helmets I own. With the release of the Signet-Q, the difference in fit between the two is surprisingly significant. Wearing a medium Signet, which is my normal size in the RX-Q, there seemed like a massive amount of space between my forehead and the back of my skull to the comfort liner in the helmet. After trying a size small, that gap diminished and the Signet felt properly snug around my entire head. In fact, now that the pads and liner are starting to break-in, it’s becoming the helmet I most often reach for when I’m headed out the door for a ride. It just feels like it’s molded for my head, more so than the RX-Q.

It should go without saying that the helmet performs in typical Arai fashion. The expanded eye port is a small but significant benefit, especially when the road ahead gets twisty. The liner material is soft and non-abrasive, while also featuring sweat-wicking technology that absorbs perspiration and displaces it away from the head and into the ventilation airflow. This not only helps keep the rider cool, but it dries the liner faster as well.

Speaking of ventilation, Arai has a reputation for having some of the best in the business and the Signet-Q lives up to the hype. You can feel a difference when even one vent is opened or closed. Open all the vents and a significant amount of air blasts in and through the channels in the helmet, helping keep the rider cool and focused.

2011 Arai Signet-Q

Minor details in the FCS cheekpads are noticeable, too. As advertised, these units cradle the jawbone, more so than the RX-Q and the Corsair. On the road the difference in noise coming through the helmet is fractionally quieter in the Signet-Q compared to past Arais I’ve worn, but since I wear earplugs, it’s hard to notice the difference. The noise disparity will be more substantial to someone who doesn’t.

Arai’s latest helmets, including the Signet-Q, come in five shell options, covering seven sizes (XS - XXXL) ensuring a better fit for virtually everyone. Of course, all of Arai’s full-face helmets meet more stringent 2010 Snell standards. To do so, says Weston, the “shells got stronger and the liners got softer.”

Available in a myriad of graphics and solid colors, the Signet-Q is available now, starting at $589.95 for solids, reaching up to $719.95 for graphics. If you buy your helmet over the internet through an authorized online retailer, Arai requires its helmets sold online to be exchanged once, free of charge, in case the fit isn’t correct. This is a handy benefit, as a lot of riders will be surprised at the difference five millimeters can make. We were.

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