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Product Reviews: Arai Signet/e & NR-2

I'm a believer.

story by Billy Bartels, Created Wednesday, Mar 14, 2001

While the NR is a good, basic helmet with reasonable venting and decent weather protection, the Signet is a full-on road-or-track-thrashing sport-bucket. They share Arai's ADSIS no-tools shield-changing mechanism: If you want to change your shield, merely spread it and pop it out.

Additionally, the Signet has top-'o-your-head venting, a diffuser that vents air around your mouth (no more chapped lips), and anti-fog measures like an integrated air vent that sends air up the shield as well as an unobtrusive breath guard over the nose. Most times you don't even have to lift the shield when you are stopped at a light. Of all these features, my only complaint is that the mouth vent offers very little feedback -- without a click it's hard to tell if it moved or not.

The jury is still out on long-term comfort since my only basis for comparison is the comfortable, broken-in NR. However, I now find every other helmet brand I wear uncomfortable. And the Signet's great looks even pose a minor dilemma: I would wear it more, but the flashy three-color paint is out of place on a cruiser, and I hate getting bugs all over the pretty thing, so I don't wear it for long-distance touring. Curiously, on the one long trip I did take on a ST1100, the Signet gave me a headache like the NR-2 never did. It may be due to the snug fit of the different shell. That leaves short jaunts in the canyons and day trips, as I'm overprotective of anything that costs the sum of my discretionary income for a month. In this role it shines, as tighter tolerances make for less movement at speed.

I realize there are differently shaped heads out there, so the only way to be sure about the Arai is to slide into your nearest retailer and slip into one. Trust me, when you try one on, you'll know.

Having established that all other helmets suck, are all the widgets on the Signet/e worth an extra $100+? Maybe. If you're a hard-core sport rider, you'll appreciate the pull-down air dam under your chin, the superior venting, and the greater range of color/design options. But if you just need a lid to protect your head and/or go touring with, the NR-2, or possibly the new NR-3, will not disappoint.