Gear Review: Arai RX-Q

A full-face helmet with a flashy paint job.

Photos: Alexandra Straub

Hirotake Arai’s father owned a hat business. So, when he followed in the family footstep, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. And when working with people’s heads, he realized that it was all about fit. From there, he branched out and started to make workplace helmets (aka hardhats), then when the second world war broke out, he started to make helmets, albeit the metal kind.

Why the abridged historical lesson? Because the modern-day Arai helmet has deep roots. Roots that incorporate decades of knowledge and application, so your head can be as protected as it can be should you take a tumble.

As a result, Arai’s are not cheap. At $820, the RX-Q lineup is Arai’s middle-of-the-road price point, with their entry-level being the Vector-2, the Corsair taking the top prize of most expensive.

Arai Helmet-15The RX-Q isn’t a gender-specific helmet either. Though some would argue the graphics can be gender-biased, I think they look awesome no matter what head they’re on.

As for fit, the RX-Q line is designated for people with a “rounder/intermediate oval” head shape. I have one of those and extra small sizing too – contrary to popular belief! The RX-Q fits quite well with my tiny noggin, and when on, it feels snug, but not headache-inducing snug.

The  fiberglass shell is so strong a grown man can stand up on it, bounce on it for a while and it still maintains its form.
The fiberglass shell is so strong a grown man can stand up on it, bounce on it for a while and it still maintains its form.

Furthermore, if I needed a little more padding, Arai offers various cheek pads with a minimum thickness of 12 mm, up to 40 mm. The cheek padding can easily be replaced, and for women, they might need to be replaced more often, thanks to a wonderful thing called makeup. I know a lot of women don’t wear it when they ride, but know of more who do.

The XS helmet weighs in at 1,597 grammes which meant that I didn’t have to worry about the soreness in my neck if I decided to put in a day over 12 hours on a bike – something I do frequently.

With three levels of venting, it’s easy enough to keep your head cool. Even on riding days that hit almost 40 degrees Celsius, I didn’t find that I had a Niagara Falls-type sweating going on.

The RX-Q visor offers excellent peripheral vision to catch incoming dangers and on the few times I did ride in the rain, I didn’t get any unnecessary precipitation intrusion around the visor. It does fog up a little when stationary at a stoplight, something that could be fixed by opening the visor a crack.

Arai Helmet-09
Visor mechanism is hidden under the side pods but works well once you get used to it.

Perhaps both the best and worst part of this helmet involves the visor release.  If you look at most helmets, you’ll see it’s pretty easy to take off the visor and swap it out. You can see the mechanism right there. With RX-Q, the mechanism used to latch and unlatch the visor is hidden by the side pods.

If someone doesn’t show you how to use them, you might be sitting there, scratching your head and wondering how you’re going to be able to ride home without a visor. You really need to get used to finding the sweet spot where the plastic parts link up with the other plastic parts. After you try it a few times – ideally at the dealership – it really is a great system. Snap off, snap on.

Overall, I’m quite impressed with the RX-Q. And so I should be for that price. After thousands of kilometres of riding, dead bugs in places I didn’t even think existed and a lot of putting on/removing, it’s still in great shape and looking good.


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