Shoei Qwest

A motorcycle helmet is the most critical piece of gear in a rider’s safety arsenal. Shoei has a well-earned reputation for building top-tier, comfortable helmets. Motorcycle USA has spent the latter half of 2010 evaluating the Japanese firm’s latest touring lid – the Shoei Qwest Helmet.

Shoei doesn’t go the modest route with the Qwest, touting it as the “finest touring helmet on the road” (PR video replaces “on the road” with “known to mankind!”). An industry leader can be forgiven for such immodest pronouncements, however, as the new Shoei certainly is a fine touring lid. But don’t let the touring label limit the Qwest’s scope. Ringing in at $70 less than its RF-1100 sibling (which we evaluated earlier this year – Shoei RF-1100 Review), we found the Qwest to be not only a comfortable helmet for any street riding application – it represents perhaps the best value in the elite Shoei lineup.

The Qwest replaces the TZ-R in Shoei’s lineup as its touring model. Built for long-range comfort, engineers honed the Qwest aerodynamics in the wind tunnel. The goal was to reduce wind noise without blocking out the “informative sounds” of the road. The net result is a claimed 2.2 decibel reduction from its predecessor, a 40% decrease. The aerodynamic research also influenced the Qwest’s shell shape, which like the rest of the latest generation of Shoei lids, features a shell-integrated spoiler.

On road the Qwest is certainly quiet. The snug fitting neck roll and removable chin skirt seem to be most deserving of credit, as they block out the brunt of wind noise. As for the aerodynamics, the Qwest cuts through the air without any tiresome buffeting. The only jarring effects we experienced during our testing were the fault of less than optimal windscreens on the motorcycle, not the helmet. The Qwest is quiet enough that short jaunts without earplugs aren’t an issue, particularly with the venting closed (which we’ve done quite often in recent commutes this winter).

As for ventilation, the Qwest system makes use of a large lower shutter vent underneath the face shield. The upper vent is centrally located on the crown, with a pair of rearward exhaust vents. Compared to its RF-1100 sibling, which feature a pair of laterally placed upper intakes and four exhaust vents, the Qwest doesn’t deliver as effective cooling. While not uncomfortable, on warm days we’d prefer more airflow from the top vent. The lower vent does a fine job of routing cool air to the riders face but has trouble defogging the shield in damp or cold conditions (more on this later). All told the ventilation is one area where the Qwest does a sufficient job, but doesn’t quite match Shoei’s more expensive options.

Shoei PR material makes much ado about its Quick Release Self-Adjusting base plate system. The spring-loaded QRSA pulls the shield back when lowered and closed, ensuring a water-tight seal with the helmet opening. We never experienced any leakage during testing, even during long-distance tours in the rain. That said there’s more play in the spring-loaded system than other helmets we’ve tested recently, so raising the shield can feel somewhat wobbly. A left-side lever offers a three position setting, one locking the shield down entirely, the middle a neutral setting allowing full movement, and another cracking the bottom seal slightly for more airflow. As for shield removal, it is simple and trouble free. Same goes for installation process, though lining up the shield tabs with their baseplate entry ports is a little trickier for tinted designs.

The CW-1 shield is also found in the RF-1100 and X-Twelve. It claims to block out 99% of harmful UV rays. Our only gripe comes with its poor anti-fogging capabilities. Living in the Pacific Northwest means dealing with damp conditions and the CW-1 fogs up early and often, even with the breath guard. The fogging requires opening the shield beyond its lowest setting, which blasts air to the rider’s face and eyes, very tiresome on cold morning commutes much less long tours. We look forward to sampling some de-fogging solutions, namely Shoei’s accessory Pinlock visor, as this is our only real complaint with the helmet. (We lodged similar complaints during our RF-1100 review).

The highlight of the Qwest is its comfortable liner and top-shelf fit and finish. Examining the liners of the Qwest and RF-1100 back to back, they appear identical. But when worn, the Qwest feels slightly more cush around the temples and upper cheek. It may be owed to a rounder fit on the Qwest, which better suits my blockheaded dimensions. Removable and washable cheekpads are available in variable sizes, allowing riders to dial in the fit. The main interior liner is not removable. The chin strap assembly is an example of perfection in simplicity. No need for the trendy magnets or sliding latch fasteners found on some of the competition, instead the Qwest makes use of a conventional D-Ring cinch and snap. The velvety chin strap liners (also removable and washable) are what deliver the extra comfy feel. Recessed space at the ears could accommodate aftermarket communication systems.

The Qwest meets Snell M2010 certification. Its energy-absorbing EPS liner is a dual density construction, with the exterior AIM+ shell a six-ply composite design. Five different shell sizes accommodate a wide array of helmet sizes: XXS-S, M, L, XL-XXL. Our Medium-sized Qwest weighed in at 3 pounds 10.2 ounces (1650 grams), just a shade more than the RF-1100 at 3 pounds 8.4 ounces (1599 grams).

If there’s one area where the Qwest fits its touring-only designation, it’s the relatively conservative styling options. The solid or metallic colorways were most appealing to our tastes, including the Anthracite Metallic of our test unit. The graphic versions of the Qwest aren’t quite up to par compared with Shoei’s graphics for the RF-1100 or X-Twelve, at least in our opinion. But feel free to disagree with our individual taste. Notable amongst the graphic options, Shoei delivers some decidedly feminine designs for the lady riders.

As a total package, we think the Qwest scores big. While ventilation wasn’t a high point, it doesn’t limit the long-range comfort factor. And if this review has read more like a comparison with the RF-1100 than a standalone evaluation, it’s because the Qwest offers comparable performance at a lower price. Weight difference between the two models is negligible (1.8 ounces). And while the RF-1100 does a better job with its ventilation, the Qwest is a touch quieter and more comfortable.

The Qwest retails at $349.99 for solid colors, $369.99 for metallic and $469.99 for graphics. Quiet, comfortable and representing perhaps the best value in the premium Shoei line, the Qwest helmet delivers.