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Long-term review: 2010 Icon Airframe Construct Helmet


Posted on January 15th, by Andrew in Review. 15 comments

Top vents are adjusted by a slider between the two vents. Mouth vent has a small adjuster beneath the “teeth”. Jowl vents are adjustable internally

“How big is your head?” Scott asked me. Smart arse. I waited for the punch line. “No, seriously. What size helmet do you take?” Oh, right. “I’ve got an Icon helmet,” he said, “they’ve given it to us to review. It’s a large. You want to do it?” I was stoked. We’ve done reviews before on Pipeburn, but mostly of our own gear – which is a double-edged sword as you get plenty of time to really know a piece of kit, but then you wouldn’t have purchased it if you didn’t think it was the best option.

But this was different; a brand new helmet that I had no intention of purchasing was now in my hot little hands awaiting a full and detailed dissection. And that’s exactly what this is. I’ve got five month’s worth of detailed notes and a laptop with a fully charged battery – let’s do this.

Meeting an Icon

Now would probably be a good time to raise my hand as a card-carrying member of the Arai Helmet Owner’s Club. I have a 2009 Vector/Chaser and am pretty impressed with it, so now you know where my head’s at (thanks – I’m here all week). For this review I’m going to put the two helmets up against each other, mainly because it’s what I’d be doing whether or not I come right out and say it. If I owned half a dozen different helmets I might be able to take some neutral stance, but the fact remains all of my recent on-bike time has been spent inside the Arai.

Scott dropped the helmet off and I was quick to jump into the box and take a peak. Of course at this point in time I had no idea what “Construct” referred to – to be honest I was expecting a plain white helmet. But no, the helmet is thusly named because it’s finished (or rather not finished) in a clear coat over the top of the fibreglass weave that forms the main structural component of the helmet. Stupid me was a little perplexed for a moment or two, initially thinking that Icon had me reviewing some kind of prototype. Doofus. While the transparent look probably wouldn’t be the finish I’d choose myself, I’ll give Icon full marks for trying something a little different. I’d just hope that it’s able to retain that whiteness and not begin to yellow after a few summers of Australian UV radiation.

We’ve demanded that Icon make flames come out of these vents for their next edition

The helmet impresses on first viewing and is very nicely finished with its monochrome exterior and bold red lining. Fit and finish was bang on and it came with heaps of accessories – something that the Arai was sadly lacking. They even include a second (tinted) visor, which is something that Arai will happily charge you $50 for. Styling is a lot more out there than the Arai with the front and rear vents joined by two sporty curves of plastic across the top of the helmet that also seem to perform a spoiler function. Add that to the adjustable angular vents on the jowls of the helmet and the skeletal look of the front vent and I think you get a helmet that comes across as pretty badass. Though that can’t be said for all of Icon’s helmets.

Upside your head

Being exactly the same size as the Arai, I expected the thing to feel pretty much the same once on, but that wasn’t the case at all. Obviously the Arai has had a few years to mould itself to the monstrous lump that is my head, but from the get-go the Icon seemed to be a much more snug fitting helmet than the size charts would have you believe. I found myself taking time to ensure the Icon didn’t squish my ears out of place, which is something I never remember doing in the Arai. This also makes headphones inside the helmet a more challenging proposition. None of this is bad, mind you. Just different. And I guess preferable if we are to believe the suggestions that the more snug a helmet is the safer your head will be in an off.

The chinstrap is a standard issue twin rings set-up with a plastic press-stud to keep the excess strappage under control. I did get the feeling with the Icon that it was happiest when sitting a little further back on your chin. Again, this is probably better in terms of safety and trying to keep the thing on your head if the worst should happen. It also seems like the sort of experience that would vary wildly from one person (and chin) to another.

Is that red in your helmet, or are you just happy to see me?

On the road

Two things become pretty obvious about the Icon once you get some speed up. The Icon is well ventilated, but a touch noisy. I’m no helmet designer, but I’m guessing the two come hand-in-hand; I’d also take a stab in the dark and say that the “airframe” part of the name refers to the aerodynamics and ventilation designed into the helmet. Icon claims their Airframe series are wind tunnel tested, which seems like a pretty obvious thing to do to a motorbike helmet. I find a good helmet aero-type test is to note what happens when you’re at highway speeds and you turn your head to check for traffic when changing lanes. Here the Icon has one up on the Arai as there seems to be no feelings of forcing the helmet into a position that it doesn’t really like; it obviously prefers to face straight into the blast but it doesn’t roar and buffet when it’s not. It’s also interesting to note that the Icon was much better at deflecting wind while riding with the visor open than the Arai, allowing you to cruise at urban speeds without having your eyes desiccated by wind blast.

I guessed the Icon would weigh in pretty much the same as the Arai and I was right. According to my el-cheapo kitchen scales the Icon was an inconsequential 50gms/1.7oz heavier than the Arai’s 1.6 kgs/56.4 ounces. Not too heavy and not overly light, then.

I did a few full-day rides while wearing the helmet and I’ll be honest and say that I expected the snug fit to translate to increasing discomfort over the day – but it didn’t. As long as I took the time to get my ears sitting “naturally” inside the helmet it was good to go for an eight or ten hour day on two wheels.

Pretend you’re gutting an animal. The Icon has fully removable padding, unlike the Arai

A view to an ill

I’d like nothing better than to be able to sit here and tell you that Icon have cracked the tough nut of a dependable, simple-to-operate, long-wearing visor design that once and for all ended the frustrations of replacement, but alas they haven’t. The basic operation seems to work in a similar fashion to the Shoei design but with a locking ring doohickie. At first glance it seemed to me that it may prove superior to Arai’s “shove the visor ends into these dark slots and apply lots of force until the thing clicks into place or you break shit” system, but that was before I actually tried it out.

In the end I still had sore fingers, a dirty mouth and a red face when replacing the Icon’s visor. Somehow it just didn’t want to lock into place and I even had a situation where I jumped on the bike and rode off only having to pull over again when the visor detached itself on one side while moving. Adding injury to insult, the mechanism now looks as if it is loosing small pieces of plastic (see below). Sick of the rat race? Want to make a few million and retire to Tahiti? Design a visor mechanism for a motorbike helmet that just works. “The biker Steve Jobs,” they’ll call you.

The visor mechanism; it makes me tense just looking at it. Note broken plastic above and below the central screw And just for the extra kick in the nuts, after I battled with the visor and finally reigned triumphant I found that the visor had a tendency to catch against the rubber seal surrounding the visor cut out when opening. Not a biggie I know, but long term I’m guessing that the seal would probably fail and allow air and wind noise into the helmet.

But fear not – it’s not all bad news. The visor’s down position lock was a simple “pole and hole” affair (that’s what she said) that soundly beats Arai’s superbly annoying demist sliding lock jobby. It looked rather primitive at first, but there’s no denying its simplicity and effectiveness. The visor itself has a “Fog-free Prolock” coating on the inside that worked pretty well, where as the Arai just fogs like a mother trucker. Still, it’s the visor that seems to really let the Icon side down here.

The open visor catching on the rubber seal. Ouchy

Safety last

I started off by dissing the Arai in this part of the review because I had previously read that it only got three out of five stars in the UK’s SHARP safety rating system. As it turns out, the SHARP system is more than a little controversial. Also, it seems that Icon haven’t put their helmets through the SHARP tests yet, and just advertise them as meeting Europe’s ECE 22-05 standard. Judging apples and apples may not be as easy as I first thought…

So I guess the most compelling question you could ask is which one would I prefer to have on my head if I (gulp) came off at speed? I honestly couldn’t choose on safety standards alone but I’d probably just default to age and pick the Icon as it’s not as old as the Arai in both physical age and design. If they were both 2011 models I’d be happy (or not happy, as the case may be) to eat road dirt in either one.

The surprising conclusion

I went into this process thinking that a contest against an Arai and an Icon would be a total mismatch, but I’ve got to say that sitting here now I’m happy to be typing a sentence that proclaims the Icon’s ability to stand toe-to-toe with the older Arai and not look like a second-rate option. Sure the visor mechanism didn’t really float my boat but I’m positive the snagged seal could be fixed as it seems like a “now and then” type of issue rather than a constant one, and the visor replacement is a frustrating affair but as far as I know there simply isn’t a system out there that provides an alternative to the annoyances that all motorbike helmets seem to have in this department.

So now I find myself with two helmets that I’d be equally happy to ride in rather than an Arai Vector and the Icon Airframe Construct “plan B” that I originally, and naïvely, assumed I would have. The Icon is a great helmet that has proven to me it has the moves to take on helmets almost twice it’s price and still come out looking great. Pipeburn Recommended.

 

The fine print: In an effort to keep things as legit as possible, I feel it’s probably best to mention that Icon Motorsports supports Pipeburn through advertising on our site and that safety and hygiene dictates that helmet reviewers get to keep the helmet afterwards; a borked second-hand helmet full of head stink is of no real use to anyone. Rest assured that if this helmet wasn’t up to scratch I’d have no problems in saying just that, and that we will always endeavour to give you guys the best reviews possible without fear or favour; sponsors bearing gifts included.





  • Mario

    Very good review mate. I agree with visor mechanisms and how pain in the arse they are, so far it seems Shark has the best system (my problem is that Shark helmets don't fit me). What is recomended retail price for Icon?

  • Andrew

    @Mario That'd depend on where abouts in the world you are reading the article. As a rough guide, Icon's RRP on their American website is USD $295.00 :)

  • http://www.ironhorsemagazine.com Dutch

    Well written and fair review. We've found the same progression with Icon. Winter testing their Patrol line and Alliance Hio-Viz right now – a real departure for them. Looking tits so far..

    cheers,

    Dutch
    Iron Horse Magazine

  • http://knsweb.net Kumo

    To me, the main problem with Sharp test is that they don't test the jaw area. So a jet helmet could have 5 stars just like a full face helmet. That's wrong.

  • http://www.afgmoto.com Jason Fullington

    Another thing to consider here is the economics of where in the world the helmets are produced!! I live here in Japan and have friends at both Arai and Shoei…and secret be told they are scared to death of Icon because they know that it generally goes tit for tat with their helmets and beats then in other areas, this I heard directly from them! And the fact Arai and Shoei are made in Japan where economic standards dictate a higher price of sale due to the expenses they incur here in producing them. Everything from labor to insurance to taxes is far higher than any other country in the world, thus you have a more expensive helmet, is it necessarily better, NO!
    I do sell Icon here in Japan, and Yes I was an Icon staff member before. But these are plain truth's. I lived in Japan from 1998 til 2006 and that whole time I was an Arai and Shoei patron. And now back in japan since March of 2010, I still do like Arai and Shoei but now I bring the flavor of Icon to Japan and it is succeeding greatly here!! Oh and part of my duties here in Japan is to test and certify Icon helmets to the same Japanese standards as Arai and Shoei have to meet to be sold domestically…and hands down we are meeting and exceeding those standards.
    PS secret be told (no name mentioned) my Arai buddy has an Icon he wears when not in the presence of his company staff and co-workers! Gotta love that!! And it matches his Icon Jacket!
    J

  • Emaychee

    above post + the article disclaiming SHARP testing have one thing in common – bias.
    In the article it starts off talking about SHARP and ends up being about how great Arai is. In the above we have one point of view which claims that Icon is as good. Which it may be, fine – but at least post evidence to support your claims of equal quality. word of mouth is not word of god, so to speak.

    An excellent review nonetheless -This is why I enjoy PB, quality discourse about ALL motorcycling matters, rather than tumblresque photoblogging.

  • kik

    icon has the styling that many others lack,not to mention the opportunity of purchasing matching jackets and other gear, that alone puts icon on front, but that of course is just my humble opinion.

  • Chris Mc

    great review AJ. I'll be sticking to my Shoei I think. tried and tested. I don't mind paying a bit more for my head.

  • Andrew

    @Chris Mc You should get yourself a girlfriend – that way you can get your head for free…

  • http://www.afgmoto.com Jason F

    I have the Japanese certification reports for all Icon helmets on my desk at the office, your welcome to come take a look the next time your in Tokyo! But As per regulation SG reports are not to be web posted. And NO helmet can be sold in JP without passing these standards.
    ICON passes ECE, DOT, SNELL, SG, AUS, SIR, BZ and a few others. If Sharp is required in europe anywhere then it Icon has passed those to then as it is not marketed in all of europe via Parts Europe a division of the Lemans corporation.
    Cheers (But I do agree with you I am biased of course) No harm in being biased in my position. But again I do like Arai and Shoei…..

  • BigD

    Shark helmets have great snap-in visor mechanisms. They work fantastically.

    HJC also do a great visor mechanism as well and the carbon fibre FS-15 is a great value helmet.

    The Suomy Vandal that I am currently wearing also has a decent visor mechanism although it uses removable visor bolts that you need to twist in and lock which is not as efficient as ones that just click into place.

    Great review.

  • Albert

    I got the Icon Airframe, and i took off the visor, i have to say that indeed is a pain in the arse, but once you get a hold of it, it gets easier to replace…

  • Boozer

    Great review, now I am very interested in this Construct helmet. On a side note, my current Shark has a great Visor snap-in mechanism like others have stated earlier, no problems whatsoever.

  • Jon

    I have never seen this Icon helmet design in shops in Sydney. In fact, most Icon lids are probably 1 or 2 years behind their current 2011 Spring range. Is there anywhere in Australia offering the current range of Icon lids with AS1698 sticker? Cos preferably don't want to buy a carbon Airframe from the States and get fined and demerits for not having a shiny sticker that suddenly improves safety from the other side of the planet (Australian standards really suck).

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