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Since 1999, the #1 Motorcycling Magazine for Women and the Men Who Ride with Them









Review: Icon Airframe Helmet

Air conditioning for your head

By Genevieve Schmitt, Editor
7/3/2009

I don't usually wear a full-face helmet when I ride a motorcycle -- I prefer a 3/4 style -- but when I do it has to be super comfortable and light. I don't want to feel like I have a bowling ball on my head. Mostly I wear a full-face helmet when I'm riding a motorcycle with no windshield. The helmet protects my face and head from the wind coming at me.
Here I am wearing Icon's Airframe while testing Yamaha's V Star 950 last fall. Pink flowers in the foreground bring out the pink in the helmet.
Here I am wearing Icon's Airframe while testing Yamaha's V Star 950 last fall. Pink flowers in the foreground bring out the pink in the helmet.

Icon's Airframe style helmet introduced last year, is a highly technical helmet with the top of the line SNELL crash test rating and required D.O.T. rating designed to "take helmet design to the next level" states the press materials. Indeed it does in certain areas.

Chipmunk cheeks: That's what a good fitting full-face will do for you. I don't normally wear pink but when offered that color style called Regal because of the crown on the back, I said, "What the heck." Every girl rider should have a pink helmet in her stable if not to wear, then to simply remind ourselves of how far we've come.
Chipmunk cheeks: That's what a good fitting full-face will do for you. I don't normally wear pink but when offered that color style called Regal because of the crown on the back, I said, "What the heck." Every girl rider should have a pink helmet in her stable if not to wear, then to simply remind ourselves of how far we've come.

Weight
First thing I notice is that the Airframe is light. I don't want to have a neck ache at the end of a riding day from holding up a heavy helmet on my head. At 3.5 pounds, it was no heavier or lighter than what I am used to.

My Regal style size XS weighs 3.5 pounds, the average weight for a quality full-face helmet.
My Regal style size XS weighs 3.5 pounds, the average weight for a quality full-face helmet.

A challenge for helmet makers is keeping the weight down while adding features that make it a better helmet. I'm told that starting in the fall of 2009 all Icon helmets will be moving over to what's called AWS (All World Standard). All World Standard meets or exceeds all the following: D.O.T. FMVSS 218 (US), ECE 22-05 (Europe), SG (Japan) and AS 1698 (Australia) helmet standards. In layman's terms it means a lighter weight helmet built to a higher safety standard. That's good to know.

Sizing
Sizing in a full-face helmet is determined by the combination of the shell size, the size of the shock absorbing helmet liner -- the Styrofoam looking shell shown in our photo below -- and the cheekpads. Icon makes three shell sizes and four liner sizes that allow for a generous range of sizing from XXS through XXXL. A quick glance at some of the other top helmet manufacturers and I see only the top brands make that XXS size which, with more women riding motorcycles, is becoming a popular size. Most budget helmet manufacturers only size to XS. That said, I usually wear an XS in a full-face (all my regular-wearing Arai helmets are XS) so it's nice to see that an XS in Icon fit me perfectly. If the XS was too big, I could get different cheek pads to turn the helmet into an XXS. That's how that works.

This is what the shock absorbing liner looks like, called EPS because it's made from expanded Polystyrene. Different densities in certain areas of the shape act as a shock absorber for different parts of one's head.
This is what the shock absorbing liner looks like, called EPS because it's made from expanded Polystyrene. Different densities in certain areas of the shape act as a shock absorber for different parts of one's head.

Icon prides itself on its ideal combination of densities in the EPS that work as a complete shock absorbing system for a rider's head. The dual density styrene liner is specifically designed to absorb the more common moderate impacts on up to the more severe impacts. That gives me peace of mind.

The cheek pads are very comfortable. The soft Hydradry brand of wicking fabric is soft to the touch, almost luxurious feeling. It was nice to have that against my cheeks. When I sweat the fabric absorbs the moisture drying it quickly and leaving the surface of the liner cool and dry. Only some helmet brands use a wicking style fabric in its cheek pads. I insist on it these days. The worst thing is sweating inside your helmet on a hot day and feeling claustrophobic from your head roasting inside. This leads me to helmet ventilation.

The Hydradry inside liner with its fancy floral design.
The Hydradry inside liner with its fancy floral design.

Cooling System
A good helmet will have a decent ventilation system. It's one thing for a helmet to have vents but if those vents are not in the right places the hot air can't channel out of the helmet. What good are the vents then? The big deal with the Airframe helmet is its ventilation - hence the name Airframe. Icon had to literally build a new machine to construct the Airframe to make the vents do what it wanted to do -- force the hot air out of the helmet directly. There are large 20mm slat style vents on the front of the helmet angled in such a way as to ram air directly into the helmet without twists, turns and the wind-blocking detours that prevent so many helmets from properly cooling. In the rear are large 35mm slat style openings that expel the hot air from inside the helmet. I mention these are slat style openings because most helmets just have small round holes. For cooler days, there is a switch to block the vents to keep the warm air from escaping. Two additional rear holes (the more common size holes) on the lower part of the helmet expel air that comes in through the head opening.

You can see the slanted vents on the top of the helmet. In the middle is the button to close them. You can also see a chin vent that closes with that black button, and two more screened vents on the lower sides.
You can see the slanted vents on the top of the helmet. In the middle is the button to close them. You can also see a chin vent that closes with that black button, and two more screened vents on the lower sides.

You can see the slanted exhaust ports here in the rear under an aerodynamic fin. Also in this photo are the lower exhaust holes hidden under the bottom aerodynamic wing that helps funnel the air outward. Note the pink crown graphic in this "Regal" style helmet.
You can see the slanted exhaust ports here in the rear under an aerodynamic fin. Also in this photo are the lower exhaust holes hidden under the bottom aerodynamic wing that helps funnel the air outward. Note the pink crown graphic in this "Regal" style helmet.

Now that you know the interesting mechanics of how the ventilation works -- at least I think it's interesting --indeed I noticed a difference on hot days when I opened the vents. The helmet just felt like it was breathing and I wasn't feeling all hot and bothered inside. I really like that. The venting is superior and what sets this helmet apart.

Face Shield
This is my first time using a tinted face shield on a full-face helmet. Normally, I like to wear a clear shield so I can control the tint by wearing my favorite sunglasses and then take off the glasses when the day gets cloudy. I don't like wearing tinted anything on dark cloudy days. The darkness depresses me. (I actually wear yellow tinted glasses on overcast days so it seems brighter to me.)

The problem with wearing sunglasses in a full face is that only certain ones fit in the tight space. Most sunglasses are too thick to fit on your head inside a helmet. My first time with Icon's tinted shield was well... exciting. I've only been wearing it on very sunny days. I love the grey tint, and Icon's Proshield Precision Optic Shield technology has a clear undistorted view. Again, this is something we should demand. Face shields should not distort your view.

The face shield releases relative easily. This is another feature that sets helmet makers apart -- how easy it is to take off and replace the windshield. I've broken lots of nails trying to press the small clip that releases the shield. Pressing the little orange tab on the Airframe to release the shield was not that difficult as I'm releasing the tension here, but pressing it back into place required using the closed end of scissor (or you could use a flat head screwdriver) to gain enough leverage to move it into the locked position. My fingers are small. Maybe others have an easier time at it, but the pressure needed to push that tiny orange tab to lock the shield into place uncomfortably digs the tab into my fingertip.

I need to use the flat end of a closed scissor to press the tab back into place.
I need to use the flat end of a closed scissor to press the tab back into place.

I didn't have much experience with the face shield fogging fortunately. Could be due to Icon's Fog-Free coating and the chin vent, or could just be that I didn't encounter climate conditions to produce moisture in my helmet.

For $330, a price well below the top-of-the-line brands that range from $500 to $700, the Icon Regal is a high quality helmet that's offered in fun colors and graphics -- much different that traditional offerings. Here are four styles we thought were interesting to showcase. There are a whole bunch more.

Burn Baby Burn
Burn Baby Burn

CMYK
CMYK

Seventh Seal
Seventh Seal

Siren
Siren

The Airframe is also available in a flat black and a white color for $275. Visit RideIcon.com for more information.

All Icon helmets come with a thick fleece-lined helmet bag with straps to carry it as a backpack. WRN editorial assistant Laura McCarthy models how it looks carried that way. There's an extra flap in the helmet bag for stashing small accessories like gloves.
All Icon helmets come with a thick fleece-lined helmet bag with straps to carry it as a backpack. WRN editorial assistant Laura McCarthy models how it looks carried that way. There's an extra flap in the helmet bag for stashing small accessories like gloves.

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Hot New Gear: Bringing Power to Women

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