Gear: Icon Airframe Construct

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When I crashed my GSX-R a month ago, I banged up my Arai Vector and I was in need of a new helmet. Icon tossed an Icon Airframe Construct my way. There’s a stereotype about guys that ride gixxers and wear Icon helmets. While this helmet might move me one step closer to that stereotype, I’m impressed by its performance. Especially for the $295 retail price.

Photos: Ashlee Goodwin

It’s flashy, but not in the same way as a neon mohawk
Lets get this out of the way early. There are chrome details on the vent intakes, a chrome logo that’s recessed into the helmet and a chrome sewer grate chin vent in addition to the chrome mesh vents. A large grunge style ‘Airframe Construct’ logo cuts across the back while the interior has a bright red liner. The black rubber thing on the chin is non-functional and reminds me of the front splitter on a riced out Civic. The lower exhaust vents on the back remind me of said Civic’s ridiculous side-skirts. Phew. Seriously though,everything else on this helmet is well thought out and tastefully styled, even if it isn’t the gloss black with no logos that I usually prefer. That said, the exposed carbon/fiberglass/Dyneema weave under a layer of clear coat is pretty neat. You could say the look is growing on me.

It’s quiet and comfy
Once I made it past the tight opening, this helmet fit my head extremely well. Right out of the box it was all-day comfy, but it did break in even more after a few rides. The liner became a little more plush and the shields became slightly easier to change (more on this in a minute). There are vents that actually work on the chin and top of the head. It’s quieter than any other helmet I’ve owned with the vents closed. Speaking of vents, it’s got neat little chin bar vents with quarter-turn valves on them. Slick. Open up the giant vent switch up top and air rushes down onto your scalp. Awesome. It’s significantly noisier with the vent system open, but with the amount of air it moves I’m think a little noise is unavoidable. You should be wearing ear plugs anyway.

I’m no aerodynamicist, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that they did a damn good job getting the shape right. Turn your head, look down, look up, ride really fast with no windscreen, there really isn’t anything you can do that will leave you with wind induced whiplash. The thick and cushy neck roll helps to both keep the helmet in place on your head and to keep loud air away from your ears. The chin curtain helps a lot here as well.

It needs a better visor retention system
The one it has is a pain in the ass. The levers are tiny, hard to reach and require a lot of force to operate. The side plates add (a very small amount of) unnecessary weight and complexity. They’re a bitch to change when it comes time to swap visors — a task I perform every time the sun goes down. You first need to remove the visor by pulling on the miniature orange tabs so hard that your fingers hurt (that’s saying something as I’m a guitarist, drummer and mechanic). Once it’s off, yank on the side plates. It will feel like they’re going to break and they very well might. Wrestle the new shield into place by pressing extremely hard on the mechanism and flipping the orange devil-switch into the locked position. After this is done on both sides, pop the side plates back into place. I’d ride without them, but there would be more holes to create whistles. It’s a lot easier the second time around and things seem to break in, but even after ten or so visor swaps, it’s still pretty damn stiff. Once you’ve got the shield on the thing, it doesn’t quite close all the way. It seems to have been designed so that a chrome pin pokes through a hole in the shield (like a monroe piercing on your helmet) and pulls it down tight. In practice, it doesn’t work. The pin is set too high, the hole slightly too large, and the shape of the shield doesn’t quite match up perfectly with the shape of the helmet. The result is that the visor doesn’t seal anywhere but the very top. The draft from that gap, especially when combined with the aerodynamic weirdness from the chrome pin/hole/tab/cutout thingy creates a few whistles. However, this isn’t the first helmet to lack an absolutely perfect visor seal. It’s not overly loud or annoying and, like I said previously, you should be wearing ear plugs anyway.

It’s kind of a BBW
Physically, it’s gigantic. Over 1/2 inch longer than my old Arai Vector and it scales in at 1650g. Wes’s AX-8 is 1400g for the same size. The plastic vent system is gigantic, the switch for those vents is twice as big as it needs to be, the gasket that runs along the bottom is huge, and even the chin-strap is large and padded. The weight isn’t all that bad, especially when you consider that this is a $295 helmet. The giant chin strap is actually a plus. The extra padding makes it super comfy.

Overall
The Icon Airframe Construct is a pretty nice helmet, even compared to much more expensive options. I’m not a fan of all the chrome, but I really like the concept of clean, simple raw materials. Once you put it on, you forget all about its looks. It’s 90 percent as comfy as my last Arai (which was probably more comfortable than my memory foam pillow). Hell, I don’t even feel like a squid wearing the thing, and it looks great with my black suit and white Garne boots.

  • Mr.Paynter

    Looks fairly sick in the photos, I have a white Shark RSI Carbon for simplicity of looks and good functionality but I’d consider this for sure if I were shopping or even for a pillion helmet!

  • http://www.footshifted.com Footshifted

    Nice review, I’ve got the Airframe Rubatone and with what little time I’ve had with it on the road thus far I’m pretty happy. I also thought I was going to bust the shit out of something the first time I switched the clear visor with the smoke one.

  • 85gripen

    I’m particularly interested in the ventilation properties of the helmet. I was coincidentally just looking at the Airframe Construct a few days ago, wondering if the white color would have any positive effect whatsoever on the heat (black helmets look better but if white keeps my melon cooler…). I need a helmet with really good ventilation as it regularly gets over 100 degrees in summer where I live. Thanks for the review, Sean.

  • JC

    +1 on the visor, I thought I was going to snap the little teeth on the side plates when swapping. The guy at the dealer suggested gently using needle nosed pliers, still made me nervous though!

  • http://www.muthalovin.com the_doctor

    Sounds like a rough helmet to adjust and set up, but the price is right.

    Keep up the reviews. I thoroughly enjoy them.

  • Tucker

    I guess it’s not THAT horrendous looking… but it is quite fat at 1650g. My first though when I saw it was “Looks like someone who fabricates speed boat hulls decided to try his hand at helmets”

  • Skank NYCF

    If your head is only worth $295, by all means wear it, enjoy it and be laughed at by guys like me. And make sure to get the matching disco chrome trim leather jacket to match.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Actually, this Icon is probably a little safer than your Arais. It meets both Snell M2010 and ECE 2205, whereas that US-bought Arai of yours is only Snell.

      • noone1569

        Boom.

      • Skank NYCF

        I’ll be back on the 30th, we’re getting ready to do the Beemer vs ZX video. Get me a medium and let me see how it fits and works at 180mph for a wide open 40 mile run compared to the Arais. I’ll tell you how well it hides wind noise, if my eyes start tearing from poor visor lock or shitty seal, and how great it vents and if it vibrates at high speeds witch my Arais all passed and they passed the crash test with flying color. No need to crash since the Icon passed all the tests. Lol. So whats up?

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Better yet, just buy an ECE 2205 Arai while you’re in Europe :)

          • Skank NYCF

            Its not about the Arai. I already know it works great in all the above categories. Does the Icon? Tell them to send one my way. I’ll put it in the video for free. Lmao. And I dont feel like spending $950!!!

            • http://www.cdavisdesigns.com Chris Davis

              So by that rationale your head is worth more than $250 but less than $950.

              • Skank NYCF

                Huummm yes, its worth $405(my cost)for a Corsair-V. Do they make pricesless helmets?

                • Alex

                  man with a head that big i’d want a priceless helmet too!

      • spektre76@gmail.com

        Pow!

        Pow Pow!!

  • NickP

    lol, nice “squid” photo!

  • http://www.cdavisdesigns.com Chris Davis

    I think you might be overly sensitive to chrome. After reading the article I thought it was going to be all over the place only to find little bits here and there.
    I appreciate the single top vent switch – I’ve never had the occasion to open only one top vent on any helmet I’ve ever had and I hate the tiny little switches on most.
    Were you able to open the internal chin vent switches while wearing the helmet? Probably not, and that’s the big downside to those little things and forget operating them when you have gloves on.
    Aesthetically, I dig the design of the bottom gasket and the paint is bad ass. But I agree the shell is over-sized and could use a few contours to give it some character and reduce its visual mass if nothing else.

    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

      I’m oversensitive to chrome – particularly plasti-chrome as found on the Airframe. It just looks cheap.

      I want to like the helmet much more than I do. So much so that, when I visit my gear shop every month or two, I walk over to see it, only to remember why I didn’t walk out with it the last time that I visited.

  • Brendan

    Icons do seem to have tight openings. I have a lot of hair (think Marco Simoncelli) and it can really get tugged trying to squeeze into my all black cheapo.

    Also it fogs up like Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet are banging inside of it…

    but it smells like new car. So that’s cool.

    • Sean Smith

      Icon says the visor is actually treated with some kind of anti-fog magic. All I know is that even with the helmet on, standing still, visor closed, and breathing heavily into it during a photoshoot, it didn’t fog up on me.

      • Brendan

        …Mine was on sale for $99.

        So I’m sure that has something to do with it. It mostly fogs at night and in the rain.

        One day I hope to own a helmet with a visor that doesn’t have to be cracked slightly when it’s raining. :p

        But really, for what it cost me, it’s pretty good.

  • a hipster

    I had the same experience. Had to wear one for a photoshoot and was trying to avoid it like the plague. I’m not interested in ANYTHING that says Icon, Metal Mulisha, or Tap Out on it.

    Then I wore it for a ride.

    In my limited experience, one of the best fitting helmets I’ve ever worn. The liner felt great and the ventilation was the best I had ever experienced. It stayed in place beautifully at any angle I turned my head. I also thought their system for keeping the visor locked seemed a little trivial, but it was worth putting up with.

    We had a few of the matte-black ones and they weren’t quite as obnoxious as your white one and, while you still can’t convince me it is a cool looking helmet, it’s definitely enjoyable to wear. It is probably one of the best helmets at this price point and the pro’s outweigh the con’s.

    If I rode a sportbike and could get past the styling, this helmet would definitely be on my short list.

    • Sean Smith

      I still have that knee-jerk reaction whenever someone mentions Icon, but after wearing this thing for a few days, it’s getting a little better. I want to hate it, and it’s easy to find fault with the plasti-chrome and logo’s that will never go away, but then I wear the thing and forget all about that trivial stuff.

      • a hipster

        ditto.

    • http://www.rideicon.com iconmotosports

      Icon, Metal Mulisha, and Tap Out– LOL! You should see what happens when we all get together and into the Jack Daniels.

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

        If that ever happens, I need to be there. I might insist on wearing a helmet though.

      • Sean Smith

        I could get into that. Next time I’m in Portland we’ll have to meet up and spend an evening at Casa Diablo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

    I say that I like the helmet and keep looking at it, only to be turned away by the details that you’ve pointed out here, Sean. On the other hand, I have a keen eye on the AGV AX-8 Dual. Of course, there’s no smoke visor for that sucker yet and god knows what quirks it might have.

    Regarding that rubber ridge at the bottom, I was tempted to think it was a play on Arai’s “Hyper Ridge” or whatever they call it. It looks similar, but sure doesn’t feel the same.

  • Archer

    “the exposed carbon/fiberglass/Dyneema weave under a layer of clear coat”

    Carbon? What carbon? Carbon fiber is always black, my friend. No exceptions. Perhaps the carbon is from the lungs of the Chinese chain smoker who made that monstrosity.

    This appears to be a loose stylistic copy of an Arai Corsair series (RX7-RR IV/V for those of us who buy them in Nihon) lid with a massive, one size fits all shell rather than the four shells which Arai produces for the size steps (and various markets).

    Enjoy your Icon. At least you’re wearing a helmet.

    • Sean Smith

      Whoa there. My troll meter just pegged the dial.

      All those darker spots you see on the helmet, where the white isn’t quite white, have carbon fiber underneath them. The point isn’t to look like a cheesy CF hood on a Civic, but to be a strong and functional helmet. There’s more than one layer of material in a helmet’s shell. It’s also made in Korea.

      Icon builds 3 different shell sizes for this $295 helmet, which is admittedly less than a $950 Arai that needs to be bought outside of America if you want ECE 22.05 certification. It’s heavier too, and the quality is only 95% as good as the nicest helmet on the planet. It’s 100% as safe though, and when you compare it to the American Snell certified Arais, it wins hands down in any contest of safety, which is what helmets are all about, right?

  • Ceolwulf

    I have an older Airframe, which is still pretty similar it seems. The visor retention is maddening. I’ve taken to using a blunt metal object, like the handle of a kitchen knife, to operate the devil lever.

    Other than that, I pretty much agree – it’s a good unit. A bit surprised the pin didn’t line up on yours to hold the visor in the closed position, as it works perfectly on mine.

    • Sean Smith

      I’m sure there’s a bit of variance from one helmet to the next. A pin could be a little lower or higher, a shield could have the hole drilled lower or higher. I probably just got one with sloppier tolerances.

  • Dennis

    I’m still happy with my 5 year old Romanian-made, ski-boot-latched Icon Motorhead boots. I despise even a speck of velcro anywhere on my motorcycle gear, you see. I also love how there’s only a shifter pad on the left boot, and nothing on the right. Mine are black, but being Icons, they also came in freaking white, for the pimps out there.

    Icon has tons of brilliant design ideas. I would buy much more of their stuff if they would include a “hold the bling” option on everything.

  • http://www.rideicon.com iconmotosports

    Gentlemen, we have a new visor attachment system in the works that’s smooth as butter.

    Dennis, we try to offer everything in a stealth/blacked out version.

    Sean, you nailed all the points on the Carbon comment so we won’t touch that one.

    • Sean Smith

      A new latch system would take these things from 95% to pretty much perfect.

  • 80-wattHamster

    People seem to have a lot of hate for Icon. But they seem to do the best job making gear that people who don’t like gear may actually wear. Some may not like their stuff (most of it’s way too in-your-face for me), but it’s no less safe than any other low-end gear. And if a few squids actually gear up because it’s kewl enough, double bonus.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      That’s exactly the point and that’s why we love Icon. They, more than any other gear maker, are doing something very positive for american motorcycling.

      • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

        This is a big part of why I want to support them. I guess I’ll have to do that in words until some of the gear meets my snobby standards. And, if it never does, that’s perfectly okay because I’m not the target market.

  • Scott

    I can attest to Icon’s “stealth” options with their gear. I chose them over all the rainbow ninja carbon teenage mutant power ranger gear Alpinestars, Shift, Fly,etc

  • Brad

    I wear Arai because they’re the only manufacturer who makes helmets in shapes which accomodate my massive frontal lobes. How does the Icon compare shape-wise?

    • Sean Smith

      The Airframe fit is very similar to an Arai Vector, which was my everyday helmet for a zillion miles and 2 years. The fit around the crown is almost identical, there is thicker comfy stuff at the base of your skull out back, the padding around the lower part of the helmet is a little thicker too and it does a great job of keeping the wind out.

      • Brad

        Good to know. Thanks! I’m currently using a Vector.

        • Sean Smith

          It’s a great helmet, it just doesn’t vent all that well when it’s super hot out.

          • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben Incarnate

            Ventilation is critical feedback for me. Texas doesn’t take kindly to anything but excellent airflow.

  • Skank NYCF

    I wanna try one. I tried a $5 milk shake once.

  • ColdSake00 .

    I’m considering this or an AX-8 DS naked for street riding… any opinions?