Gear: Icon’s adventure

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You’ve seen this gear in action in Icon’s Portland to Dakar epic. But can a bunch of snowboard-inspired textile gear and a carbon fiber helmet from that most controversial of brands really stand up to the rigors of adventure riding and real-world urban commuting? We tasked the manliest hipster we know, former Moped racer Tommy Erst, with finding out. — Ed

Photos: Andrew Kinsler

Icon Patrol Waterproof Jacket

Opening the box and pulling out the Patrol Jacket, you’re reminded of a snowboard jacket. It’s big and baggy and a little on the heavy side. With a huge “Icon” logo on the butt and reflective stripes across the arms, it’s not the kind of thing that’s going to naturally blend in with streetwear once you’re off the bike, even if it doesn’t look like other motorcycle gear.

That bulkiness continues when you put it on, with the chunky armor in the elbows floating around in the loose sleeves. Very warm too. With temperatures in LA hovering around 95 degrees, I wasn’t too excited to throw it on and go for a ride. But, for the purposes of testing, I zipped out the insulated liner, undid all six air vents and hopped on my Versys anyways.

Above 30mph, it’s surprising just how well the jacket breathes. Much better than my own textile jacket. The bulkiness will heat you up while you’re sat still at a light, but so long as you’re moving, it’s as pleasant as a black bike jacket can be on a 95 degree day in LA.

Those elbow pads? Once my arms were out in front, they seemed to rest jut where they needed to be.

After the heat wave passed, I started to put the jacket to a lot more use and, on that first day, LA got its first rain of the season. Caught at work when it started, I had to ride up with just the jacket and gloves. No liner.

Most other waterproof textile jackets still leave you a bit damp if you don’t have the liner in. Blame small leaks through zippers and vents and the neck and whatnot and also condensation build up. Not this one. My upper half stayed bone dry through rain about has heavy as LA sees. Homes safe, my shirt didn’t have a single damp spot on it.

Now a couple months into wearing it, I think I’ve finally found all the hidden features and functions. My favorite part is the Velcro in the cuff that actually goes the entire way around the wrist. I’ve got really skinny wrists, so this lets me totally seal the cuff, keeping wind and water out. That Velcro is the real deal too, staying closed without going all furry over time.

There’s also Velcro straps above and below the elbow, allowing you to cinch the sleeves down so they don’t flap in the wind and really secure that elbow armor in the right place.

I also really like the removable hood. It might seem silly for a bike jacket to include one, but it’s always driven me crazy that, when I get off a bike in the rain while wearing waterproof jacket, I still have to run inside so my head doesn’t get soaked. It’s really nice to have some protection against the cold and rain for your head, off the bike.

There’s also more pockets for storage than you could ever seem to use, including one that has a little cloth on a bungee so you can clean your visor. Nice touch Icon. There’s also an attachment on the back that take a Camelbak hydration system (not included). I use a Kriega Hydro-3, so didn’t try this, but it’s still another clever feature. A waterproof pouch inside the main zipper is designed to hold your phone or other electronics, ensuring they’re completely watertight.

Icon Patrol Pants

I’ve never owned a pair of overpants before, so I wasn’t prepared for just how huge these were going to be. But, that means they go on and off over jeans and boots or whatever else you might be wearing. Size zips come all the way up to the hips, making it easy to slip boots through, no problem. That zipper’s cover is magnetic, meaning there’s no Velcro to get aligned properly.

The removable bib is also a bonus. Keeps the pants right where they need to be as you ride and walk, especially good for a skinny guy like me who can’t even fit into most pants.

The overpants kept me warm while commuting at night and dry through the couple of rainstorms I wore them in. None of those wet rides were long or truly soaked, but it feels like these could deal with pretty much any precipitation you could throw at them. Snow-style cuffs inside the leg lowers can really seal out the elements.

My favorite part was the two-way zippers on the side that let you get into your jean pockets with the overpants still on. Great if you left your keys or phone or whatever in there.

Overall, I’ve mostly used these on trips, they’re just a bit too ungainly looking for riding around town. If you live somewhere where it rains more often, and need a warm and dry pants that you can get into and out of quickly, these would definitely work. They’re an easy way to add weather, impact and abrasion protection over normal streetwear; CE armor is included in the hips and knees.

Icon Patrol Waterproof Boots

Straight out of the box, I fell in love with these. The look is part Mad Max, part hiking boot. They’re short and go on super quick and easy. Just pull the cord and the laces tighten up, clasp two buckles and you’re good to go. Protection feels extremely solid.

Most important? They will fit under most skinny jeans. 511 yes, 510 no. They’re comfortable to walk in too, at least over short distance, don’t get confused and take them hiking. They’re reassuring on the bike and kept my feet totally dry in the rain. Even in relatively mild, SoCal rain, that’s a bit of a feat. Our roads cause crazy amounts of spray, utterly drenching a motorcyclist’s feet. After every wet ride, they were soaked on the outside and dry and toasty inside.

The best part about the Patrol Boots is they’ve got me wearing protection on my feet way more often. They’re so easy to put on and take off, that I don’t mind wearing them to work or even on quick errands. Any gear that gets you wearing it more often gets and A+ in my book.

Icon Patrol Waterproof Gloves

I like these gloves a lot. Waterproof, cold weather gloves with some hard protection for the knuckles. Feel is good through them too, much better than most overly-bulky winter riding gloves. They’re no race gauntlets, but I can actually feel what I’m doing while wearing them and the lining doesn’t bunch and pinch. To tighten the wrist cinch — the part that keeps them on in a crash — you just pull the strap, no Velcro. No rain ever snuck in.

Icon Variant Carbon Fiber

Plenty has already been written about the Variant here on HFL. This new carbon version is the same, just a little lighter. At 1650 grams, it’s 135 grams heavier than my much-loved AGV AX-8 Dual, but it’s considerably quieter, so much so that I’ve only worn that AX-8 once since I got the Variant. You can’t get a plain carbon version, but the graphics aren’t too gaudy.

Can you really have adventures in Icon?

So this isn’t the most fashionable motorcycle gear out there. But, it is extremely functional. If you live some place like LA and don’t ride long distance, the total getup is probably overkill. You’d benefit most fromm the helmet and boots. But, if you regularly get wet on your bike or plan on doing some big distances, then I think you’ll be surprised just how well the full suit works. I’ve got name brand, Italian gear in my closet, but find myself grabbing this Icon stuff more often, so they’ve clearly done something right.

  • Clint Keener

    I have this jacket. It rocks! Love the magnetic snaps.

    • roma258

      Nice Speed Four dude.

      • Clint Keener

        Thanks. It’s been in the shop for two months. It won’t crank back up when it’s hot. Dealer couldn’t figure it out, now it’s at shop #2.

        • roma258

          That sucks. My Speed Four was rock solid till I binned it at the track. Very underrated bikes.

      • nick2ny

        What car is that in the background? Looks like an old TVR.

        • william watts

          Looks like a 240z.

          • Jesse

            mid / late 70s TVRs, especially the 2500 series, looked like 240zs :)

        • John Godwin

          Pretty sure that’s a Corolla dude. :)

    • Tommy Erst

      The patrol actually looks pretty good in that color. Looking at your pic, one thing I didnt mention, is that because it isnt a slim fit, wearing a hoodie underneath is so uncomfortable like it can be with some jackets. Kind of a plus to a minus point. ha.

  • Damo Von Maciel

    It is nice to see ICON making nice functional decent looking gear, unlike the gaudy squid gear rhino horn helmets and such they used to make.

  • AHA

    HFL should test the X-Lite X-551. Could be the best dual-sport helmet out there. IMHO better anti-fogging than the others, light, quality construction and (I think) still the only dual-sport helmet with an internal sun visor. (I know Wes dosen’t rate these visors but they are really practical in a country where sunshine is usually a surprise.)

    • Clint Keener

      You can’t get X-lites in the US can you? I want a Lorenzo NASA helmet, doesn’t exist over here.

  • motoguru.

    Nice write up, Tommy!

    2 years ago I was the biggest Icon hater on the planet. I never owned anything they made, but the squid factor was more than enough to keep me at bay. Then I saw the Variant helmet and decided to give them another chance…

    I’ve been wearing my Patrol gear for a little over a year now, and I’m pretty much in love with it. Here in Detroit it get’s a lot of use between September and March. It’s been in the 20-40 degree range here lately and my go to set-up for this time of year is as follows: T-shirt and jeans as the base layer, Powerlet heated gloves and jacket liner as the mid layer, and Icon Patrol Jacket (liner removed), Patrol Pants, and Variant helmet on top of it all. If I’m wearing my heated glove liners, I usually wear my REI Minimalist shell gloves over them. If it’s not cold enough for the glove liners, I wear my patrol gloves by themselves. I can stay comfortable in to the teens with this set-up.

    I rode down to Daytona Beach in October (for work) and the Patrol set-up worked great the entire way there and back. It was 40′s and rain when I left, so I was plugged in and cozy. By the time I got to the GA/FL border it was vents open and only a t-shirt underneath. Perfect!

    I realize there’s quite a few all weather technical garments out there that will work just as good, but this is what I chose, and I am more than happy with it. I’d rather give money to a company like Icon that actively supports so many riders in the different “genres” of motorcycling than some other company that’s only adventure based or something. Save the overpriced stuff for the dudes that can afford it… I’ll keep my Patrol gear.

  • Heatsoak

    I’ve been running around in an identical Icon setup. I’m pretty impressed with the lot of it as well.

    The pants are great, but the jacket fit isn’t the best i’ve ever worn in waterproof gear (that honor goes to Teknic). I do really like the gloves. Overall, a really good effort from a company without a ton of all-weather gear experience. But hey, they’re from Portland, they know a thing or three about rain!

    As for the Variant, i use it as my gym/workout “junk” helmet. It’s too big and clunky for my daily driver, but the venting and ease of cleaning the liner makes it a go-to when i need a helmet that i don’t mind sweating up in a hurry.

    Icon continues to improve, and still makes some of the best looking gear out there!

    • Tommy Erst

      Good to hear other people are digging the stuff too. The carbon variant doesnt quite have the cheap clunky feel I felt the original had. It is still a bit big compared to an AX-8, but I dont mind it so much.

      • Nemo Danneskjold

        so…is it safe to say assume you’d take the AGV AX-8 ds over the variant in the construct color scheme?

  • Tony Thayer

    The Patrol Waterproof gloves do have great feel and are really easy to put on, but their cold resistance leaves something to be desired. This is not just a problem with these gloves, though. I switched to the Alpinestar Drystars and they’re just as ineffective against the cold and lack armor. They’re also a tremendous pain in the ass to put on if your hands are damn or wet at all, so the Icon’s stack up well.

    • Tommy Erst

      I have a pair of Alpinestar Drystars as well. I feel the same way about them. That said, I doubt there is a glove out there that will really keep your hands warm will riding in below 45 degree weather at freeway speeds. I think if you want that you have to go with heated grips or glove liners,

  • Tommy Erst

    One thing I forgot to mention is the little snowboard esque, wiper on the index finger of the left glove. It’s actually super functional. Rain kind of slides off the visor of the variant if you are moving at a decent pace, but if you are slowed down and the rain starts to build up, it comes in super handy.

  • yipY

    Is this a paid Icon marketing campaign?Just asking.

  • KeithB

    Read the review, bought the gloves.
    As it turned out, the first test was on a snow mobile instead of the bike.
    Worked great and comfortable too!
    Can’t wait to get out on the bike once the snow goes away.

  • Mark

    The Patrol boots have a pretty serious design flaw. The eyelets for the speed laces are made of fabric. The laces running through the eyelets when you tighten them causes enough friction to fray and eventually break the eyelets. I’ve had four eyelets fail on my boots and others are becoming increasing frayed. These would be 4-star boots in my mind if it weren’t for this one problem. (They’d be 5-star if the eyelets were fixed and they were gore-tex.)