Icon Airmada Helmet Review

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Icon Airmada Helmet - Gear Review

The Airmada also continues to use Icon’s Monroe-style metal stud visor lock. They argue it’s simple and strong, which it is, but it’s also unnecessarily clunky, requiring a hand to stabilize the helmet while unlocking if you don’t want to push it up your forehead. There’s got to be a more elegant solution, but possibly not at this price point. Hey, it does lock the visor down very securely.

Another thing Icon’s skipped is a chin curtain. Those help seal off the helmet’s interior from the outside environment, blocking dust and debris from getting into your face an eyes and allowing you to have more say over ventilation by adjusting vents. The Airmada’s chin does dip down very far, achieving some of the same effect.

In Action
The first time I wore the Airmada was on a three day trip that began with riding an NC700X through the Santa Monica Mountains in 100 degree plus temperatures, then two days on the Brammo Empulse up in Oregon, again in temps well in excess of 100 degrees. After the initial 45 minute highway ride up to Westlake Village, a couple forehead pressure points were causing trouble, so I removed the liner and conducted a trial and error approach to compressing the Styrofoam there. Unlike many other helmets, the Airmada doesn’t locate any hard buttons or similar to connect the removable liner to the forehead area of the Styrofoam (it instead slides in between the foam and shell, a far better solution). Five minutes of poking, trying it on, and poking some more resulted in a helmet that is now utterly comfortable for as long as I need to have it on.

The Airmada is a long-oval head shape. So think Arai Corsair V, Bell Star, etc.

Icon Airmada Helmet
Icon Airmada Helmet

At no point in three days of riding in such extreme heat did I at any point feel that my head was too hot nor fear putting the Airmada back on after a break. The antimicrobial, sweat-wicking lining stayed dry and cool throughout the trip. I can’t say the same about my cotton socks, undershirt or underwear, all of which went into my gear bag completely sodden at the end of each day. It’s seriously stinky in there now.

That time in Oregon was spent largely at speed on back roads, on bikes free of any windscreen or other aerodynamic aids. I’ve also since used the helmet on faster bikes, including an RSV4. Even at very high speeds, the helmet is extraordinarily stable, something that’s especially noticed while turning your head. In many helmets, doing so in excess of 100 mph takes real effort and causes the helmet to move around on your head. Not so in the Airmada, which makes high speeds head checks super easy and therefore makes you more likely to do them. Being able to quickly and easily check what’s in your blind spots, free of buffeting, is crucial to safety while riding fast. I was able to keep a good eye on what that Eric Bostrom character was up to as we passed and repassed each other for repeated photo takes.

One reason it’s so good is that this is one of the smallest helmets I’ve worn in terms of external dimensions. I’m in a Large and its perceptibly smaller on my shoulders than the same size Bell or AGV or even Icon’s own Alliance. Less surface area to catch the wind brings obvious advantages and it also eliminates that Q-tip look tall, skinny guys with enormous noggins like me are subject to. Some of that is down to the use of four shell sizes across the Airmada’s total sizes. Most helmets at similar price points make do with three, frequently resulting in large helmets padded onto small heads.

Add to those dimensions sharp lines and striking features like the pressed aluminum grilles covering the vents and you have an extremely nice-looking helmet. Additionally, the “Stack” graphic ($260), is the only non-plain stock helmet graphic I’ve ever been happy enough with to actually wear. I actually like the large Icon logos on the side, but could do without the messy logo on the chin or the fussiness of the grading they’ve added throughout. It’s stronger visually with just the lightning bolts, but it’s still a damn fine helmet. Bonus: in stock, $180 form, there’s absolutely no graphics and no contrasting logos of any kind. Just the body-color moldings on the brow vent cover and on the rear of that PVC neck roll cover. It’s probably the most stealthy helmet you can buy.

Safety and Weight
Let’s see: visor stuff, vent stuff, aerodynamic stuff, looks stuff…that leaves us with safety and weight. Like all other Icon helmets, the Airmada is made to the ECE 22.05, DOT, Japanese and Australian safety standards. This results in a light, soft helmet that’s optimized to protect you against concussions.

With a $180 price point, it shouldn’t be surprising that the shell is made of polycarbonate plastic over a lighter, fancier tri-composite weave. This has no negative impacts on safety or quality, it’s just a little heavier and a little less worth of bragging rights. RevZilla weighed a medium and reports that it’s 1,550 grams. To put it in perspective, the lightest full-face helmet around is the Nexx XR1R Carbon at 1,200 grams, the extremely light AGV AX-8 Dual weighs 1,400 grams and an Arai RX-7 V is about 1,500 grams. The Airmada is the same weight as a $550 Bell Star.

The Verdict:
So in the Airmada we’ve got an extremely nice looking helmet that’s available with either the best graphics out there or in plain colors with virtually invisible logos. It’s made to a better safety standard than most expensive helmets on-sale in America and it exceeds pretty much any other full-face on ventilation. Its visor will not fog and it’s all day comfortable. It’s a little noisy and the visor swap mechanism hurt my poor baby fingers. You need to put in a little effort to make sure you get a tinted visor that seals properly. All that together makes the Airmada as nice as any other helmet out there at any price point and nicer than many. At $180, why would you buy anything else? Heck, I can get any helmet I want for free and I’m still choosing to wear this budget Icon. Not just one of the best deals out there, one of the best helmets out there, full stop.

  • jonoabq

    now just make it fit like a arai profile…or make my head fatter

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Plain color versions have tiny, body-colored logos.

      http://www.rideicon.com/products/?productGroupId=1924

    • Bruce Steever

      My head is pretty damn pointy, and the Airmada fits me sweetly.

      Now if your head is so pointy that ONLY the old Profile fits you, you are in trouble, because even Arai has given up on that shape. (Supposedly, the Signet-Q has relaxed its long-oval shape compared to previous models. I haven’t spent a ton of time in one yet, so stay tuned…)

      But if you fit an Arai Corsair, you should like the Airmada, especially if you don’t have Corsair-ready cash in pocket.

  • 10/10ths

    Roger, that! I have a long oval head and after wearing an Arai Profile for five years, the new Arai Signet-Q fits like a glove and is all day comfy. I can feel the air flowing through it and it is quiet and well built. I bought the Hi-Viz lime colored version and have never been happier with a helmet.

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

      How the heck did you get a Signet-Q in Hi-Viz? Arai doesn’t list it on their site and the only place I’ve seen it offered online is Revzilla, where all sizes are out of stock. I wonder if they ran it for a year and discontinued it?

  • Bruce Steever

    Love the TL;DR, except i don’t feel that Arai is asleep. They will always play a conservative game, but it works for them. Still the only company to truly offer shapes for every head out there.

    Now Shoei, they be sleeping. They still make a great helm, but the X-12 was a distinct step back from the all-singing, all-dancing X-11. And the RF needs a revamp. And they need to fire the tribal flames and skulls art department.

    As for Icon, I liked the old Airframe, it just didn’t fit my head. This should do nicely, and i expect it to become my new favorite “cheap” helmet.

    Now i’m curious to see if the Scorpion folks have managed to make the same level of improvement with their new R2000…

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Yeah, I could never fit my noggin in an Airframe either. Stupid individual head shapes…

      I really like the feel of expensive helmets too. Toggling the switches on Arais is a pleasure. It’s just hard to justify an extra $600 or so for that feel when it comes with detractions like visor fogging, no brow vents and when they struggle to get their weight down much below this plastic-shelled lid.

    • Gene

      OTOH, Nolan isn’t asleep either, but some of the changes in the latest N-104 were a small step backwards. You win some, you lose some, I guess…

      I’ll have to walk over to The Helmet Shoppe next door and see if they have one. (Yes, I have a helmet shop a block away from home, and a Harley dealership a block past that. You win some, you lose some)

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

    Since I had the day off today and need a new helmet, I went to my gear shop. (My prior experiment with a Bell RS-1 was a failure due to quality issues.) There was an Airmada, so I tossed it on. I wore it back to back with every Arai, Vector 2 on up, and the Arai’s were all considerably more comfortable. The Airmada’s liner felt firm and rough in comparison. There are other areas where price is obviously a factor. That said, even if other areas are on par, such as noise and ventilation, the overall package isn’t. There’s no shame in calling it a fantastic helmet and a great value, but it’s not as nice or nicer across the board.

    I’ll take another look tomorrow, since I’m headed back. I want to like the Airmada, because of the price and because the Signet-Q doesn’t come in Hi-Viz, but it didn’t impress me today. Also, I hope the new shield trumps the old Pro Shield, such as the one on the Alliance. My fiancee loves her Alliance and doesn’t notice anything, but I see distortion in it. It’s mild, but tough to ignore once recognized.

    As a side note, the Corsair V is an intermediate oval, not a long oval. I have an older RX7 Corsair and the fit difference is distinct. Only the Signet-Q is considered a long oval these days.

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

      As an unrelated point, I find the Icon helmet line up confusing.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      What’s quality? Feel or functionality? As a plastic-shelled lid, the Airmada is going to “feel” a bit plasticy. The vent switches feel plasticy, clacking the visor down onto the Monroe feels plasticy. But it all works and it all works in a robust way.

      What the Airmada does that Arai does not:
      - visor doesn’t fog, ever.
      - more vents
      - larger vents
      - ECE 22.05

      What does, say an $800 Corsair V do that an Airmada doesn’t?

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

        Quality is both. There is a clear difference between the helmets: they may function similarly, but one feels better and thus is nicer (at least in some regards). My point is that the claim was too broad. The Airmada is a bargain and is as good or better in some ways, but it’s not equal across the board.

        To your “Arai does not” points:

        - The Signet-Q includes an extended pinlock. Unless the new Icon shield is better against fog than my fiancee’s two Icon Pro Shields, which do fog at times, that particular Arai will work better.

        - The venting may be better, I can’t say. Arai’s are well-known for their ventilation, though, so I’m not worried either way.

        - ECE: That debate popped up previously. Arai Europe specs helmets as ECE and SNELL 2010. Are the US models different or do they just ignore the ECE label? Can’t say.

        As I go back to the shop tomorrow, I have to ask, “What will the extra $300 for a Signet-Q get me versus the Airmada?” Better build quality, better comfort, and confidence. Ultimately, zero hassles: I know that I’ll have a great helmet and no issues. Going the Airmada route will feel like a step down. Maybe $300 could cushion that fall, though.

        • Edward

          + this. “As nice or nicer” really tortures the plain meaning of those words.

          Also, the Icon helmet looks like the top of a lego figurine (but that’s admittedly subjective).

        • nopro

          For the 9 years that I’ve been riding I’ve owned several Arai’s and a couple Shoei’s…that’s it. I bought an Icon Alliance helmet based on the review from here and while it’s not a “bad” helmet it’s nothing close to the other two brands I mentioned. Cheap, cheap , cheap, sold it after about a months use. And it’s heavy too. The alliance usually gave me a stiff neck after about 40 mins of riding with it. So I have to agree with you, like with most everything else you get what you pay for…

          P.S. I think I just realized that these “articles” are just adverts (I’m slow). The same kind of adverts this publication used to stand against. I think a little part of me just died.

          • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

            Editorial content will always remain editorial content. No opinion in this review is bought or paid for.

            • nopro

              That’s good to know.

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

          I genuinely want to love an Icon helmet and save some money. Along the lines of quality, I wish Icon would paint the hardware black or matching colors. Often, they go for silver or chrome, and it looks cheap. This is only the case on the Stack graphic, but that’s the only hi-viz option. Also, I wish the interior was black instead of white – you can see it clearly through the dark smoke.

          Aesthetics matter. (The extra logos on the Hi-Viz Arai piss me off, but not as much.)

          I’ll reiterate: my fiancee is absolutely in love with her Icon Alliance the way I love my Arai. I want to be that happy with an Airmada because I could quickly flip that savings into other gear I want.

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

            I sat with both helmets again today and I know I wouldn’t be happy with the Airmada. For what it’s worth, the liner isn’t rough so much as it is very firm, which creates extra friction.

  • Mitch

    I boughtttt thisss, in hi-viz yellow, which is my new favorite color after seeing the Brammo/Icon livery months ago. Haven’t ridden with it yet (I am track only for now) but can back up/touch on some things:

    1. It has the narrowest opening of any helmet I’ve ever tried on. The small fit my head tightly on the inside, but the shell actually crushed my temples going on or off.

    2. The itty bitty surface area of the shield release levers hurts the hell out of my fingers too (only changed shields once.) A mm more of plastic would have fixed this.

    3. The metal stud shield lock is dumb but works. I think it’s a cost saver to avoid having to machine/cast a higher spec set of shield mechanicals.

    4. I bought a silver/chrome shield with it and WOW I can see my eyes/face really well in it from the inside. My Shoei chrome shield never did this.

    5. All this is really minor as I really like the helmet. Got out of an X11 as the Snell 2005 cert worried my small sized head and it was getting EOL anyway.

    Excited to get a first ride report done at Buttonwillow on the 24th.

  • 10/10ths

    Ben W,

    I bought the Hi-viz lime Signet-Q from these guys:

    http://www.theservicepavilion.com/

    Fantastic service.

    I LOVE Revzilla, and buy most of my gear from Revzilla, but for Arai helmets, The Service Pavilion is king.

    Cheers.

    BTW, the Icon does look nice.

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

      That’s great to know. Thank you for the link(s)! I’m going to have a chat with my local dealer and see if they can get a hold of one. The rep I dealt with yesterday just referred to the Arai site and I didn’t push the point because I couldn’t recall if the Signet-Q actually DID come in Hi-Viz. I’ve looked at too many helmets lately!

  • 10/10ths

    Ben W,

    Here’s a link to the Hi-viz Signet-Q itself:

    http://www.theservicepavilion.com/images/Signet-Q_Fluorescent_Yellow.jpg

  • http://somethingjustgotreal.com Sean MacDonald

    really glad you brought up the finger torture machine issue. it was def my biggest complaint and, while it sounds stupid, had me grabbing my shoei most days.

  • nymoto

    I recently bought 2 of these helmets (from revzilla).
    1 Airmada Stack Black for me , 1 Black rubatone for my girl, she didnt want any logo’s or colors because of the possibility of it not matching…..
    First Impression – pretty awesome helmet, I am coming from dirtbike helmets with goggles for the last 6 years on the street (supermoto, and my brain gets hot easily), and i would have to say this is a great fitting helmet. I wear this thing EVERYDAY – and have not had a problem yet. I personally like the visor lock pin – I know its not moving, and it has a very final feel.
    This helmet breathes, but can still be worn on colder days with the vents closed.
    The opening is stupid small – I thought I received the wrong size the first time i put it on, but you get used to it – and it does not move once its on.
    the best part – I bought 2 new helmets for $450.00 (free shipping).
    Good quality, good fit (for me), and lots of options.

  • Lawrences

    “..quick swap mechanism…” har har har.

  • http://www.damiengaudet.blogspot.com damien

    Seems like a perfect second helmet. I’ll keep my Arai as my #1 lid though.
    The Vector2 fits me perfectly, and I don’t care what anyone says…no one, and I mean no one beats the comfort of Arai liners. Soooo comfy. (ok, maybe that is personal preference in this day of quality helmets, but still).
    I had an HJC for years before I bought my Arai, and It’s night and day. So if this Icon is as good as you say, it would definitely be in the running as a second.
    I guess my question would be, is it track legal? At that price it would seem the perfect trackday helmet.
    Oh, and I love Revzilla too, but ridersdiscount.com got me my Vector2 for $375. Not too shabby.

    • Mitch

      Totally track legal… most full face helmets are, as long as they are not modular/flip ups.

  • daniel dominguez

    Putting my 2 cents in here. For my first helmet i bought a Bell star and then icon came out with the airmada, returned the bell and WHAT A DIFFERENCE. Been riding for a couple of months and i love the helmet. The venting is perfect for florida weather and it doesnt fog up at all at night. But Like Wes said the only gripe i have is switching the shield because it does really hurt on your fingers but you cant beat the price for an amazing helmet. & Cant wait for the next ride apart!

  • Ducky

    I’d like to see you guys review the Shoei Qwest. It’s my current favourite helmet but I’d like to see what you guys think.

  • Braden (Griso 8V, SV650)

    How does the Airmada fair noise-wise with all the vents closed compared to a middle shelf helmet like the Shoei RF1100? Louder? About the same?

  • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

    Attn: ICON

    Please get your helmets into Australia – we want to buy your stuff!!

  • disqus_bwJ2zYEwBu

    I was looking around for another helmet
    when I came across the Icon Airmada,my current lid is an Arai Chaser,
    which fits like a dream but I wanted a 2nd helmet. Upon receiving the
    helmet ( black gloss, L), my first impression? heavy. Anthony mentioned
    the lightness of the helmet as a major factor, but the helmet being
    reviewed was an Orange Hi Vis Stack (M). Anyway, the fit was good but a
    little snug but that will sort itself with time and more use, (no issues
    there). The shell size is quite a bit bigger than I thought it would
    be, more like an HJC FG-15 I was expecting an Arai type shape/size. The
    visor is NOT anti fog and feels a little flimsy, you get the impression
    that in a few months the visor will not stay in the up position and its a
    bit noisy. There is good airflow but beyond that, there’s nothing
    groundbreaking about this helmet, i paid £ 129.99 for it and to be
    honest i think it was 29.99 overpriced, as i said decent helmet, nothing
    special

  • http://www.facebook.com/rich.wentz.75 Rich Wentz

    I just purchased an Airmada Stack in white. It’s a great helmet that does its job. People say it’s kinda noisy but I don’t think it’s that bad and as a street bike helmet it’s superb. It’s well worth the money I spent for it..

  • nopro

    I’ve read the articles regarding Snell and I don’t know what to believe honestly. Is it safe is it not? I’m not an expert on impact physics but I do have a brain in between my ears and what it tells me is that all these professional racers (F1, Motogp, AMA etc.) alot of them wear Arai’s (sponsored or not). I don’t know of any that wear an off-the-shelf HJC or whatever. Granted I’m not riding around on my DL650 at 100+ miles per hour everywhere but I don’t mind paying a bit of a premium for the sake of my head and not worry about it. That Icon Alliance did have some really good qualities though.

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

    NoPro – that’s a tricky can of worms. SNELL 2010 updates made up some ground in addressing concerns that the older standard made for helmets that were too hard and transmitted too much force. It used to be that you couldn’t meet both SNELL and ECE in one helmet. These days, you can, but the standards are still different. Arai’s European site has a breakdown of the differences, as do other sites. One general ECE advantage is that helmets often weigh less. Something about the SNELL and even DOT standards (as evidenced in the US Svhuberth SR1 weight gain) encourages heavier lids.

    As to the “racers wear Arai” observation, there is speculation that Arai helmets outside the US are built differently, since they don’t need to be concerned with the US standards, and thus European Arais are safer (transmitting less force and weighing less). It’s been a long time since anyone has followed up on that speculation and, these days, the European Arai’s claim to meet SNELL 2010 and ECE standards (but not DOT). US Arais only claim to meet SNELL 2010 and DOT. That alone isn’t evidence enough, but it keeps the rumors alive.

  • Mitch

    Spies wears HJC, a couple of the CRT guys actually wear Scorpion (Scorpion, why on earth do you not promote/offer Wild Wolf replica paint!?)

    None are ‘off the shelf’ I’d imagine.

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

    Here’s a worthwhile link: http://www.webbikeworld.com/eicma-2010/nolan-helmets/dot-vs-ece-helmet-safety-standards.htm

    I’m going to do some reading. Between that article, the weight increase on ECE helmets that meet DOT certification (but not SNELL), and the updates to SNELL 2010, I wonder how much of the old “SNELL = heavier and more head trauma” is still accurate and how much may be DOT related.

  • nopro

    Interesting. Although I take a companies marketing talk with a grain of salt, Arai does say that all of these safety standards-snell, ECE, DOT-are just a baseline and that they build their helmets to a higher spec. Whether this is true or not I’m not sure.

  • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

    Snell M2010 fixed most of the major issues, at least for those with normal sized heads. It remains to be demonstrated that very small sizes in Snell are as safe as very small sizes in ECE.

    The problem is, Snell is no longer considered a superior or preferential standard. Building helmets to it, for a single market in the world, when a clearly superior standard exists is just silly. That it results in heavier, more expensive helmets that have no safety benefit over those sold under other standards is even sillier.

    No one’s saying that Arai and Shoei don’t make very nice helmets, it’s just that they haven’t innovated for the past few years while other helmet makers have. What were once clearly superior lids in terms of quality, weight and function are now, well, the same helmets they sold 10 years ago.

    My point in the article is simply that depth and quality of paint, really nice-feeling vent switches and brand aren’t really enough to justify a premium that can be up to $600. That’s really all Arai and Shoei have over this budget Icon anymore and that’s saying something. Particularly when that budget Icon doesn’t fog, doesn’t play games with safety standards and has far superior ventilation, particularly at lower speeds. The king has no clothes.

    Racers race in Arai? Rossi races in an AGV, Lorenzo wears an X-Lite and Stoner a Nolan. Racers race in whatever helmet they’re paid to wear, so long as its an ECE helmet.

  • Scott-jay

    Thanks, Ben.

  • Mitch

    Yeah, a Corsair fits my noggin great, but 600 clams for solids? Forget that.

    Also, reply structure seems to have imploded.

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

    Snell is set to provide the same impact standards as ECE in smaller head sizes (and even better for larger sizes), unless it’s the different test configurations you doubt. It appears that the DOT standard is more the cause of weight differences than Snell. Again, refer to the weight gain of the US versus European Schuberth SR-1. Still, there’s a solid argument to be made for ignoring Snell and going the “world standard” route for both cost and transparency.

    Beyond that, I call shenanigans on innovation claims. What’s innovative about the Airmada where Arai isn’t? I don’t see it as I compare with the Signet-Q. Arai extended their shields 5mm on each side last year. Arai added an extended pinlock for superior anti-fogging – not a standard retail kit, but a custom solution that extends all the way to the shield seal. Arai already had large vent holes and increased their switch size for accessibility. Arai added removable sections of padding at the cheeks and temples to customize internal fit without buying replacements. Arai added a cheekpad fit solution (ie, a fancy spring!) that maintains a seal at the jawbone without making the pads themselves uncomfortably firm. Arai incorporated an emergency cheekpad removal system for emergency responders. To top it off, Arai’s had a shield change system that some people consider to be a pain in the ass for as long as I can recall, where Icon’s only just now got around to that.

    In so much as Arai helmets look the same as the helmets 10 years ago, they are not the same. Reducing the differences to paint and switches is wrong, just as saying they haven’t made changes. Whether the differences are worth 2-3x the price, though, is another matter.

    The Airmada appears to be a great value in a a helmet with some excellent features and, within the Icon brand, strong improvement. Viewed and worn alongside its premium competition, it is not nicer. Even my resident Icon fangirl admitted it.

  • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

    They’re off the shelf. Spies just wears an ECE HJC which is considerably lighter than the one they sell here. I’ve handled his helmets next to Snell ones.

  • nopro

    @Mitch. Are you using the helmet mostly on the street? If so, the Corsair is not the helmet to get. Corsair’s are made for track conditions, they make beter helmets for the street. The RX-Q is billed as a Corsair for the street and one can be had for $450 if you do a little research. The Vector 2 which is a step down from the RX-Q can be had for even less.

  • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

    The Corsair’s been specifically updated to make it more road/convenience oriented.