Gear: ICON Variant Helmet

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Icon Variant Helmet


The Icon Variant is a no frills helmet that offers a plush interior and meets all world safety standards (DOT, ECE, SAI, and SG certifications).  It looks like a dual sport helmet but Icon has said it is a street helmet.  The peak is not adjustable and designed for high speed riding with minimal lift.

Icon Variant Paint, Graphics and Overall Quality

The Variant checks in at about the $350 mark for most of the finish options. There is a carbon fiber version that sells for $520. The Construct retails for $370.

When you start talking this price range you expect a lot of quality for your dollar. The Variant comes close but does not quite live up to the price. It’s main competitors at this price point Since are Shark, AGV, and HJC you had better bring your A game. 

The Variant is available in a slew of finishes, wild graphics and the version I am reviewing called the Construct. This is a naked finish that has a clear coat sprayed over the raw materials of the outer shell.  You can see the the combination of hand laid fiberglass, Dyneema, and carbon fiber under the clear.  It definitely gives it a unique appearance and I give Icon credit for how it looks (Dyneema is a high-performance polyethylene (HPPE).

The visor, vent covers, and trim are all made of a matte rubber finish coated over ABS plastic. 

Where Icon falls short with this helmet is durability. The clear coat is soft and dents easily. The visor and vents discolor after minimal use and begin to look faded. The visor has developed a vibration after several months of daily use and there is no mechanism or mount to tighten to make it go away.

Overall, I’ll rate the Variant as “Outstanding” for initial paint and quality. I would rate it “Below Average” for durability of those finishes.

Icon Variant Helmet

Variant Fit, Internal Shape and Liner

Icon lists the Variant as a long oval shape. This is definitely an Icon specific form as it does not fit the same as an Arai long oval helmet. The Icon is narrower and is very tight around the ears. Some of this is because the Variant cheek pads wrap behind the ears where as the Arai wrap from the front. What it does mean is I needed one size larger than my normal size medium and it fits a little sloppy front to back. Not the safest combination.

The liner is very plush and uses Icon’s HYDRADRY material. This proprietary material is designed to wick away moisture and reduce heat build up. I have experienced the opposite. It seems to hold sweat on my head and is wet after wearing it versus other interiors. There are no hot spots but it never feels cool either. The materials best attribute is how soft it feels. If the temperature is not too warm it’s wonderfully plush and hours long soft.

Typical D ring closer on the chin strap works well, the snap is convenient and easy. The strap doesn’t chafe the neck and has plenty of length. Even Jay Leno’s chin would fit.

Overall I would rate the Fit, Shape, and liner as “Average”. It isn’t terrible but it doesn’t excel either.

Face Shield, Eye Port and Visibility

The face shield on the Variant is unique to this model in Icon’s line up. It uses their normal mounting mechanism of screws and side plates. This is a complicated mechanism and often results in broken mounting screws and stripped nylon threads. Icon could definitely simplify this system and take some notes from several other manufacturers with better systems. The shield shape and size is different from other models to fit the elongated chin area as well as create the MX look. 

The eye port is fitted with a full gasket to create a seal against the shield when closed. For some reason Icon used a gasket that isn’t supported but sticks out a little. This causes it to fold over when the shield closes and prevents it form making a complete water proof seal. Several days ago this caused a puddle to form in the lower part of the right eye port. Distracting to say the least. I had to keep opening the shield to let water out.

Visibility out of the eye port is “Outstanding.” There aren’t many helmets that offer a wider field of vision. I would rate the Variant “Below Average” for the seal and shield change process.

Ventilation and Air Flow

The ventilation system on the Variant has five adjustable vents and two always on side vents. There are two brow intakes, two top intakes, and the chin intake. 

The chin vent is designed to help with defogging and routes the air up the shield. Nice idea but in practice it’s useless.  You will be opening the visor at every stop when raining or chilly.

The top vents are actuated by sliders mourned on the peak. They are easy to get to and do flow a decent amount of air without a lot of additional noise.

The brow vents are a two position traditional sliding cover. When opened you won’t notice except the helmet gets louder.

The rear spoiler doubles as an exhaust vent and Icon says it was designed in the wind tunnel to add stability. I don’t know how much it does but, I do know for a helmet with a peak and all that’s sticking up, it is very stable at speed and surprisingly doesn’t yank your head when you need to do an over the shoulder check.

The Variant gets an “Average” rating for ventilation.

Noise Levels

The Variant does an OK job of controlling sound. When the vents are closed it would be easy to carry on a conversation and hear every thing being said. When the vents are open it becomes significantly noisier and is similar to a partially empty diner with multiple conversations. Not terrible but not concert hall quiet.

Overall for noise I would rate the Variant “Very Good”. It’s better than most, particularly when the vents are closed.

Helmet Weight

The Variant in size large weighs 4 pounds 2 ounces. That’s a pretty hefty number.

Miscellaneous

The Variant does come with some surprising accessories. Packed in the box are a very nice helmet bag made of a very soft microfiber. There is a spray bottle for cleaning, micro fiber rag, and most surprising is a second dark shield.  I can’t think of another manufacturer that does that.

Conclusion

The Variant is an “Average” helmet with some nice features but falls short at this price point. Considering an AGV Horizon and Shark Vision R can be had for similar money it just doesn’t make the grade. The combination of weight, poor shield seal, and “Average” ventilation relegate it to a shelf warmer

How I rate: It’s a subjective rating system and ranges from Poor, to Below Average, Average, Very Good, Excellent and Outstanding.

Note: Item was purchased by the reviewer.

  • eddi

    A very polite but honest review. I don’t think this helmet is gonna make my shopping list

    • http://www.2wheelsandamotor.com William Connor

      Thanks for the comment. I didn’t even delve into trying to do a warranty claim.

  • CaptainPlatypus

    Well written, but some editing errors. “It’s main competitors at this price point Since are Shark, AGV, and HJC you had better bring your A game.” Incorrect “its” used, and presumably ‘Since’ should have been at the beginning of the sentence. And if that’s the case, you need a comma after ‘HJC,’ too. :)

    • http://www.2wheelsandamotor.com William Connor

      Thanks for that. I will get the edits made. Sometimes revisions to statements don’t make the mental test!

      • CaptainPlatypus

        No worries, we all make mistakes.

    • Rob M

      This site has terrible editing across the board. It’s like trying to read high school English papers.

  • Mike

    HJC, needs to step up its game? Unless something unknown has happened, HJC has its game very high. Especially when you take into account HJC manufacturers all of Icon’s helmets.
    It always blows my mind when people speak so highly of Icon but don’t address that fact about their helmet line.
    ICON is a great BRAND, but it’s just that a brand a name on the label.

    • http://www.2wheelsandamotor.com William Connor

      Icon needs to step up it’s game not HJC. I was showing who Icon’s competitors are and noting that anyone competing in that price range needed to bring their A game. That sentence has some errors in it that are my fault. They will be edited.

      Yes Icon is a Parts Unlimited brand.

      • Mike

        OK , I kind of figured that maybe you were trying to relay that, but the idea didn’t come across. I like your writeups William.
        I further respect how quickly you address comments and keep an open mind.
        Keep up the good work

        • http://www.2wheelsandamotor.com William Connor

          Thanks. I try to respond to everything as soon as I can. I am glad you like them. I figure if I don’t stay open to criticism my writing will stagnate.

  • Jono

    wow, pretty polarising reviews between the variant and the alliance! Not saying i disagree at all, this is great write up! Just an interesting quality/price difference…
    I have an alliance dark as well as a more expensive lid and I’d say that although its not the quietest helmet and the visor lock is a bit rudimental it doesn’t suffer from the problems listed here…

    • http://www.2wheelsandamotor.com William Connor

      I think a lot of the issue is due to the elongated chin bar and very unique shield shape. Definitely hurts the overall package.

  • motoguru.

    Weird, most of my helmets are size L, and my Variant is a M.

    • http://www.2wheelsandamotor.com William Connor

      Not really weird at all. Everyones head shape is that little bit different. I was wearing size large or even extra large to get helmets to fit until I tried an Arai Signet-Q. Now I wear a medium. At 57.5 cm I should be a medium but in most other helmets they were too tight.

  • Joseph

    I own two Icon Variant helmets; one Construct and one Salvo. Overall I think they are decent helmets and I enjoyed your writeup. Here were some of the commonalities that I found (from my experience with them 2012-2014):

    – tight on the ears, very tight if you have a Sena SMH-10 or other speaker installed
    – defogger does not work, but I hear the aftermarket breath-guard works wonders
    – loud at speed
    – buffets at speed, but this is bike dependent
    – long oval head shape is a little too tight for my comfort, but it feels very safe

    I do think these are two of my best looking helmets, and Icon makes good equipment and a good price point.

    • http://www.2wheelsandamotor.com William Connor

      I definitely agree on the speakers issue. I had some pretty harsh ear pain when I tried a communicator.

  • Peter Chen

    I’m still confused what kind of rider this helmet is designed for ?

    What’s the benefit of the peak for street riding ?

    • http://www.2wheelsandamotor.com William Connor

      For this helmet think of it like an internal sun visor. It blocks the really direct sun from your eyes.

  • Mr.Paynter

    I want the Variant Big Game so bad, but seeing as I would need to import, I am a little ioffy with these raised concerns.
    I may have to wait til I get overseas to try one on methinks.

  • Bones Over Metal

    Hey William,
    I have the variant in regular glossy black and the finish has held up great compared to the rubberized paint.
    My question is, what is the weight difference from the Carbon version to the regular variant? Is there a difference? Can’t seem to find figures anywhere.
    Also mine came with a removable fabric chin guard when installed it greatly reduces noise and wind buffeting at highway speeds, but annoying to remove and install so only used on high speed runs.

    • http://www.2wheelsandamotor.com William Connor

      Carbon version weighs 3.63 pounds in comparison. The chin guard is a pain to install and remove every time you ride. I never used it so I forgot to even review it.

  • http://www.robgadv.com/ RobG

    I dunno about their helmets, but I have a very comfy pair of their street boots (I think they were called the Accelerant?) from a few years ago that I abandoned after a year because they started coming apart after accidentally getting them muddy. I emailed Icon to see if there was any support for them and got no response, so I’ve relegated the entire ICON brand to the list of those I won’t ever purchase again. Same goes for Alpinestars — two pair of their boots ended up not being waterproof and a third pair came apart after getting wet. Again, no support from them either.