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.
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.