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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.