ICON Variant Review

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Originally introduced in 2010 and still going strong as an option for those looking for a solid dual sport helmet on the sub $500 realm with seriously good construction quality, the Icon Variant is, without a doubt, a bucket worth considering.

With ICON, you know typically what to expect, helmets that one would think should be a bit cheaper by quality alone, but that make up with insane graphic and customization options, and that have hidden (good) surprises for those like us who like to nit-pick as much as possible (i.e. the Hydradry liner which is in our opinion something ICON doesn’t get nearly enough credit for, and their optically correct, fog free, very resistant face shields)

However, when it comes to dual sport or overall helmets with a more “versatile” aim, we’re hard to please. This is our domain at the end of the day.

So, would the Variant earn a spot on our helmet wall?

Ratings

Comfort:

82%
Comfort

Visibility:

88%
Visibility

Coolness:

78%
Coolness

Ventilation:

90%
Ventilation

Quietness:

79%
Quietness

Overall rating:

Specifications

Outer shell material : fiberglass, Dyneema 

Shell size : XS-XXXL

Liner : Hydradry removable liner

Weight : 3 lbs., 11-7/8 oz.

Pinlock : Ready

Strap System : Double-D ring

Safety Ratings

DOT : Yes

ECE : Yes

SNELL : No

SHARP : Not tested


Shape and materials

Quick disclaimer for round heads:  ‘tis not your helmet. ICON always err on the narrow side of things and this long oval shaped helmet is no exception.

In fact, with an stiffer than usual neckroll and generous padding on the cheeks and ear sides, this is even narrower than other helmets in their product line.

Even people with narrow heads would complain that this lid has a tendency to rip their ears off when taking it off. Shame.

With that out of the way, the first thing to cover would be the kind of stuff that excites us around here, which is the fiberglass/carbon fiber/Dyneema shell that’s decently lightweight on an L shape at or 1697 grams (3 lbs., 11-7/8 oz.).

It comes on sizes XS to XXXL and features an aero shape on the exterior.

Like we mentioned above, the Hydradry liner feels plushy and just plain good, makes a great job at wicking sweat away and keeping you cool.

We’ll dig deeper into the shield and the peak on the visibility sections, but in terms of materials, the peak won’t take a whole heap of smashes before start losing bits and pieces, and the shield has a typical level of resistance to penetration.

We like the slightly beefier and further-from-your-face than usual chinbar and it’s also proved to be darn good at absorbing direct impacts.


Things I liked

  • Quieter for its category
  • Great aerodynamics
  • Sunshield
  • Usual massive range of ultra-cool designs
  • Solid quality of build inside out.
  • Lightweight

Things I don’t like

  • Love or hate shield design
  • Can’t fit googles
  • A bit too narrow
  • Not many others to be honest.

Overall comfort

So we’ve covered a bit above what to expect of this helmet: Narrow heads, happy times, round heads, go with Arai. (kinda)

But also, eyeglasses wearers probably look elsewhere, as this helmet comes with no grooves and we’ve already told you how narrow it is.

If you do have the head shape that goes with this helmet, you’ll be pleasantly suprised to find a bucket that will cuddle your head in all the right ways, has no weird pressure spots, and just feels good. Taking it on and off is a bit of a different story tho!

It has a double D ring strap system which is pretty much the standard. 

Visibility

Icon’s done both a great and a frustrating job with their view port and shield.

The shield in itself is excellent, seriously. Multiple color options including yellow (thanks!) and a totally optically correct shape that’s also wider and taller than most, with an extra bubbly effect that some people will dig (though we’ve never been fans of those aesthetics) . It’s fog free which we like (like, actually fog free). Something we’re not super keen on is how it locks, we like shields that come with a little rubber gasket… those fog easier? Can’t have it all.

In terms of changing it, it’s a bit of a pita in comparison with other helmets.

Here’s where we are unhappy. You can’t fit googles on. Not adult sized googles anyway. And that for me (Alex) is a bit of a deal breaker, as that’s what separates IMO a helmet that’s dual sport-ish from a helmet that can be a solid ADV option too, but for some it won’t matter at all.

Quietness

This is a field where ICON does not typically excel, but the Variant does a much better job in our opinion than others in their product line like the entry-level Airform

The contoured cheek pads and thicker 3d liner help a lot here, as well as the aerodynamics of the helmet being overall spot on. 

For a dual sport helmet or just overall a helmet with a peak… wow!  It is NOT one of the quietest helmets out there by any means, but it’s very quiet for its segment. Under 80mph it’s all very tolerable.

Ventilation

With a whole total of 6 intake vents and 4 exhaust vents, this is as well ventilated as a dual sport helmet gets

The Icon Variant comes with two top vents covered by a simple slider that makes a good job at ventilation indeed. The peak is aerodynamically designed to have minimal pull on shoulder checks and to provide a nice tunnelling effect for the air to flow through the top vents

The big-ass chin vent is as good as it gets, covered with metal mesh out the outside and an imperceptible tab on the inside you’ll have to check the owners manual to find where it is and how to shut it. Seriously.

Another two little vents you might not notice are also located on the chinbar area.

Rear exhaust vents on the ICON Variant are part of the rear spoiler as usual, and are covered by the same mesh as the front. 

We’ll give it a solid 90/100 on this category

Safety

The ICON Variant is an ECE and DOT approved helmet as well as World Standard and passes other country-specific safety tests such as the Australian SAI AS1698 and Japan’s SG. It has not been SHARP tested, which we’d love to see, but the ICON Airframe got an impressive 4 star rating using a similar blend on the exterior shell… Not an accurate reference point, but worth remembering (i.e. ICON can make silly safe helmets indeed)

Conclusion

Overall, we’ve got to give this helmet an average of 85/100 when we factor in the coolness of it, or 4.5/5 stars.  It’s a solid value proposition with good bang-for-buck ratio for those looking for a helmet that’s different, yet usable every day. 

TL:DR - The Airflite makes for a great, badass looking commuter and street riding helmet.

Obviously not an intelligent choice for those who don’t enjoy random strangers commenting on their gear, which I can tell you, is exactly what happens with this helmet. All. the. time.

Where to buy this helmet :