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Old 02-25-2010, 06:42 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: VIsiting the GIft Shop in the Pit of DIspair
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Default Icon Variant Helmet

Motorcyclists are a fashionable group, although many of us don't care to admit it. Everything from the motorcycles to the clothes we wear go through fads, or have certain styles, that help us identify ourselves to the general public or other riders. One motorcycle fad that's been on the upswing for a few years now is the "Adventure" catagory. Adventure riders wear helmets with pointy chins and beaks. And really expensive coveralls and such...but we'll focus on the helmet for now, since I can't afford a really expensive coverall right now. Icon recently released their new "Variant" helmet. I didn't know what a "Variant" was, but a quick Google search turned up:

Variant Angina
Variant Creutzfeld-Jakobs Disease
Variant Bool
Variant Frequencies

The name now makes perfect sense, this is the helmet to buy immediately before dying of a heart-related disease while taking a dump listening to the radio. For a mere $350, plus tax, Cycle Gear was kind enough to obtain one of these Adventures In Angina helmets for me. This will be a two-part review; Part 1, this Part, is Pre-Riding Impressions, Part 2, the next Part, will be Post-Riding Impressions. The review has to come in two parts for reasons to be revealed later.

It's a weird looking helmet. My kid thinks it's awesome because it looks like the helmet his character in Halo 3 wears. The face shield is bubbled out, the beak and spoiler (?) in the back give it that futuristic, Space Patrol look. I chose the "Rubatone" finish, which is a kind of soft rubber coating, that I hope will reduce the scratches and dings that I apply to all my helmets. I wear an Extra-Large because I have an enormous brain, and it fit about like I expected an XL to fit. The cheek pads are a bit snug, which gives me a very complimentary squirrel-face appearance.

The peripheral vision is superb, the best of any full-face helmet I've worn. There are large ear pockets, which are welcome, as my ears are proportional to my brain. You could probably wear a set of Boise noise-cancelling earphones with this helmet, or install some speakers. The interior is quite plush, featuring Icon's exclusive "Hydradry" liner. I Googled "Hydradry" too; it's a business in Orlando, FL. Maybe I'll visit them someday.

Icon chose a very light-colored fabric for the liner; I can't help but wonder if it's going to look dirty pretty quickly. The liner snaps and velcros in, and it looks like it will be easy to disassemble and wash. The bubble-shaped face shield is extremely clear; easily the clearest and least noticable face shield I've ever looked through. That's a pretty good trick considering the bends the plastic makes. The shield flips up almost all the way, tucking up under the beak. I tried fitting my sunglasses...not so good. They were very difficult to get in place, and almost impossible to orient correctly. Why can't Icon put a little groove along the sides for the glasses earpieces to slide into? The strap is standard stuff, double buckle with a snap for the trailing end. Nolan helmets have the best strap closure; their "Micro-Clasp" system is extremely effective and easy to use.

Why no ride report? The damn helmet STINKS!! There is a horrendous odor of chemicals and synthetics in the helmet. It reminds me of my first Summer job working in a Mobile Home (trailer) dealership. The new trailers would sit in the Florida sun, baking to 120 degrees, and all the particle board and other plastics would out-gas until the atmosphere inside the trailer would not support life. So the helmet is airing-out in the garage (I can still smell it) with the window open. I hope that by tomorrow the outgassing will have subsided enough to allow me to wear it on the ride to work. If it hasn't, I may be trying out Cycle Gear's "7-Day Helmet Satisfaction" policy.

Variant Review, Part Duex or: OMG this helmet SUCKS!!!

I ride about 25 miles to work; 1/2 on surface streets, 1/2 on I-95 at 80-90 mph. As I rode toward I-95 after I dropped the kid at school, the helmet was nice and quiet. The air vents work very well; it's pretty cold out this morning, so it was easy to feel them working. There was a little distortion along the bottom of the bubbled face shield when I glanced at the instrument panel, but not enough to be a deal breaker. Even the manufacturing smell died down. The peripheral vision is excellent, as noted in Part 1. Things were looking good. Then I got on the Interstate.

This helmet is awful at speeds much above 50. The "beak" and/or the rest of the top structure puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the rider's neck. I'd guesstimate there's about 20 to 30 pounds of downforce. I tried every possible angle of attack with the damn thing, from fully hunched down to bolt upright. No matter how I oriented the helmet, the pressure was still there. Also, the slightest turn of the head results in a "grab" or twisting sensation as the beak catches air. Within a few minutes of highway speed, I was miserable and wanted the ride to end. Even now, a full hour after the ride, my neck still aches. I can't imagine wearing this thing for any serious mileage.

So...I'm calling Dennis at Cycle Gear as soon as they open. I really wish this hadn't worked out this way; I love the look of this lid. I guess if all you ever did was slow-speed off-road or surface street riding, it would be fine. But for someone like me who has to ride at 70+ mph, this helmet is NOT VIABLE. (I wonder how much a new Shoei Multi-Tech goes for?)
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Last edited by Kenneth_Moore : 02-26-2010 at 06:03 AM.
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