2010 Icon Airframe Carbon Lifeform Helmet Review
Icon aims higher
Icon broke onto the motorcycling scene a few years ago by offering quality riding apparel at reasonable prices, and it soon associated itself with the in-your-face world of stunt riding, most notably seen on the ubiquitous presence of star stuntah Jason Britton.
As the Icon line has expanded and evolved, the company has delved into higher-end products, and this new-for-2010 carbon-fiber Airframe exemplifies this push toward the premium end of the market.
Icon’s standard Airframe shells are made from a mix of fiberglass, Dyneema and carbon fiber that supposedly scale in between 1700 and 1750 grams depending on which of its three shells is used to encompass its range from XXS to 3XL. Prices range from $265 to $360.
But now comes a new Airframe with a carbon-fiber shell that is Icon’s lightest helmet ever. In its medium shell size, the Carbon Lifeform Airframe seen here is claimed to weigh just 1450 grams, more than half a pound lighter than the standard Airframe.
The carbon shell is formed using a dry-molding technique that aligns the composite fibers in an optimum placement to provide maximum strength with minimal weight. The less-is-more axiom applies to the carbon Airframe’s price, as the lightweight helmet has a light-heavyweight MSRP of $515.
Other than the Carbon Lifeform’s shell construction and graphics packages, there are no differences from the regular Airframe. The Lifeform is available only in black or white versions.
Airframes are built to meet what Icon calls its All-World standard in which it qualifies for America’s DOT regulations as well as those in Europe, Japan and Australia. The built-in-Korea lids, however, don’t receive Snell approval. This may or may not be an asset, depending on your opinion of Snell’s double-impact standards.
A dual-density EPS liner provides impact absorption in conjunction with a triple-density foam liner. The HydraDry comfort liner wicks moisture away from the skin, plus it’s removable for easy cleaning. The black liner in the Lifeform is jazzed up with graffiti-esque white blotches for an edgy appearance. Odd face shapes can be custom fitted by optional cheek pads ($30) in various widths.
Initial impressions of the helmet were very positive. The carbon-fiber weave (all black portions of our white lid) is highly visible through a glossy clear coat, which gives it a high-end finish. The black carbon panels are augmented by red pinstriping, while white areas have subtly contrasting gray accents. Less impressive is how the shell’s off-white color contrasts with the pure white plastic panels of the chin-bar and forehead vents.
Slipping the Carbon Lifeform over a head reveals a plush interior that coddles the skin of its wearer. For us, the standard cheek pads provide a snug but comfortable fit. A soft material covers the chin strap where is rests against the skin, and the strap’s end has a snap to keep it from flapping in the wind. And at just a little more than 3 pounds, its mass is barely noticed.
Peripheral vision isn’t compromised by the width of the eye port. However, the top of the eye port is within a rider’s field of vision when riding a sportbike with low handlebars.
Icon likes to boast about its 'SuperVent' venting system, claiming that its 20mm forehead intake ports are the largest in the industry. The vent latch is large enough to be manipulated by gloved fingers to its three positions (closed, half-open and open).
The chin-bar intake vent is smaller and less easily felt. Wire-mesh grills along the sides of the chin also direct air inside, and twist knobs in the interior can be turned to close off airflow if required. Warm interior air is drawn out via exhaust ports under the air diffuser wing.
With all vents open, the Carbon Lifeform Airframe flows a considerable amount of air. On one warm day with the vents closed, it was a welcome relief when the vents were opened up and I could feel cooling air flow across the top of my head.
Icon’s faceshield system is worth mentioning for a few reasons. The new Proshield features a Prolock closure that ensures the shield stays shut even at high speeds while a head is turned. Like almost all contemporary helmets, swapping faceshields is a quick and easy process of unlatching two levers. Installing a new shield is more finicky, as the latching levers are too short to easily manipulate with a finger.
Icon stands apart by its side plates that are snapped to the shield, ostensibly to provide more “real estate” for graphics designs. The downside to this system is that the side plates need to be transferred whenever swapping shields. Unsnapping the side plates requires just a few seconds, but it isn’t as hassle-free as most faceshields.
The Airframe ships with a clear faceshield that is claimed to be scratch-resistant and fog-proof, and it’s worth mentioning that several premium helmets do not have anti-fog shields. Unfortunately, when using the Airframe on a cool Holland morning at Assen, I had the $35 accessory silver-tint shield on, and the tinted shields do not as yet have an anti-fog coating. So, despite the chin intake vents being open and the breath deflector in place, interior fog spoiled my vision. We’re happy to report that, beginning this fall, all of Icon’s tinted shields will be fog-resistant.
Overall, we’ve been impressed with the Carbon Lifeform Airframe, especially enjoying its light weight and interesting but not over-the-top graphics package. Although Icon hasn’t yet reached the pinnacle of helmet design like top-line Shoei and Arai lids, it is yet another advance in technology and comfort over Icon’s earlier helmets.
Most importantly, it’s a brain bucket an owner can be proud of, whether in terms of comfort, weight, style or finish quality.
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