Squid Lid or Bostrom Bucket?
Icon. If you're a motorcyclist, you know the brand. Your opinion of their products probably has a lot to do with what you ride and how you ride it. There can be no doubt that Icon gear is the epitome of cool if you're into the urban street/stunt scene. Their Limiter magazine, a pulp-fiction take on the outlaw sportbike life, is completely off the hook. Jason Britton, the only freestyle rider famous enough to have had his own TV series, is the leader of the company's all-star stunt and drift team. This should tell you a lot about the clientele that Icon is appealing to. Regardless of your take on back protectors being worn over tee shirts, riding jackets with zip-out sleeves or denim jeans that have been internally strengthened to better survive crashing, it is undeniable that Icon has made protective gear a fashion statement among the lunatic fringe and in the process, has surely saved countless lives.
Eric Bostrom? You're kidding!
A quick perusal of the Icon site will reveal that there's not a single set of racing leathers to be had in their inventory. Likewise, the boots and gloves shown there are more likely to turn up in a downtown Daytona Beach freestyle contest than on the starting grid for the 200. So why the hell would Eric Bostrom, a genuine member of America's roadracing royalty, be sponsored by Icon? The answer is their new Airmada helmet. In a move we'd never have expected, the world's best known purveyor of stunt gear has built a full-on roadracing helmet and hired EBoz to convince us track addicts that we need to take their new lid seriously.
Certifying a helmet is tricky business these days. Icon calls their Airmada a "World Standard" product, because it meets the USA DOT FMVSS218, Euro ECE 22.05, Australian SAI AS1698 and Japanese SG standards. This makes it legal for road use just about anywhere on the planet. More important to racetrack riders, it's also legal for competition use in AMA, WERA, CCS, Formula USA, FIM and even MotoGP. Credentials like these will get you past any tech inspector on the third rock from the sun.
Want more? ECE 22.05, a standard accepted by more than fifty countries, requires that helmets be pulled from each production batch and destructively tested. How's that for quality control?
The Airmada sports a Polycarbonate shell. Some riders wouldn't think of wearing anything other than a composite lid but in a decade's worth of testing around the globe, helmets made of Poly have held their own. Considering that it passes all the tests listed above and is legal for use with virtually every major racing organization, we're comfortable wearing Icon's Airmada at the track.
This helmet is a long oval design, which works best for riders who need a bit of extra room for their chin. The shape of the Airmada is the most aggressive we've encountered in a while, since the helmet's bottom opening is actually smaller than its interior. The proper size will require a bit of a nose and cheek squishing to squeeze into or out of it but while it's on, the interior shape of the expanded polystyrene liner is pretty much perfect. This is a very form-fitting helmet which rolls in toward your neck at the bottom. The design feels small and sleek on your head when compared to other lids we've tried. As we said earlier, it's a shape aimed straight at the roadracer. Your average street guy won't understand why this helmet is harder than average to get on and off, so he'll move on to the next model without taking a moment to consider how the Airmada hugs his entire head instead of just balancing on the crown. A fit like this is an absolute gift at high speeds and we'd like to see it offered more often. The fact that a freestyle-based company like Icon would build such a speed-oriented helmet shows us just how seriously they listened to the suggestions of their newly sponsored racer. Nice job Eric!
Inside, you'll find a removable, washable interior made from moisture-wicking fabric called Hydradry. Even the chin strap is padded with this stuff. Air intakes abound, with two on the sides of the chin bar and a duct at the base of the eye port which feeds outside air into the removable breath deflector. There's a brow vent just above the eye port as well. On top, twin air tunnels run from front to rear, incorporating ram air effect up front to cool your scalp and low pressure generators behind the helmet to suck out the sweat. There's even a trick-looking little spoiler back there, which is supposed to aid with high speed stability. All openings other than the rear air extractors can be closed off for cold weather riding and the controls for these closures operate easily with gloved hands.
Shield design will make or break our opinion of a helmet. The Airmada's system is called Icon Optics. The lens is distortion-free and has an anti-fog coating. To seal things up, Icon has provided a substantial lipped seal around the eye port, which resembles something that might be found in SCUBA gear. As quick release mechanisms go, the Airmada's system isn't especially quick. we struggled a bit to get the visor off and back on. Also, there are cosmetic panels on the sides which must be unclipped from one visor and transferred to the next during a shield change. (Although you could probably leave these pieces off without affecting the helmet's function.) All considered, it's a pretty complicated operation. That said, Icon's design has some notable redeeming qualities. The ratchet mechanism is rock solid, almost to an extreme. It's not going to close until you close it and then, thanks to a massive metal post lock, the shield will be staying closed until you pry it open. We suspect that this system was developed to withstand the violent impacts common to freestyle riding. It works! We'll happily give up a bit of convenience when changing shields to gain such functional strength.
The Icon Airmada offers a staggering forty-two visual options. Think about that for a minute. An entire grid full of riders could go out wearing Airmada helmets with no two being alike! At the high end, you'll pay $280 for a Britton replica or $270 for either of the EBoz lids. From there, prices vary by graphic all the way down to a very reasonable $160 for solid colors. Replacement shields cost $40 to $45, in clear or eight other options. Our high-visibility yellow and reflective silver Volare test lid is simply insane to look at. It's like holding the sun right there in your hands. We almost feel sorry for the riders behind us!
After just a single session, we were convinced that the Icon Airmada is a great track helmet. It absolutely stays put, never slopping around on your head under even the most violent moments of acceleration or braking. This lid does not obstruct your vision in the least when you're down on the tank and scanning for your apex. The visor lock mechanism and ratchet system, which feel overly stiff in the pits, are absolutely perfect with gloved hands. Once on a cool down lap, we clicked the shield open a notch and ran the bike to an estimated 100mph without having it close. The fog-free shield was mostly adequate, however during a cool and humid morning session on patchy damp pavement, we got into a bit of a skirmish and were able to pant hard enough to obstruct our vision within ten minutes or so. The sweat-wicking interior did exactly that, keeping the inside of the helmet acceptably damp after use and quickly drying between sessions. The Airmada is a bit on the hot side. You'll notice this more waiting on the grid than when you're riding. It's not terrible at all but if you like massive torrents of cold air blasting through your hair as you ride, this isn't that helmet. Design is about compromise, so if you want to create a close-fitting, super-aerodynamic lid that doesn't wobble around on the rider's scull at speed, you can't leave room for huge air channels in the interior. We vote for the Airmada's fit and will happily sacrifice a bit of scalp sweat to get it.
Icon hit this one out of the park. Never in a million years would we have seriously considered this company's products for use in a roadracing environment but hey, it's great to be proven wrong! The Airmada is as good a helmet as we've ever used on the racetrack and considering that, its asking price is stunningly low. EBoz must be very proud to have his name associated with this helmet. This gets us wondering. Many stunters eventually gravitate to trackdays and road racing. Is it possible that Icon will also begin marketing leathers, helmets and gloves aimed at the go-fast market? If this Airmada helmet is an indicator of what may be, we'd love to see it!