Race helmets are like literbikes. Rarely anyone actually needs them, yet they’re commonly seen splitting through traffic or sitting on a table at the local bike meet up. The benefits you get from buying any of these often almost $1,000 helmets can only be felt on the track, where triple digit speeds, cornering, and passing are often experience in the same instant.
Which is why, until now, ICON has sort of stayed clear from the race helmet thing. Sure, you’d still see some of their lids at the track, but those were mostly on guys who either wanted something they could replace often because they fell over a lot, or guys who were just really obsessed with the looks. And no one came blame them. For $150, the Alliance dark is about as good as it gets.
The Airframe Pro, however, is whole new leaf for ICON. Something they spent more time on developing the high speed performance and aerodynamics of rather than the styling. Something that was intended to go fast, and be really good at doing so, rather than just scaring the old lady in the Buick next to you.
The Specs That Matter
The ICON Airframe Pro is a race helmet by nature, despite the fact that I’ve yet to see one on the race track but have seen them all over town. As such, it has a less plush fit and is meant to be worn in more of a tuck – with its eyeport canted slightly up. The bottom rear of the helmet has also been cut out, to help decrease interference when worn in a tuck with a suit/jacket with a speed hump.
The interior liner has been upgraded, from the standard three piece unit ICON normally use to an five piece liner so that the different pieces can be replaced to better customize the fit.
The helmet itself comes in seven sizes, which are created from four different shell sizes.
The Airframe Pro retails for between $375 and $600, depending on which model you get.
We Wore The Damn Thing
I’ve been wearing my ICON Airframe Pro Ghost Carbon for several months now, and can honestly say I’ve put it through just about every test imagineable. The ICON guys were nice enough to get me one two weeks before it came out, so I could wear it while riding the Ducati Monster 1200 R at the press launch at Ascari. Then I wore it at the official launch of the helmet on a Kawasaki 636 at Chuckwalla. Since then, I’ve worn it on everything from supermotos to naked bikes to cruisers, logging hundreds and hundreds of miles from behind it’s dark shield.
The lady friend loves to wear open face and retro helmets but, fan of her face that I am, I told her she’d be wearing a real full face from now on unless we were shooting photos on bike that required otherwise. Her only request was that it not be covered in “stupid pictures or big logos,” so I picked up an Airframe Pro Construct for her despite her complaints that it still wasn’t as cute as the Biltwell Gringo.
Holding each of the helmets in one hand, you will most likely be able to detect a slight difference in weight. But it’s only just slight and that’s only if you’re actually looking for it. The other main differences come in finish quality, with the gold/brass lettering and clasps really doing it for me (and likely not mattering nearly as much to many of you).
The idea of a “nice” ICON was really interesting to me, and I was quite curious as I opened the box. The interior of ICON’s helmets have always felt like a neoprene material that, while not us plush as the inside of an Arai, is something I’ve always been fond of. I was pleased that the AFP, in fit and finish, felt still very much like an ICON helmet – just one turned up to eleven.
The visor mechanism is still a finger bruiser, but the shield locking tab, helmet strap d-rings, interior, and finish are all better than I could have imagined. They’re subtle in a way no helmet, but especially an ICON, has ever been. The overall shape still has an attitude to it, but it isn’t obvious until you pick the thing up just how pretty it is.
On, the helmet is snug, but not as soft as other of their helmets. This makes a day on a cruiser like the Harley Low Rider S not quite as comfortable, but also keeps the helmet in place when you’re hanging it out on the track. Like a KTM seat, it’s firm in a way you notice when you put it on, but then it leaves your attention until you’re surprised that it’s firmness feels nice instead of painful.
ICON claim the helmet was designed to be worn in an “attack” position, meaning with your head tilted down like you would be when riding a sport bike aggressively or tucked. Based on my testing this is accurate, but only in the ways it deals with wind at over 100 miles per hour.
When riding nakeds or bikes that sit more upright at high speeds, it does buffet a bit and let in a little too much wind from the opening, but only once you get moving at track (or track-like) speeds.
Venting is also excellent, with cool air blowing directly to the face and forehead thanks to the TKTK vents, which can also be closed and do a relatively decent job at keeping all the wind out.
Things We’d Change
The only real issue I had with the helmet was with the little chin curtain accessory that came with it. It was not stretched tight enough across the bottom of the helmet and would flap in the wind against the underside of my jaw and neck when riding at high speeds.
It also kept pulling out when I took the helmet off. By the time I was headed to Chuckwalla, just weeks after the helmet was delivered, the tabs that held it in place started to separate and I ditched the curtain altogether (which explains the excessive wind when riding more upright bikes).
Why You Should Care
There are sport helmets I like more than the ICON Airframe Pro for track riding. The Schuberth SR1 is still my favorite helmet on the planet, and the new Shoei X-14 is simply stunning looking and wonderful on the track. But. Those helmets will also cost you an actual arm and a leg.
At $450, the ICON Airframe Pro is as good as it gets for those of you serious about riding in something nice on the track without breaking the bank. It will be better at speed that similarly priced Shoei or Bell helmets, and not break in nearly as much which means it won’t move around at speed over time.
Or, if you can spare the extra coin, you can get a truly beautiful helmet that’s still cheaper than many of the other options and that you’ll love every time you put it on.