To provide scale and honesty to this review, I must first tell you about my helmet history. My first helmet was an off-brand $50 bargain, and my second was a hand-me-down HJC FS- 10 from my older brother. With the option to rather spend my E-3 paychecks on booze than a nice helmet, I have detained myself to the hardships that come with wearing an eight year old helmet, until recently.
Over the past few months, I have been blessed with the opportunity to review several articles of brand new, brand name gear. Although I have little experience with the modern amenities that are offered between the top selling brands, I'm well aware of what sucks when it comes to helmets. So far it seems Icon has removed a lot of the suckage with its Airmada helmet.
I have an intermediate oval shaped head. This means that I wear curved brimmed hats instead of flat brimmed hats, and consequently, I say "brother" and "extremely" instead of "bro" and "hella." It also means that I fit into Icon's lid perfectly. Icon has incorporated four different polycarbonate shell sizes and five different expanded polystyrene sizes into the Airmada lineup. This provides a variety of fitments while keeping the outer profile—and the drag coefficient—to a minimum.
While the helmet fits great, the process of donning and removing the thing is...well, let's just say if helmet manufacturers made girlfriends, I would want Icon to make mine. If you're an earbud wearer, don't lose interest just yet. The opening is rather tight, but the Hydra-dry fabric on the cheek pads does a fantastic job avoiding snags, even with a five o'clock shadow.
The panorama that the Airmada provides has been improved by a few degrees from Icon's previous generations, but they still don’t go back far enough. While looking forward, I can see the sides of the helmet and I often find myself having to exaggerate neck movement to look over my shoulders. It would be bothersome if the helmet wasn’t so lightweight. The angle of vision is not quite as obtuse as my new Bell Qualifier, but it is wide enough to be safe.
The most apparent problem I have noticed is the Icon Optics tinted shield. Even upon unboxing, there was a three inch discoloration mark. In the first week, I noticed a scratch just in front of my left eye that allows unshaded daylight to enter and it makes me want to punch a puppy in the face. The tint is not strong enough to withstand the abuse that a clumsy person like myself will inevitably put it through. This shield is an upgrade, but is still a problem that needs to be mentioned to someone who plans to buy it. If a tinted shield is a must, know that the reflective tint is far from durable.
To all of my homies who wear corrective lenses and to the hipsters who just wear lenses, this helmet poses no threat to your frames. Padding in the temple area is soft, and as mentioned above, smooth enough for a snag-free slide. The liner, especially with Oakley style frames, will raise the nose pads from your nose, but it takes about two hours before they start to hurt, which is amazing compared to other helmets that last only thirty minutes before you have to open the face shield to shimmy your spectacles.
While I’m on the subject of opening the face shield, the pin that keeps it closed feels strong enough to use on pressurized astronaut helmets. It stays closed, which is awesome when it needs to stay closed, but when I want it open, it argues. More often than I'd like to, I find myself waiting for a red light so I can use two hands. I thought it would get better after a few weeks of break in, but the problem persists.
The face shield’s hinges could also use some work. The face shield pin has now twice caused me to overshoot the max opening and pull over to take off the helmet after my banana fingers failed to reattach it. Hinges are a major ergonomic aspect of helmet design, and the mechanism should be clever so riders who are going 60mph don’t have to be. This is more of a rant than a con because, from what I've seen, none of the manufacturers have quite figured it out.
The cleverness lacked in the Airmada’s hinge design is gained in ventilation. Air movement is exceptional despite the high standard set by the helmet's name. With seven intake orifices along the forehead, brow and chin, and six exhaust vents, this helmet has no problem moving air through its interior. The exhaust vents along the top are positioned in the low pressure zone of the rear wing, which does a great job pulling air out. To add to cleverness, Icon has installed a brow vent and two vents on the inside of the chin bar that send a soothing breeze over your face. No matter the outside temperature, opening the vents will immediately send cool air to all hot spots. Contrarily, when it is cold outside and the vents are closed, your head stays insulated.
Icon's Airmada is a few steps above what I was expecting. The small things that bother me are just that – small. It has not once whistled or howled, it has drastically reduced fatigue in 5+ hour rides, and it stays surprisingly cool during my commute through downtown San Francisco. After the chin strap is secured, this thing fits like Garth Algar's new pair of underwear. For both long distance and joy riding, the Airmada meets or exceeds its demands, and at a base price of $180 (on Closeout now at Motorcycle Superstore), it's well worth the purchase. I'll let you decide if a cool graphic is worth the extra $80.