by Rick K. for webBikeWorld.com
| Owner Comments (Below)
| Icon Airframe Helmet
Icon Helmets are relatively new, having only appeared within
the last couple of years, along with other Icon branded products.
The edgy Icon ads have appeared in just about all
of the motorcycle print magazines in the U.S.A., but apparently the products
are not available in the U.K. or other parts of the world.
I'm just guessing, but apparently the Icon brand is a
marketing strategy developed by Parts Unlimited, one of the biggest distributors of
motorcycle related products and accessories in the U.S.A.
I'm not much of a fan of this method of brand marketing and
global sourcing because I'm partial to companies that have their own
factories where the products are developed, manufactured and marketed; for
example, companies like Arai, Shoei, Vendramini and others.
But that's my personal opinion, and I'm sure not everyone
will agree. The bottom line for me can be summed up by two words:
quality and functionality.
In the end, the marketing isn't really
important; if the product suits my needs, and meets my expectations for
things like price, style, etc., then it's OK by me.
Paint and Graphics
The Mainframe has been around for a year or so, and it serves as the
top-of-the-line Icon helmet. One of the strategies that differentiates
Icon from their competitors is their ability to offer many
different choices, styles and colors for all of the products in their lineup,
and this is certainly apparent with their line of helmets, which are
available in a dazzling array of colors and graphics.
The Mainframe helmet is a good example; there are too many
color combinations to list, including a "Bling" model with gold trim; the "Kitty" model,
designed specifically for women; the cool "Rubatone" matte color; and
several others. We chose the "New for 2006" version of the Hooligan pattern
shown here, in size XL.
First impressions are important with
motorcycle helmets, and we were suitably impressed when we first pulled the
Mainframe out of the box.
The deep red color and the flames of the Hooligan pattern
are very nicely done. The edges around each flame and the large black contrasting "swoosh" are
finished with a very close imitation of a hand-painted pinstripe. I
had to look at it a couple of times to see if the helmet was hand striped or
chin vent and top vents have chrome-plated fixtures, which also lend a touch
of class. Overall, I'd say that the finish on our example is
excellent, especially considering the reasonable price.
Continuing with my out-of-the-box inspection, I flipped up
the visor, which immediately popped off the helmet on the left-hand side.
My wife, who was standing nearby, said "That's not a good sign",
an ominous statement if there ever was one, as we shall see.
But problems like this do happen on occasion when a helmet
is first handled, and I usually chalk it up to a misalignment during
The Mainframe's chin vent opens from the bottom up; that is, the vent cover
flips up, instead of down, to let in fresh air. This is a good idea,
and I'm not sure why we haven't seen it on other helmets, because it makes
sense. The upward rotating vent cover acts as a scoop that catches the air at what is probably one of
the highest pressure points on the helmet and forces it through the
vent and into the helmet, with a sort of "ram air" effect.
The air from the chin vent is then directed through two
portholes on either side of the inner portion of the chin bar and then on to the rider's
face. The vent cover also has a positive and secure feel when opening or closing,
unlike too many other helmets we've tried, including some very expensive
brands, that have sloppy or ill-fitting covers.
However, on only the second time I opened the vent, the
entire front vent assembly popped out of the helmet. Here are two
photos illustrating the problem:
|Icon Mainframe chin vent, side view.
The black assembly that holds the vent has pulled away from the
||Icon Mainframe chin vent, bottom view.
Not a good omen indeed, and although this may just be a
problem with our single example, it's certainly something to be aware of if
you are considering the purchase of a Mainframe.
The chrome-tipped vents at the top of the helmet are
arranged on one of those "aerodynamic" spoilers appliqués that
seemingly now included on just about every helmet made. These are supposed to take air
in the front and exhaust it out the back. The Mainframe has a centrally
located sliding switch that can be pushed
back to open the vents. This switch also has a positive feel on
opening or closing, and it is easy
to operate while wearing gloves.
The chin vent and the top vents seem to allow a relatively large volume
of air to flow into the Mainframe, although it's hard to notice a difference
in volume whether the top vents are open or closed.
surprised -- or maybe not -- at how many helmets, despite their scoops and
vents -- flow almost no air. We've mentioned this before; there
doesn't seem to be a single best practice when it comes to designing air
vents that flow decent amounts of air, and it
almost seems like more scoops and protuberances equal less air flow (and
contrary to what the designers would have you believe.
The Mainframe also has four small mesh covered exhaust
vents, located in pairs on each side of the chin bar. These are claimed to exhaust
air out the sides of the helmet.
In our opinion, the Icon Mainframe is designed to optimally fit an "oval" to
"egg" shaped head. The helmet seems to have lots of room
inside towards the top of the liner,
and it tapers down slightly towards the sides. The cheekpads seem
slightly thicker than normal, causing the helmet to fit tightly around this
area, which may be a problem for those with "round" head shapes. See
Motorcycle Helmet FAQ page for more information on choosing and fitting
a motorcycle helmet and for a discussion regarding human head shapes.
But overall, the Mainframe feels relatively comfortable on
my round head. The tighter fitting bottom and the padded fabric neck
to decrease the low-frequency "booming" noises that are often caused by
turbulent air spilling off of a fairing or windscreen.
The liner is comfortable; I'd say it's about average.
The Mainframe does seem to have very large ear pockets, which may be an
advantage for those who may wish to install speakers. Also, the
cheekpads are removable. A small section of fabric is located under the
chin to help prevent turbulence and air from entering under the front of the
Overall, the Icon Mainframe seems relatively quiet. There are two
factors to be considered regarding the noise levels of this helmet. The
top vents seem to cause some higher frequency "whistling" noises, although
the overall volume seems low, especially considering the amount of air that
flows into the helmet.
The other factor is related to the helmet shape, as
discussed above. The tighter fitting bottom does seem to help decrease
the lower frequency noises caused by turbulence. Also, the Mainframe
has what appears to be a good quality neck roll and some extra padding
around the bottom of the helmet, which also helps to attenuate noise.
Here's an MP3
recording of the Icon Mainframe from 0 to 60 MPH, recorded behind and outside
the short fairing on our 1998 Triumph Tiger. This bike is perfect for
evaluating helmet noise, because standing up on the pegs brings the helmet
out into the clean air stream, which makes it easy to also evaluate the
noise levels for riders on unfaired bikes. See the
Motorcycle Helmet Noise page, which has other MP3 helmet sound
recordings for comparison.
Also, don't forget that we always wear correctly fitted
earplugs and a helmet liner when riding. Motorcycle helmet noise is
relative; that is, a "quiet" helmet may still transmit enough noise to be
dangerous. There are also many other factors that can cause helmet
noise, including crosswinds, engine noise and more. Please see the
Earplugs and Hearing
Protection page for more information on choosing and wearing earplugs.
Remember that bad omen about the visor? Well, it turned out to be a
prescient warning. The visor on the Mainframe popped off during my
first ride with the helmet, the first time in all of my many years of riding with full-face helmets that this has happened to me.
After studying the visor's quick release mechanism, I see
what is causing this and why it continues to be a problem on my helmet.
Pushing the visor up into its uppermost position exposes the quick release
mechanism on each side of the helmet. The mechanism has a locking
lever that is pushed back to lock the visor and pushed forward to allow two
tabs molded on to the clear visor to escape through two corresponding
notches in the mechanism.
The problem on our helmet is that as the visor is opened and
closed, the locking lever is gradually pulled forward, due to
the friction between the visor and the lever. After opening the
visor 2-3 times, the lever is pulled far enough forward to expose the
two notches in the quick release mechanism that are designed to allow the
visor to be removed, and the visor is then free to pop off
Here are two sets of photos that illustrate the problem:
closed position. The yellow arrow points to the lever in
its locked position. The pink arrows point to the notches
in the quick release mechanism.
||Visor in open
position. The visor has pulled the locking lever forward (yellow
arrow). This has now allowed the notches in the quick
to move and align with the tabs on the visor, which are just
visible, allowing the visor to pop off the helmet.
Here's another view, this time with the visor removed for
| This is
the mechanism in the locked position. Look above the blue
arrow; the friction between the tab on the lever rotating
mechanism and the notch is supposed to keep the lever from
moving forward when the visor is opened.
||This shows the
lever in the open position, having been pulled forward by the
visor. There apparently is not enough
friction between the tab and the notch on our helmet's quick
release mechanism to hold the lever in place as the visor is
moved up and down.
The problem, at least on our helmet, is that there is not
enough clearance between the locking lever and the visor. The problem
on our helmet is repeatable and consistent: whenever the visor is twice
opened and closed, the locking lever moves forward and the visor is prone to
popping off of the helmet.
We're not sure if this problem is common with other
Mainframes or Icon helmets or if ours is a fluke, but my feeling is that
this is a serious flaw, and has greatly decreased my confidence in the
By the way, the visor also seems more prone to fogging than
other helmets we've been using lately.
This size XL Icon Mainframe weighs 3 lbs. 9-1/2 oz., which is 1632 grams. This
puts it right between the
Arai Quantum II and the
X-Eleven, which is pretty good company.
Mainframe's weight feels evenly distributed, for some reason the helmet
feels heavier when I pick it up, and I was surprised that it didn't weigh
more when placed on the scales.
Motorcycle Helmet Weights page for a chart comparing
the weights of every helmet we've reviewed.
The Icon Mainframe is labeled as meeting U.S. DOT and Snell standards.
The Mainframe uses the classic "D" ring attachment system, a plus in our
book. There's plenty of extra length on the strap, which can be
secured from flying around in the wind via a snap.
The Icon Mainframe is a paradox if ever there was one. The paint and
graphics are very nice, the vents seem to work well and have a positive
opening and closing mechanism and the price is competitive.
However, the poor quality of the chin vent assembly mount on
our example (which was purchased anonymously via retail, as are the vast
majority of the products reviewed on webBikeWorld) and the unacceptable
problems with the visor are very discouraging and are, in my opinion,
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