Icon combined killer looks with quiet comfort and superior ventilation all in one light-weight shell.
Who says style cannot precede function and still work great? Well, Icon believes it can and the new Icon Variant Etched Helmet is proof. Emblazoned with kick ass graphics the Variant looks bad ass just sitting still, but underneath its futuristic-looking design, Icon addressed many concerns raised by street riders.
With any motorcycle helmet, the biggest concern is safety. The Variant Etched’s outer shell is constructed of three different composite materials – Fiberglass, Dyneema, and Carbon Fiber, which covers the interior energy-absorbing EPS liner. The Variant is engineered to Icon’s World Standard which means it meets or exceeds the requirements for: DOT (US), ECE 22.05 (EUR), SAI (AUS), and SG (JPN).
Donning the Variant, I was surprised by the lightweight feel. By using carbon fiber in the outer shell, the entire helmet weighs less than four pounds, which is comparable to other high end makes. The plush interior gets what Icon calls HydraDry material. It’s a textile fabric that aims to wick away moisture from
the wearer and it is removable for washing to keep the funky, sweaty smell away. Small pockets exist in the liner at the ear openings for small speakers if one requires tunes on the go. The D-ring chin strap is comfortable and offers a convenient snap for the extra strap.
Another concern is ventilation, or lack thereof. The Variant features nine adjustable intake ports and six exhaust vents to help keep air moving. On the chin bar, there are three ports covering the mouth area that do not close. The ventilation through these ports was significant enough to make my teeth chatter on the 30-degree morning commute, but during the summer months the air would be welcome.
The chin vents and ventilation system work well to keep the fog free face shield clear, but when closed they couldn’t keep up especially on cold, damp rides. This required me to crack the visor open, even with the breath guard in place. As for the visor, Icon has designed the Variant with a larger eye opening to increase field of vision, something critical to street riding. The standard visor is clear-colored and offers a distortion free view.
The wind tunnel designed visor up top is aerodynamically shaped to alleviate lift or drag at street riding speeds and is helpful for blocking sunlight. I did test this theory on several styles of motorcycles and found it actually works as Icon says. However, at higher speeds, a little head movement to the left or right produced a strong pull on the helmet. And with cross winds, such as on a freeway, the oval head shape combined with the visor pose a challenge to maintaining one’s head position.
The futuristic look of the Icon Variant Etched is further enhanced with the mirrored visor that alleviates the need for sunglasses.
Fit and finish of the Variant is admirable. Ambient noise is minimal and the chin bar ports make it easy to have a conversation without removing the helmet. The only real gripes I had with the Variant are with the visor lip being on the left and the elevated price. At almost four large, a Snell stamp would have made it the most bang for the buck.
All in all, the Variant Etched tops my list of personal helmets for the everyday rider. Its versatile design compliments any style of machine from sport bike to dual sport and its edgy look speaks to the inner hooligan in us all.