When it comes to bad-ass (literally, guns blazing, tires sliding) marketing, no one in the industry does it like ICON. And you got to give it to them. Sure, it’s made up, but that’s the point. It reaches beyond the doldrums of daily life and lets our minds wander somewhere else and have a shit-ton of fun, which is what motorcycling is all about, right?
What’s interesting, though, is that unlike a lot of brands in both motorcycling and other segments that try to touch on the, I’ll call it, bad-assery factor, who might do it from a visual perspective in marketing, it doesn’t translate to the final product.
It would be like if Scion took a few of their little toaster boxes and outfitted them, like they were a part of Mad Max. Sure, the video might be cool, watching them blast giant rats in Kim Jong Un masks in Kia’s, but there’s no relevance in the final product when you see an overweight 30 something dude texting his latest D&D meme to his buddies on group chat at a stop light. You follow me?
With ICON, though, all their products have a little bit of an edge in their own unique right that follows for a lot of their customers too. Take the Variant helmet, for example…
When you release a product with a code-name (because everything from ICON has code-names and call-signs), like Battle Scar or Hard Luck or Construct, it inspires in you a unique picture to be painted of the product, but more importantly, YOU while wearing the product. It takes you somewhere, and I dig that, man. No bullshit, when I wore my Battlescar for the first time, I took off on my Triumph Scrambler through a broken down industrial district near the shop, and I have to admit, I was pushing it a little harder and enjoying myself more than usual. Why? Because I felt like I was one of the dudes in the ICON video, hunting Zombies. And it was FUN!
All right, enough about how much of a dork I am and that I like to role-play inside my helmet. I have two Variants, and this review is centered on the newest one, the Carbon. So let’s get after it, shall we?
First, I love the fit and finish. The carbon fiber is blended with a translucent layer of resin that creates unique striations giving almost every helmet a slightly different look. The smoked translucent visor is a dead match for the overall look. Even the urban camouflage interior matches the entire aesthetic (and I hate camo!) perfectly.
Looks aside, the overall size and shape of the shell is rather round. And while it’s not huge, it’s definitely a little larger than some of the other adventure helmets on the market. By no means is it a deterrent in my opinion. On the inside, it fits like a tactical glove.
Everything goes where it’s supposed to. It doesn’t pull hard on my ears when putting it on or taking it off (the ear pockets work well with ear-buds too), and the removable moisture wicking interior feels cool, even in hot, sweaty Florida, which no doubt, has something to do with the ventilation system. It’s on point. You can feel the breeze as it rolls past your noggin inside the lid.
Chasing Zombies guns blazing aside, in real-world riding scenarios, I can tell you that, at low speeds around town, the Variant is great. It keeps you looking and feeling cool, the visibility is good (especially with the yellow tinted shield), and wind drag is minimal. I will say, though, while riding from Florida to Alabama, I noticed a fair amount of “whip-lash” when turning my head.
It wasn’t to the point that I had a sore neck after the ride; it was just noticeable in that when I turned my head, it moved quicker. I believe this is largely due to the vent cutouts on the visor and the longer snout of the helmet which make it a little more susceptible to wind grab.
Overall, I love the helmet and it’s one I grab regularly off the shelf. The only two things I can say that were slightly negative was that I dropped the Carbon within 15 minutes of having it. What can I say? I had to reach for my knife! And unfortunately, the visor cracked. Worse though, it’s not an item that can be replaced by the consumer. I just glued it, sanded it, and to be honest, it goes with the whole look of the helmet, and you can’t even tell. Consider this a public service announcement to make sure your lid is secure when not wearing it.
The other thing I’ll point out isn’t really a negative. It’s just something to beware of. I made the mistake of leaving mine in my truck for a few hours on a hot a day, and the glue that holds the lower rubber trim on all the way around it melted. The fix was simple; grab a heat gun, some shoe-goo, and painters tape and just heat it back up, apply glue to the helmet, and tape it into place. I left it in the A/C to set, and it’s been fine ever since.
Not a huge issue for some, but for those of us who live in hot climate it’s definitely something to be cognizant of.
This is one of my favorite helmets to wear, not only because I feel one step closer to being a bad-ass while wearing it, but it’s comfortable, it keeps me cool, and when I’m riding my Scrambler, it just feels the part. Well done, ICON, keep ‘em coming!