Icon Variant dual-sport motorcycle helmet review

Review of the Icon Variant Adventure Helmet

The Variant is Icon’s dual-sport or adventure helmet.

That means it’s really targeting folks who ride a cross-over style motorbike like a Triumph Tiger or Multistrada (or even a Scrambler), the sort of bike where you ride in a more upright position (which will suit the aero design of the Variant) rather than riding in a tucked down position that sure won’t.

It’s also designed to perfectly accompany the style of adventure bikes too.

In fact the cool looks of the Variant – together with the stunning range of designs and finishes that Icon always offer – seems to be the main reason folk buy the Icon Variant.

It’s been around for a few years now so we’re well placed to find out exactly what it offers and what owners think about their own Icon Variants.

  • Full face adventure helmet
  • Carbon, fibreglass, Dyneema shell
  • Optically-correct shield
  • Comes with clear and dark shields*
  • Double-D ring fastener
  • Available sizes XS-XXXL
  • Expect to pay $350-$520

    icon variant ghost carbon motorcycle crash helmet side view
    Cool-looking Icon Variant Ghost Carbon with yellow tint shield (included)

Looking to buy an Icon?

We recommend both Revzilla (PA) for outstanding service and free delivery, and Rocky Mountain ATV/MC (UT & KY) for free delivery and returns*. Please click either link to drop onto their Icon helmets pages or see here for more info about our recommended retailers.

The Icon Variant is both DOT and ECE 22.05 certified. Beyond that, we usually look for some other testing – such as SHARP or Snell – to give us an idea of how well it’ll perform during an impact.

Unfortunately, the Variant hasn’t been tested by either safety lab; though we can see from the SHARP testing data that the the only other fibreglass Icon helmet tested to date was the Icon Airframe which scored a very respectable four stars out of five.

However, that wasn’t really the same construction/materials as the carbon/fibreglass/Dyneema Variant so isn’t directly comparable.

So, instead let’s take a look at the rest of the safety features the Variant offers.

That helmet shell construction is pretty exotic and the first time we’ve seem Dyneema used as part of a helmet shell. Or at least, it’s the first time a manufacturer has mentioned the name specifically, though there’s lots of other thermoplastics in use in helmet shells out there.

For those of you who don’t know (and neither did we!), Dyneema is actually an ultra-high strength polyethylene thermoplastic – according to wikipedia it has the highest impact absorption of any thermoplastic and is ultra-slippery too. So all-round a pretty good thing to make a helmet out of we’d have thought.

Combine that with fibreglass and carbon and we’d hope that the Icon Variant will offer excellent impact protection – though until it’s tested, it’s impossible to be sure.

icon-variant-deployed-camouflage-motorcycle-crash-helmet-side-rear-view
Very cool, very up-to-the-minute – the Variant Deployed camo

Other ‘safety’ stuff that’s on the helmet is fairly sparse – no drop down sun shield or EQRS for the Variant.

Icon says the shield is fog free though (a very important factor for a safe ride – for most of us) – but there’s no word on quite what the anti-fog treatment is. However, a couple of owners said that it works pretty well – and it probably helps that the shield’s a bit of a distance from your face too.

That shield’s also distortion free and very wide – to improve peripheral vision.

The helmet’s secured with a double-D ring fastener.

The word from owners we’ve come across is that helmet noise control on the Icon Variant is somewhere between good and very good.

The helmet’s been wind-tunnel designed and has decent padding inside, coupled with a narrow fitment. It’s probably not used for a massive amount of high-speed riding either (see below) – which should all contribute to making a helmet that, quite a few owners say, is particularly quiet.

Read our aero section below too for more info on this – but we’d expect that if you rode much distance at high speed in the Variant, that wind noise would get worse. But if you take it slow, then you should be good with the Variant.

There’s six front vents on the Variant to let air in – plus four rear vents to extract stale air.

The chin vents are opened/closed with the small vertical slider front-center on the outside of the chin guard. And if you want to block some of these vents off entirely, there’s another slider on the inside of the chin guard to invisibly block them up.

There’s also a couple of brow vents that direct air over the top of the head (both with open/close sliders) and they’re supplemented by a pair of crown vents right up top in the sun peak.

All this air entering the helmet above the shield pushes air into channels inside the helmet which directs air through the comfort lining and onto the head.

But do they all work?

Well it seems so – because most owners we came across said that it vents well and offers great cooling, even in really hot weather. So all good with the venting.

Icon have made a really big effort with the shield on the Variant.

There’s a lot of 3D moulding going on with that fancy shield – which could easily make for really distorted vision.

Thankfully, Icon has made the shield a distortion-free optically correct shield to compensate – and quite a few owners say it works really well and is very clear and distortion-free. Nice work Icon!

Apart from the Ghost Carbon Black Variant that comes with a yellow shield* all other versions should come with both a clear and tinted shield in the box. That’s another first we’ve come across with the Variant.

It’s also a really wide shield, offering great peripheral vision – though one owner said, looking forward, you can see the sun peak and chin guard sticking out front, which they found a bit distracting.

Another said that the half-opened positions are a bit pointless because you either end up with the bottom of the shield in your line of sight or looking through the shield at an oblique angle which can distort your vision – so it’s only really any good fully open or closed.

But they’re in the minority because most people find the shield system all good.

What does bother a few more people is that the shield’s more a very-slow-change shield than quick-change.

icon variant gloss white motorcycle crash helmet side view
Plain gloss white Variant

In this world of helmets with quick-release shields, most adventure style helmets can be a bit hard work when it comes to removing and swapping shields. And from the comments we’ve found, it seems the Variant’s one of the worst offenders – needing tools to do it and with owners using words like painful/confusing/annoying when it comes to swapping it out.

Shame that, because it’s a well thought out system otherwise.

So if you’re used to swapping out your shield lots to clean or change it, I’d check out the rest of our adventure helmet reviews or helmets with quick release shields.

The Icon Variant is only available in sizes down to XS, but on the larger sizes up to a massive XXXL.

Icon market the Variant as a long/narrow helmet – and we’d recommend you stick with that. Why?

Well there’s lots of people saying it’s a really comfortable helmet and the sizing’s about right.

But there’s also a lot of folks saying the cheek pads squeeze the face a lot – indicating they’re possibly trying on a helmet that’s too narrow for them.

And there’s also a ton of people saying that it’s an easy helmet to get on – but removing the helmet is a bit of a birthing experience and almost pulls your ears off! Eek.

Both of which point to the helmet suiting people with narrower heads – and to the neck roll being particularly tight. You’ve been warned (so if you order one, make sure you buy from a retailer who accepts free returns – like all our recommended retailers).

Inside the Variant is a fully removable and washable internal comfort lining made from Icon’s Hydradry material which is both moisture wicking and breathable. Owners say it’s plush and comfortable too (once you get the right shape and fitting).

icon-variant-cottonmouth-motorcycle-crash-helmet-side-view
Just one of the mad graphic versions of the Variant available – the Icon Variant Cottonmouth

Aero

It’s an adventure helmet with a sun peak and pointy chin guard – so can the aero be any good?

Well, there’s a couple of opinions out there.

First, some folks reckon the Variant is hard work above about 70mph. They that the aero stops working anything above that, meaning you look over your shoulder and the wind grabs the peak and pushes your head around.

Which would mean the Variant is only really good for non-motorway riding.

Others though, say the aero on the Variant is amazing with some folks saying even at 80 you can look around with little air pulling your head around.

I guess that points to it being dependent on the weather on the day and/or the type of bike you’re riding. Either of those factors could easily alter how well the helmet behaves on the road.

So, what I’d say is buy the helmet if you can handle motorway riding at no more than 70mph – and if you find it’s OK at anything above that, it’s a bonus.

Looks & Graphics

Like most Icon helmets, there’s a massive range of graphics available – from the sublime to the (almost) ridiculous.

All helmets feature the same carbon/fibreglass/Dyneema shell, but there’s a range of external (and internal) treatments.

icon-variant-doublestack-crash-helmet-side-view
Varant Doublestacks are available in red, blue, green, grey or hi-viz yellow

For example, there’s the Ghost Carbon Black pictured near the top of the page, that’s got a rubberised textured coating, camo interior and comes with a yellow shield!

You can get plain solid gloss black or white Variants – but the rest are a bit more ‘out there’.

We love the Variant Construct’s urban rawness (see video below); the Rubatone’s are always nice and classy and then there’s… well there’s too many cool ones to mention.

We’ve stuck a few photos up and down the page, but to see the full range, click through to our recommended retailers below – at the time of writing there’s a stack of Variants on offer at great prices too.

Best places to buy an Icon crash helmet?

Revzilla are based in Philadelphia and offer outstanding service (at the time of writing 9.75/10 at Reseller Ratings) 30 day refunds and free shipping on orders over $39.99 to 48 states.

We also recommend Rocky Mountain ATV/MC who score 4.9/5 at Google Customer Reviews, offer free shipping to 48 states on orders over $75, 45 day no quibble returns and will pay for shipping if it doesn't fit right.

They are our Recommended Retailers for quality of service and if you click one of our links and buy from them, we get a small sum from the sale at no extra cost to you - a massive THANKS! (it's how we finance the site).

Click to visit Revzilla
Click to visit Icon helmets at Revzilla
Click above to visit Rocky Mountain ATV/MC
Click above to visit Icon at Rocky Mountain ATV/MC

Icon Variant Video

Here’s a 5m look around the Icon Variant Construct.

Other stuff – audio, weight, glasses, warranty

The Icon Variant is designed to take your bluetooth system, having large ear pockets for speakers and a decent amount of space for a microphone. But note, make sure your head’s a longer, narrower shape otherwise you may find the speakers digging in.

It’s not a particularly light helmet – weighing in at about 3.5lbs (1.6Kg) it’s on the weightier side of helmets, though no one mentioned finding it heavy in the reports we found.

A couple of people did find it poor for glasses wearers though – there’s no glasses grooves cut into the comfort lining and it’s a struggle to get glasses on, especially if they’re larger than your average glasses.

All Icon helmets come with a minimal 1 year warranty (some helmets come with a 5 year warranty – so come on, up your game Icon!).

Overall/Summary

Most people seem to buy the Icon Variant because they love its looks or because it suits their type of bike. And with the fabulous range of graphics available, that’s a very fair shout indeed.

But it’s more than just a pretty face. That shield system (with two shields in the box) is great and the ventilation is decent too.

We’re not sure how well it’ll perform in an accident because it’s not been SHARP or Snell tested, but it’s got a super high tech composite shell and ECE/DOT certification so should be at least OK.

But if you’ve got a narrower head shape and don’t intend to break speed records in your Variant – and you love the look – then there’s no reason why the Icon Variant shouldn’t be a great companion on all your two wheeled adventures.

Crash Helmet Buying Guides

For (hopefully!) other useful information to help you when buying your next helmet, check our various guides - or have a look at our top helmet lists where we've got the top 10 rated helmets overall and best budget/safest/full face/flip-up helmets.

Good Alternatives to the Icon Variant?

Adventure style helmets (sometimes called dual sports helmets) are becoming more and more popular. Which means there’s some great helmets out there to choose from.

If you’re looking towards the top end of the market, there’s the Arai Tour X-4. That is a Snell M2015 certified helmet with a 5 year warranty and EQRS (worth having especially if you’re going to go off road).

Except for the Tourmax (below that’s available in Europe only), the Arai is the only adventure helmet we’ve looked at that’s been safety tested (by Snell in this case) so is the only one we’d out-and-out recommend. But there are a few others that their owners really rate as a usable helmet.

The Bell MX-9 Adventure is a real bargain. For its low price you get a helmet that weighs about the same as the Variant, but comes with a 5 year warranty and has all the features you’ll need if you’re looking to do a little off-roading (removable peak, space for goggles etc.)

Back up the pricing scale, Shoei’s Hornet X2 also has a 5 year warranty, and comes with EQRS, great aero and an excellent shield system.

An interesting one to check out is the fantastic Caberg Tourmax. It’s particularly interesting because it’s one of the few modular adventure helmets (with a flip-front) – but it’s also SHARP 5 star safety rated and available at a great price (but you’ll have to jump onto our UK site to find out where to order one – though it’s not DOT certified for use in mandatory helmet states).

Click to find all our other Adventure/dual-sport helmet reviews.

Looking to buy an Icon?

We recommend both Revzilla (PA) for outstanding service and free delivery, and Rocky Mountain ATV/MC (UT & KY) for free delivery and returns*. Please click either link to drop onto their Icon helmets pages or see here for more info about our recommended retailers.

Star Ratings

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Safety
Comfort
Noise
Features
Value
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