Product Review: Icon Alliance Helmet


There is a well-worn motorcycle expression that chastises: get a 50-buck helmet for a 50-dollar head. But not everyone has the resources to spend $600 on a top-line Arai or Shoei.

Straddling the gap in between is the Icon Alliance full-face helmet, priced at $189.95. We tested Icon's "Primary" model, but the noggin protector is also available in the flashier Aggressor version and in solid colors for the same price. The flat-black version looks especially wicked.

Icon, naturally, rates the Alliance highly, purporting that it is "the most advanced polycarbonate helmet available." The Alliance uses a polymer (plastic) shell to save manufacturing costs, so it's a bit heavier than a high-end lid constructed from fiberglass or carbon fiber. (The new Mainframe model, made from a composite of fiberglass and Dyneema, supplants the Alliance as Icon's top model, retailing for $234.95.)

The Alliance uses venturi airflow channels inside the helmet's mold to funnel cooling air inside and around a rider's head, augmented by an effective ram-air top vent that opens with a one-touch press of a button. A positive-lock chin vent supplies fresh air to the rider when needed and also helps prevent the faceshield from fogging, aided in misty weather by a removable breath deflector. Its side exhaust ports have internal switches to open or close the ports, but turning the dials doesn't have any noticeable effect, which is kind of gimmicky.

The Korean-made Alliance feels remarkably similar to HJC's CL12. Indeed, a look inside sees similar padding in the crown area and brow, and the interior's chin bar exhaust vents appear to be identical. The non-removable liner is made of a material called Nylex and, while quite comfortable, it isn't quite as plush as the interiors of premium helmets.

Out on the road, the Snell M2000-approved lid works quite well, although, once again, it's not as quiet as the admittedly pricier brain buckets. Peripheral vision is unhindered by the cheekpads, but we found the lowish brow area partially obscures the road ahead when riding a sportbike with low clip-ons.

The Alliance's faceshield rotates upward through seven detents to give varying amounts of openings for fresh air. The only downside is that the detents aren't strong enough to hold the shield open in the middle positions at highway speeds. There is no locking tab (like that on Arai helmets) to ensure the shield stays closed at high speeds, such as when looking rearward, but that wasn't an issue for us, even at racetrack speeds.

Even under typical MCUSA abuse, the Icon's plastic faceshields have held up well. Shield changes require no tools and are fairly easy to accomplish once it's done a couple of times. Replacement visors are reasonably priced at $24.95 in clear, light tint or dark tint. On the flashier side, iridescent shields are available in silver, gold and blue for $34.95.

As one might expect of a budget-priced helmet, the exterior finish isn't quite as deep or as durable as many high-end lids, although the graphics are covered by a layer of clear so they won't peel off and look ratty. Plastic pieces such as the exterior vents are made from cheapish plastics, and one side of the flimsy rear exhaust port piece broke and came loose.

The Alliance turned out to be one of the most comfortable budget helmets I've worn. Best of all, it doesn't feel cheap, whether it's on your head or resting on your bike. Perhaps the best illustration of my feeling for Icon's Alliance is that I've worn it several times on the racetrack even though I have the option of wearing several other high-end helmets.

The Icon Alliance is a relative bargain, providing comfort, protection and style at a price well under $200 (including a helmet bag).