Troy Lee Designs A3 MIPS Review
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Troy Lee Designs A3 MIPS
|Price||$98.93 at REI|
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$129.93 at REI
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|$59.84 at Evo|
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|Pros||Extended back of the head coverage, Magnajust visor, Fidlock magnetic buckle, 5-star Virginia Tech safety rating, sweat control system||Amazing ventilation, comfortable, dual-shell protection, good head coverage, feature-packed||Lots of safety certifications, enhanced protective features, well ventilated, deep fit with lots of coverage||Lightweight, comfortable, affordable||Very affordable, great coverage, stylish, comfortable, MIPS|
|Cons||Pricey, moderate weight, less temporal coverage||Average weight, expensive||Expensive, moderate weight, visor design doesn't block low sun angles that well, helmet shell may conflict with some sunglass arms||Less coverage than some other models, small visor, average ventilation||Fixed visor, warm, visor doesn't detach|
|Bottom Line||A half-shell model with extended coverage and enhanced features that keeps the classic Troy Lee Designs looks||An incredibly airy and well-designed helmet that lives up to its high price tag||POC continues to push the envelope of protection and safety with this new fully-featured, high coverage half-shell||A versatile trail helmet that will stand up to all-day adventures and won't cost you an arm and a leg||An affordable helmet with high-end styling and coverage|
|Rating Categories||Troy Lee Designs A3...||Giro Manifest Spher...||POC Kortal Race MIPS||Giro Radix MIPS||Specialized Camber|
|Specs||Troy Lee Designs A3...||Giro Manifest Spher...||POC Kortal Race MIPS||Giro Radix MIPS||Specialized Camber|
|Rotational Impact Protection System?||MIPS Evolve||MIPS Spherical||MIPS Integra||MIPS||MIPS|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||14.53 oz, 412g||14.1 oz, 401g||14.14 oz, 401g||12.6 oz, 360g||13.8 oz, 394g|
|Number of vents||16||19||17||25||13|
|Goggle or Sunglasses Integration?||No||Integrated eyewear grippers||Yes||No||No|
|Sizes||XS/SM, M/L XL/XXL||S, M, L||XS/SM, M/L L/XL||S, M, L, XL||XS, S, M, L, XL|
|Certifications||CPSC, CE EN1078, AS/NZS2063||CPSC Bicycle for ages 5+, CE EN1078||CPSC Bicycle for ages 5+, EN1078, Dutch NTA 8776 e-bike, AS/NZS 2063||CPSC, CE EN1078||CPSC|
|Virginia Tech Helmet Safety Rating (if applicable)||5-star||5-star||5-star|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Troy Lee Designs made waves when they introduced the A1 many years ago. It was one of the first extended coverage half-shell helmets and it had a distinctive style that set it apart from the competition. The A2 was the follow-up, with improved ventilation and dual-density foam inside. Both of those models are still available, but the new A3 is the next step in the evolution of their half-shell helmet design. With extended coverage, enhanced protective features, an adjustable visor, and signature TLD styling, we found a lot to like in their newest model.
When Troy Lee Designs made the A3 they took several steps to enhance its protection compared to their other half shell helmet models. It has extended coverage, a B-Series MIPS liner, and a few other protective features intended to make it their most protective helmet to date. They did such a good job, apparently, that the A3 earned a 5-star safety rating in Virginia Tech's independent helmet safety testing.
The A3 has a silhouette and style that looks a lot like the A1 and A2 that came before it. The noticeable difference is extended coverage at the back of the helmet where the shell covers more of the occipital lobe and drops down more behind the ears. The A3 does not offer much more coverage by the temporal lobe, especially when compared to the POC helmets that drop down a fair amount further. Overall though, we feel the extended coverage of this helmet brings its protection up a notch compared to the A2, for example. Should your head and helmet make unwanted contact with the ground or a trailside branch, the adjustable visor's hardware is designed to break away in case of a direct impact.
Inside the helmet, Troy Lee Designs employs two densities of foam, EPP, and EPS. If you look inside the helmet, you can actually see two different layers of foam that are molded together but are slightly different colors. The softer EPP foam is claimed to help dissipate the forces from low-speed impacts better, while the harder EPS foam is intended to help with high-speed impact forces. The B-Series MIPS liner also lives inside the helmet and is meant to help dissipate rotational impact forces to the brain. The fit adjustment cradle is actually attached to this liner, and when it is tightened it pulls tension evenly around the whole head. When the helmet is nice and snug, you can move the shell by hand and feel it move independently of the MIPS. We also didn't notice any squeaking or noise coming from the interface of the shell and MIPS liner like on some other helmets.
Troy Lee Designs claims the new A3 is "so comfortable you won't want to take it off." We found it to be quite comfortable. It's the kind of helmet that you basically forget you're wearing while you're riding. It has a versatile fit that should work for most head shapes. It comes in three shell sizes, XS/S, M/L, and XL/XXL, and it fits true to size. It comes with full coverage padding that can be trimmed to your preferences, strap splitters that hold the straps flat by the ears, and a quality fit adjustment system that is integrated with the MIPS liner.
Inside the helmet, the X-static anti-microbial padding covers almost the entirety of the floating MIPS liner inside of the helmet, and it is designed to be trimmed to customize the fit to rider preferences. We didn't experiment with this feature, but we see how it could be useful to dial it perfectly for your head shape if need be. The fit adjustment system is easy to operate with one hand and allows for a large range of tension adjustment. It can also be moved vertically into three positions to get it in just the right spot to cradle the occipital lobe. The fit adjustment system is also attached to the MIPS liner, so when you tighten it, it wraps around the head as opposed to just pushing your head into the front of the helmet. We did find that the arms of some sunglasses could conflict with the retention system or the shell behind the ears. Lastly, the strap splitter is well designed, easily adjusted, and it holds the straps nice and flat against the side of your head with no annoying twisting.
Troy Lee did a good job with the ventilation of the A3. It's not the breeziest helmet we've tested, but it ventilates well enough and is roughly on par with the A2. It has a similar but updated vent layout compared to the Troy Lee Designs A1 and A2 helmets, with lots of shallow channels inside to promote some airflow around the head.
The A3 has a total of 16 vents, 4 of which are at the front of the helmet to draw air in just above the brow. There are 4 decent-sized vents on top of the head and one tiny one at the back middle. At the back of the head, there are 7 additional exhaust vents. Inside the helmet, there is a network of shallow air channels that promote airflow around the sides of the head toward the exhaust vents. While riding, you can feel the air passing through the front intake vents and a little circulation around the head. The MIPS liner and padding are perfectly matched with the vent layout and don't block much if any, airflow. That said, the A3 still doesn't feel quite as breezy as models like the POC Kortal or Specialized Ambush which have more vents at the front and deeper inner channels that allow air to flow more freely from front to back. It's by no means a stifling helmet, it just can't quite match the top performers in this metric.
The A3 has a number of great features to enhance protection and user-friendliness. The Magnajust visor is one of the biggest upgrades compared to previous Troy Lee half-shell helmets. It is adjustable into three positions to optimize it for your preferences while riding and can be moved up or down with one hand. A small tab at the middle of the visor fits into any of three indentations in the helmet, and a small magnet on the underside of the tab holds it securely in place. If you wear goggles, the visor can also be pushed up even higher to make room to stash your goggles on your helmet when not in use. Additionally, the hardware that holds the visor on is designed to break away in the event of a crash, and an extra set of screws are included with the helmet.
Troy Lee went with a Fidlock magnetic buckle for the chin strap. These buckles are growing in popularity and make it much easier to open and close, even one-handed. Another interesting feature is the Sweat Glide system. This is a thin foam gutter of sorts that is intended to channel sweat so it runs down the side of your face rather than dripping on your lenses or running into your eyes. We had a few drips of sweat escape the sweat glide system, but most of it was effectively channeled off to the temples. TLD includes 2 extra sweat glide strips with each helmet. The padding of the helmet is also somewhat unique in that it's designed to be trimmed to your preferences. The untrimmed pads are pretty much full coverage, but they have perforations in a number of spots should you desire to trim them to better fit your head shape or maximize ventilation. The helmet also comes with an extra set of pads should yours wear out or your trimming experiment go awry.
At a measured weight of 412-grams in a size M/L, the A3 comes in about mid-pack in terms of weight. For a highly protective trail/all-mountain helmet, it's by no means heavy, although it likely won't be the first choice for the truly weight-conscious riders among us. For comparison, it's about 62-grams heavier than the lightest extended coverage half-shell we tested, the Specialized Ambush, but only 11-grams heavier than the new POC Kortal MIPS or Giro Manifest Spherical. For most riders, this weight difference is negligible and would likely go unnoticed out on the trail.
Our test period wasn't quite long enough to make any definitive statements about the A3's long-term durability. The thoughtful design, attention to detail, and quality construction, however, lead us to believe that it should stand the test of time. The foam is very cleanly molded into the shell with no visible gaps, and the shell wraps around the lower edge of the foam to protect it from damage. The straps, Fidlock buckle, and size adjustment system all appear to be relatively good quality and give us no cause for concern. Troy Lee includes an extra set of pads, two extra sweat-glide strips, and two extra visor screws should any of those elements of the helmet wear out over time. Assuming normal use and care, we feel the A3 will keep your head protected for several seasons of riding.
At its retail price, the A3 is on the upper end of the spectrum of helmets we've tested. That said, we're impressed by this model's protective features, coverage, and robust construction. If you're a fan of Troy Lee's distinctive helmet styling, the A3 improves upon their previous models and will likely stand up to several seasons of abuse if you can avoid hitting the deck.
The A3 keeps Troy Lee Designs' classic helmet looks with an updated, fully-featured design. Its extended coverage, dual-density foam, and B-Series MIPS liner help to enhance its protection while a new Magnajust visor offers the adjustability and goggle compatibility that was missing from earlier models. We found it to be impressively comfortable with loads of adjustability, and a sweat management system that actually works. It's not the airiest helmet on the market, but beyond that, we found little not to like about this impressive new model.
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