Review by Ian Collins // Photos by Ian Collins and Fred Robinson
The Troy Lee Designs Daytona series of helmets (that’s the "D" in D3) was originally developed back when mountain bikers wore skin suits and obsessed over ensuring that their 150mm 30-degree rise Ringle stem had the exact same color purple anodizing as their Cook Bros Racing cranks. The Daytona, D2, and D3 have had a few things in common - carbon shells, nicely sculpted vents, badass clean lines, and rad visors. Looks and functionality aside, TLD has also strived to be a class leader in safety over the years.
It almost goes without saying that the D3 helmet is the gold standard in gravity riding and racing - perhaps that’s what makes it the most popular gravity helmet. Since its inception it has been used by several racers and teams that aren't even affiliated with TLD, and in many cases are endorsed by other helmet manufacturers. These demanding athletes don't settle, so they repaint or cover up graphics with their own stickers and ride what keeps them safe and comfortable. We can't be fooled though, we know what they’re are actually wearing.
So what it is about the D3 that draws almost everyone to it? Let’s take an in-depth look at the features and on trail performance.
D3 Carbon Helmet Highlights
- Aerospace carbon/composite shell construction
- Dual density shock pad system
- Exceeds bicycle and snow safety certifications: CPSC 1203, CE EN1077, CE EN1078, ASTM F1952, ASTM F2032, ASTM F2040
- 20 high-flow intake and exhaust ports with injection-molded intake system and EPS channeling
- Removable/replaceable/washable CoolMax and Dri-Lex padding
- Adjustable visor with machined titanium hardware
- Titanium D-ring chin strap
- Quick-release cheek pads
- Includes two visors
- Includes helmet bag
- Colors: Speed CF Orange, Finish Line CF Yellow, Gwin Replica CF Black, and Pinstripe II CF Black
- Six sizes ranging from XS-XXL
- MSRP $450
When you first pull the D3 out of its nice, softly lined travel bag, you'll definitely notice its weight - or rather the lack of it. At around 1,100 grams it's pretty light for the level of protection it offers. Aside from the obvious bold graphics and pops of color, your eyes will be drawn to the little things that speak volumes about TLD’s attention to detail. Finely machined screws that mount the visor and D-ring chin strap closures are both made of titanium.
As one takes a pulled back glance at the helmet, its aerodynamic-looking design and the overall intention it has for moving air become very apparent. This lid is designed to move fast and breathe well. It features a total of 20 vents – 14 up front and 6 out back - most of which are covered in a metal screening that prevents mud from entering the helmet. The sleek rubber molding nicely caps off the carbon shell and assimilates with the graphics all while protecting parts of the helmet that would typically be prone to getting banged up. The sum of these parts all lead up to a very nice package.
On The Trail
After putting the D3 on, the first thing a rider will notice is the plush padding and secure fit. Offered in six sizes from XS-XXL, it fits any head from 20.5 to 25.6-inches in circumference. The helmet fits comfortably, feels solid, and really hugs your head nicely – not to the point that you feel like you're in a sensory deprivation chamber though. It still lets in noises so you can hear your buddies telling you how slow you are, or more importantly, in the event of something catastrophic you won't be unaware because you're deafened by layers of padding and bulk. It's just right with no excessive movement yet it's not overly restrictive either.
As you move around in the D3, those with neck braces will notice and appreciate that the back of the lid is dramatically sculpted to work with all manufacturers offerings without limiting how much you can tilt your head up to look down the trail. The previous TLD D2 helmet wasn't particularly stellar in this department, and was a bit restrictive when worn with a neck brace. You will also love how well the D3 accepts just about every pair of goggles known to man and fits quite nicely with them. The plastic molding that accepts the goggles is tailor-made to ensure that they nestle nicely into place.
Once moving down the trail, as expected the helmet does exactly what it's supposed to. It breathes and ventilates well, doesn't move around under medium successive hits, or even big jarring ones such as fast G-outs. The nicely sized and shaped visor keeps the sun and elements out of your eyes and eyewear, the chin strap doesn't chafe, and the pads feel great. No strange howling noises come from the vents. To top things off, it looks cool and makes even gapers look as "factory" as can be.
Most importantly, it does a great job of protecting the most vital part of your body. In both small and large get-offs, the dual density shock pad system helps protect and absorb impact while transferring minimal shock to the rider's head. As a person who quite often finds himself off the bike unexpectedly, I can say the D3 does an excellent job of protecting and preventing trauma in a variety of unfortunate situations.
Things That Could Be Improved
While this helmet is virtually devoid of flaws, there is one small quip worth mentioning. In the picture below you can see the helmet's pad liner in two different states.
Attached to one liner there is a not-so-plush strip of black plastic that rests on the rider's forehead, and on the other it has been removed. Many users of the D3 complained that the helmet had a tendency to pinch the forehead in two different places just above the eyebrows. After snipping the plastic strip off and re-installing the liner the problem was gone. I was initially concerned that removal of this strip may cause the liner to unravel, but worry not, it's attached by its own independent set of threads. Some will prefer to have the strip installed as it feels more secure. As we all know, heads come in all shapes and sizes, so the fact that it’s easily removable is a nice customization option.
Long Term Durability
This happens to be my second D3 helmet. I spent two plus years on the last one, and the only difference is that this one has a louder set of graphics reminiscent of a custom lid Chris Kovarik had mocked up back in the day. In terms of durability and ease of use this helmet is top notch. TLD has all the bases covered. The pads are easily removable and washable, yet don't breakdown after repeated washings. The helmet cleans up nicely even after being ridden in adverse conditions, and as I stated before, the rubber moldings help protect the lid from getting banged up after being tossed around during day-to-day use. After multiple slide-outs and silly inconsequential crashes the surface coating remained tough and continued to shine. While the visor did crack after a handful of small falls, TLD thought ahead by including a spare visor that perfectly matches the helmet. In the event of a big crash, TLD offers a solid crash replacement policy that will save you a few bucks.
What's The Bottom Line?
If you're in the market for a new helmet and accept nothing but the best to protect your brilliant brain, then look no further. If you want the looks, ventilation, and protection but want to save a few bucks and don't mind an extra few grams, consider one of the composite models for about $75 less. Regardless of which D3 model you choose to ride, you won't be disappointed by it in any way. The smooth lines, killer style, and thoughtful consideration for safety make the D3 one of the best mountain bike helmets your money can buy.
Visit www.troyleedesigns.com for more details.
About The Reviewer
Ian Collins grew up racing mountain bikes on the East Coast before moving to California in search of the never ending riding season. Although he's generally a fan of slick and steep riding conditions, Ian has gotten acclimated out west and loves its speed. Also an avid surfer, what's most important to him in a trail is flow. Known for being meticulous and borderline obsessive about bike setup, he aids in product development for local frame builder Turner Bikes when he's not out on a photo mission.