Back in early 2013, Troy Lee’s A1 dropped like a bomb in the trail/enduro/open-face helmet segment, and with good reason – it offered extended protection, a very comfortable fit, and great looks to boot. It went on to become hugely popular, and it would be fair to say that you couldn’t visit any kind of trail center or riding destination today without seeing the now iconic lid on a good number of the riders present. But Troy is not one to rest on his laurels, and he’s been putting all his energy into finding ways to make helmets even safer and more comfortable. The result is the all-new A2. The helmet launches today, but we were Read More »
Back in early 2013, Troy Lee’s A1 dropped like a bomb in the trail/enduro/open-face helmet segment, and with good reason – it offered extended protection, a very comfortable fit, and great looks to boot. It went on to become hugely popular, and it would be fair to say that you couldn’t visit any kind of trail center or riding destination today without seeing the now iconic lid on a good number of the riders present. But Troy is not one to rest on his laurels, and he’s been putting all his energy into finding ways to make helmets even safer and more comfortable. The result is the all-new A2. The helmet launches today, but we were lucky enough to lay our hands on an early sample so we’re here to tell you all about how it performs already.
TLD A2 Highlights
- MIPS brain protection system, reduces rotational forces to the brain
- Dual density impact liner with co-molded EPS and EPP providing safety at multiple impact velocities
- Polycarbonate shell with aerospace filament reinforced shell liner
- 16% extra EPS thickness in frontal lobe impact zones
- Raised EPS splines for improved impact absorption
- Anodized aluminum hardware with breakaway technology
- Exceeds certification standards: CPSC 1203, CE EN 1078, AS NZ 2063:2008
- 25% increase in air intake and exhaust port surface area size coupled with deep internal channeling allows ample airflow and cooling efficiency
- Extra plush comfort liner with hydrolytic foam and x-static fabric for quick dry moisture wicking performance
- Fixed side strap anchors for a no-fuss perfect fit every time (AUS/NZ version has adjustable side straps)
- Slimline flexible stabilizer arms
- 13 position adjustable stabilizer baskets at side and rear attachment locations
- Large eyeport and side clearance for a perfect goggle or glasses fit
- Multiple configurations for glasses storage
- Multi position metalized cam lock adjustable rear stabilizer with +- 20 mm movement (60mm horizontal, 20 mm vertical)
- TLD ultra breathable helmet bag
- Accessory sticker kit and extra visor hardware included
- 3 year warranty
- MSRP: $169 USD (Regular) $175 USD (Reflective and SRAM edition)
Upon first glance, you get the feeling you’re looking at the A1, but somehow you know you’re not. The A2 retains much of the same overall shape and coverage as its predecessor, but it strikes a sleeker pose. Put side by side with the A1, all the lines are more heavily sculpted, and the helmet seems more streamlined. There is also a D3-esque shark fin to help hold your goggles, for that extra enduro effect. Additionally, the vents have all been reconfigured and moved around, in line with one of the major design goals of the A2: improved ventilation. There are actually less vents in the shell compared to the A1 (13 vs. 16), but the ports are much bigger and more elongated in shape (new A2 on the left):
The visor has also been given a more sculpted look, and it’s still held on by the same classy metal hardware. The straps now feature a fixed splitter or anchor, which is meant to help hold the straps in the perfect position and make the helmet easier to fit (although if you live in Australia or New Zealand your A2 will feature the old adjustable side straps in order to conform to local legislation). The internal harness or “basket” is adjustable in a multitude of ways: there are several anchor points to choose from, and a speed-dial at the back allows you to easily fine tune the size and fit.
The most important feature of a helmet is of course the protection it offers, and improving the safety features was another major driver behind the A2 project. In what they claim is a “first for this class of helmet”, TLD went with a co-molded, dual-density EPS/EPP liner that is meant to improve energy absorption both for low and high velocity impacts. Additionally, ALL TLD trail helmets will now be sold exclusively with MIPS, the “Multi-directional Impact Protection System” designed to reduce the amount of rotational forces transmitted to the brain during angled and off-axis impacts.
In addition to the new liner and MIPS, the A2 features a polycarbonate shell reinforced with “aerospace filament”, 16% extra EPS thickness in the frontal lobe impact zones, and raised EPS splines for improved impact absorption. The visor hardware is designed to allow it to break away if necessary. All in all an impressive list of safety features, and when tested against other leading helmets on the market, TLD found their new helmet outperformed them all – we only have their word for it, but the A2 is of course also certified above and beyond the applicable market standards as well. As for the safety of those fresh new graphics, there's a soft, netted carrying bag included with every helmet to help it survive in your trunk or in the back of your truck.
Flipping the A2 over, the internal liner has been slimmed down compared to the A1, in line with the quest for improved ventilation. The MIPS anchor points have also been improved with the addition of a patch of soft fabric surrounding each anchor point. This should hopefully help avoid your hair getting snagged, a common issue on the original A1 MIPS. Time to hit the trails!
On The Trail
The aspect of the A1 that set it apart the most was always going to be the fit and the feel of it. With a generous liner and a deep shape, the original A1 experience was almost full-face helmet like, that’s how snug and embracing it is. With so much done to improve ventilation and a much less imposing liner, how does the A2 stack up? Good news – it’s close! The helmet still sits deep and gives a secure, wrap-around feeling. If you pay attention, you can now feel the individual foam “pillows” of the liner, but only if you really try. There is enough room for glasses (and goggles work well too), while the visor stays high and essentially out of your line of sight.
The main difference in fit and feeling comes from the fact that the liner is much shorter on the sides. Where the A1’s liner wraps around the skull all the way from the forehead to behind the ears, the A2’s liner stops before the ears. Inside the helmet, the A2’s liner is also thinner and does not loop out towards the side of the helmet like on the A1. All told, this gives the A2 a bit more of a “floaty” feeling compared to the A1. Coupled with the extra venting, it has a much more airy feel to it in use.
The whole experience is of a lighter, less restrictive lid, which bodes well for those long, hot days soon to be upon us…
The new strap system is a great improvement. No more fiddling about with those pesky 3-way adjustable straps, just set the length of the chin strap and you’re good to go. TLD also provides a set of forehead shims to help fine tune the fit should your ears happen to sit in a more unusual spot – a nifty solution.
With the chin strap and the harness properly adjusted to your head shape and size, the A2 is stable and comfortable in use, including on rough trails. Although it feels less snug than an A1, it basically provides the same stability in use.
So what with all that extra ventilation? The A1 is nothing if not hot, so it was never going to be too difficult to improve on this aspect. Although we have not been able to test the A2 in proper summer conditions, we have found it very comfortable so far on warmer days (20C/68F and sunny). The whole experience is of a lighter, less restrictive lid (although it actually tips the scales at pretty much the same weight as the A1), which bodes well for those long, hot days soon to be upon us…
Things That Could Be Improved
Within the given design parameters, we think the new liner design is great, it breathes well and is still very comfortable. Could it be made longer, to wrap around the head a bit more? We’d say so, but then, we might get back to complaining about how warm it runs. There’s just no pleasing some people.
Long Term Durability
This is a First Ride type of review, so we have not yet put in the miles required for a full longevity report. We do have great experiences with our A1s behind us however, so we’re pretty confident there won’t be much to worry about with the A2 either. As for crashing, we’re hopeful of keeping it rubber side down for a while, but when that inevitably ceases to be the case, we take comfort in the knowledge that TLD worked long and hard to come up with a helmet that provides excellent levels of protection.
What’s The Bottom Line?
Tinkering with such an iconic product as the A1 might seem a bit intimidating, but it’s also an exciting opportunity to keep progressing. TLD’s new A2 represents a step forwards in terms of protection and safety features, while offering up a different, more ventilated user experience. It is still “enduro-ready” but it should now also appeal to an even broader group of everyday trail and all-mountain riders. And if you still crave that super-snug A1 feeling, fear not – it remains in the catalog too!
More information at: www.troyleedesigns.com.
About The Reviewer
Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.
Photos by Johan Hjord and Tal Rozow