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Troy Lee Designs A3 Open Face Helmet

Vital Rating: (Spectacular)
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All-New Troy Lee Designs A3 MTB Trail Helmet Review

Super comfortable and very safe, the A3 combines the best parts of the A1 and A2.

Rating: Vital Review
All-New Troy Lee Designs A3 MTB Trail Helmet Review

One plus two equals three, that’s pretty much as simple as it gets. But when Troy lee Designs set out to create the heir to the popular A1 and A2 helmets, it wasn’t just a question of taking the best bits from the two predecessors and mixing them up, although as it turns out, that’s pretty much what the A3 is. This all-new half-shell helmet launches today, but we’ve had our sample out on the trails for a couple of months already so we’re ready to share our thoughts on it.

Troy Lee Designs A3 Highlights

  • Co-molded EPP and EPS for low and high-speed, patent pending impact energy management
  • B-Series MIPS Rotational Brain Protection system creates an optimal 360 degree fit that can maximize the safety features built into the A3
  • Advanced layering 3-piece shell
  • 3-Way Magnajust® visor easily accommodates goggles whether they are stowed on the upswing or on your face
  • TLD Sweat Glide System – EVA wicking foam behind the comfort liner along the front brow directs sweat away from the eyes and optics. Includes 2 spares
  • 2-piece Ionic® comfort liner for anti-microbial and sweat wicking properties that is also quick to dry
  • 16 vents optimally tuned with the channeling of the helmet
  • Premium 3d Fidlock® magnetic buckle system and composite smart shear screws are made to shear away during severe impact/direct hit to visor
  • Includes helmet carrying bag, (2) spare sweat glide strips and a spare Ionic® comfort liner and sticker kit
  • Certification - CPSC 1203, CE EN 1078, AS NZ 2063:2008.
  • Size range: XS/S: 53 – 56 cm | M/L: 57 – 59 cm | XL/XXL: 60 – 63 cm
  • Weight: 423 grams (size L, verified)
  • MSRP: $220 USD

Initial Impressions

We still remember trying on the A1 for the first time in 2013. Rarely, if ever, had we encountered such comfort and such a feeling of security in a half-shell helmet. It had a soft and rich liner, and the way it wrapped itself around the head instead of perching precariously on top of it was a novel concept back then. The extra coverage around the side and back of the head was also still something new at the time. It did run very hot however, an issue that became one of the major drivers behind the design of the A2 which first saw the light in 2017. The A2 offered much better ventilation and also introduced a dual-density EPS/EPP liner that improved the helmet’s performance in regards to high- and low-speed impact management. The A2 served up a more angular interpretation of the by-now iconic styling of the A1, while the fit was a little less snug. Enter the A3…

From left to right: A1, A2, A3

Placing the three helmets side-by-side there’s no mistaking the heritage. The A3 moves back towards the rounder and less busy overall shape of the A1, while you can clearly see it “reaching around” behind the ears more than either of its predecessors. The 16 air vents have all been moved around as well, the major difference being the two large openings right at the front of the helmet. Aesthetics are always subjective, but we don’t mind going on record stating that the A3 really looks very good.

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Safety is of course the most important aspect of helmet design, and TLD has continued to push the envelope with the A3. The dual-density EPS/EPP liner is there, optimized to deal with both high- and low-speed impact forces. The ubiquitous MIPS liner is on duty to help reduce the amount of rotational forces transmitted to the brain in case of off-axis impacts to the head. The visor features break-away screws to allow it to come off in a crash, to avoid it snagging onto something and twisting your head. The A3 meets and surpasses all the usual helmet safety standards, and it was award a 5-star rating by Virginia Tech after testing.

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In terms of comfort, the A3 brings back a full interior liner that wraps around the skull almost entirely. The internal harness can be adjust in height as well as circumference. The chin straps use a new kind of adjustable buckle to allow you to adjust the straps around your ears as needed, and there’s a magnetic FidLock main strap buckle that is super-simple to open and close.

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TLD has also now added a sweatband around the forehead area, intended to stop sweat from dripping into your eyes by leading it away to the sides. The sweatband is made from a very soft rubber-like material and is attached under the comfort liner – you can run the helmet without it if for some reason you don’t like it or it causes you discomfort. The comfort liner itself has been made to be customized, you can cut various bits off if you want to really adapt it to your head and/or riding conditions.

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The visor features a new “Magnajust” adjustment system, which uses a central tab instead of a third visor screw as on previous helmets. The tab clicks into one of three slots to hold the visor in your preferred position, and it can also slide up on a special “glide strip” when you want to move the visor out of the way completely – handy for pushing up your goggles during those transfer stages.

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To finish off this overview section, the finish is exemplary, and the level of attention to detail is very high. All the materials used seem to be of very high quality, and the manufacturing tolerances seem to be very tight. At $220 USD, the A3 checks in at the top end of the market in terms of pricing, but you do get a lot for your money: in addition to the helmet, there’s a spare comfort liner, two spare rubber sweatbands, two spare visor screws, spare Velcro patches, a soft carrying pouch and a set of stickers. We’ve seen other similarly priced helmets show up with nothing but the lid in the box.

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On The Trail

Slipping into the A3 for the first time took us right back to that A1 feeling. The helmet sits “around” your head more so than “on” it, and the expansive soft liner really cradles your head – not quite like a full-face helmet, but it does in a way remind us of that experience. The adjustments work really well and provide all the range needed to fine tune the fit. This tester usually wears a size M/L in TLD open face helmets, and the A3 sizing is spot on (for a 58.5 cm head measurement). Even with a pony tail getting in the way, we didn’t have to move the internal harness to the highest position, something that is often the case with many helmets (to avoid the helmet pushing down over the eyes).

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We’ve tested the A3 both with riding glasses and goggles, with good results in both cases. There is plenty of room for eyewear out front, and the helmet remains super stable in action regardless of how you chose to run it. Note that it’s ALMOST possible to run a goggle strap without covering any vents – a wide strap will partially cover a few of them but none in their entirety.

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What about ventilation then? The new vent placement has definitely improved things in terms of airflow, which provides a good cooling effect when you’re moving. That full liner will heat up a bit more than a leaner version, but that’s what the cut lines are for – if you find that the A3 runs a bit too hot for your riding climate, you’ll be able to remove a few of the liner “pillows” to provide even more airflow.

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We’re not huge fans of those “sweatbands” in general, but TLD’s implementation on the A3 is really good. Where other such bands have left us with a bit of a mark and sometimes even a sore forehead after a few hours, this did not happen with the A3. The A3 sweatband is soft and comfortable, and we also found it relatively effective at keeping sweat out of your eyes. It does not spell the end of that particular problem, as your emanations will eventually overpower it if you sweat a lot, but it certainly buys you some time before the floodgates open. And, if for some reason you don’t mesh with the band, you can easily remove it.

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What’s The Bottom Line?

Troy Lee’s half-shell helmets are among the most popular options out there, and with good reason. They are comfy, safe, and most would agree look pretty rad to boot. The A3 takes everything we liked about the A1 and A2 and mixes it together in a very impressive package. Is it pricey? Yes. Is it also incredibly comfortable, very safe, and easy to look at? Yes!

More information at: www.troyleedesigns.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord - Age: 47 // Years Riding MTB: 15 // Weight: 190-pounds (87-kg) // Height: 6'0" (1.84m)

Johan 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 Nils Hjord and Johan Hjord

Specifications

Product Troy Lee Designs A3 Open Face Helmet
Riding Type Cross Country, Dirt Jump / Slopestyle, Enduro / All-Mountain, Trail
Rider Unisex
Number of Vents 16 with channeling
Construction
  • Co-molded EPP and EPS for low- and high-speed Patent Pending impact energy management
  • B-Series MIPS Rotational Brain Protection system
  • Advanced layering 3-piece shell
  • 3-Way Magnajust visor accommodates goggles stowed on the upswing
  • TLD Sweat Glide System, EVA wicking foam behind the comfort liner along the brow directs sweat away from eyes and optics
  • 2-piece Ionic comfort liner is anti-microbial, sweat wicking, and quick drying
  • Premium 3d Fidlock magnetic buckle system
  • Composite smart shear screws made to break away during severe impact/direct hit to visor
  • Adjustable Padding Yes
    Certification CPSC 1203, CE EN 1078, AS NZ 2063:2008
    Bag Includes helmet carrying bag
    Size XS/S (53-56cm) | M/L (57-59cm) | XL/XXL (60-63cm)
    Colors Proto White | Camo Gray/Red | UNO Silver/Electro | UNO Black
    Weight 0 lb 14.9 oz (423 g)
    Miscellaneous 2021 product year release
    Includes spare sweat glide strips (2) and a spare Ionic comfort liner and sticker kit
    Weight: 423 grams, size L, verified
    Price $220
    More Info

    troyleedesigns.com

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