After Troy Lee Designs fine tuned their first half shell trail bike helmet – the A1 – into a safer, more sculpted, better ventilated and MIPS equipped A2, I wasn’t really expecting that an A3 was coming around the corner any time soon. Never known for resting on their laurels, the iconic Southern California mainstay has been chipping away on this new project for some time. Unsurprisingly, despite adding more coverage and features, the helmet maintains the sleek, fast looking outline and ventilation that we’ve come to expect from a brand so well known for their aesthetics. Read on for the full scoop…
- XS/S: 53 – 56 cm | M/L: 57 – 59 cm | XL/XXL: 60 – 63 cm
- MIPS 360º
- 3-piece shell
- 3-way visor adjust
- Custom Fidlock magnetic closure
- Antimicrobial sweat liner
- Dual layer foam: EPP low speed / EPS high speed
- Spare liner, hardware and 2X sweat glide system
- 375 grams without visor
- $220 USD
This is the first half lid from TLD with a Fidlock magnetic buckle. It’s custom made – as you can see from the logo – and operates quite nicely. No fumbling around, fast and easy to use with gloves on.
The straps are permanently anchored both fore and aft. Adjusting the length of their yoke section is done through a Y shaped plastic joint below the ears.
The A3 gained substantially more protection that covers down toward the base of the skull, but the designers were careful to leave ample room in the cutout section for both ears and eyewear.
Unsurprisingly, MIPS 360º is standard. Gone is the yellow colored liner – it’s now subtle and black, but safer than ever.
The visor screws are plastic and sit in a metal washer. They can be adjusted with a coin.
The new visor adjustment system features 3 preset positions. I mainly just used the middle one. With the visor all the way up, goggles can be stowed below, but glasses need to be stashed above with the arms in the vents.
The new retention system is not all that different from the old one. It still has an easy to use dial and 3 separate up/down positions. On the highest position it’s a little difficult to reach both the top and bottom of the dial, but it’s fairly easy to operate with just a thumb at the base.
The new sweat guide is a smart addition. It’s a soft, replaceable foam section that wicks sweat over toward your temples to help keep it from draining down into your eyes/eyewear/face. Two extra spares are included.
The new sweat liner covers a bit more surface area than the A2 did. It’s antimicrobial, plush and comfortable. The thickness is right in the middle of the road – not too thick, not too thin.
On the trail
Beginning with fit, I tested the M/L since I’m usually right between a medium and large, depending on the brand. Unsurprisingly it was just right. I can’t quite put a finger on it, but the shape of the inside seems slightly different than the A2. There certainly weren’t any hot spots, but I felt the actual structure of the helmet in other places on my head. It’s not a bad thing by any mean, but it is worth noting. The feel of added coverage was a welcome one.
Compared to something like a Bell Sixer, the A2 did have me wishing for a bit more rearward coverage and the A3 addresses that aspect admirably. The addition of Fidlock is a big upgrade as it’s just so much easier to use. I liked the new straps as well, they’re a little more pliable and soft, which made them more comfortable on the jaw. The new visor is also a big improvement – you don’t need to mess with any hardware when adjusting the visor now, which has much more range as well. Each setting clicks very positively into place and it’s easy to adjust with one hand while riding. I mainly rode with the retention system stem in the highest position and its new design does a far better job of staying out of the way of sunglass arms, which is a subtle tweak that goes a long ways.
As far as ventilation goes, most of my time in the A3 was in the winter months, where I was left wondering how well it would breathe once things got warm. Naturally, in the interest of “science” I recently just had to head South, down to California for some riding in much balmier weather. While the weather in CA now is still fairly cool, I did have a handful of long days in the saddle in fairly warm weather. From what I’ve found, the new sweat guide is a good addition. On trail, I never once noticed it as it was plush and comfortable. I found it interesting that they included two spares and wondered if that might be due it wearing quickly, but after a couple months of riding the stock guide in my helmet is still as good as new. It did seem to do a better job than the A2 at wicking sweat out to the sides, so it’s definitely a worthy update. Overall, my best estimate is that this lid runs along the lines of the A2 in terms of breathability purely from a ventilation standpoint. Put it this way – I didn’t notice a big difference, but I have always lauded the A2 as running quite cool anyway.
All in all, the A3 is the next logical step up from the A2 – a helmet that I already thought highly of. Most of its improvements are found in the small details and new/updated features as well as the added coverage. With how rowdy mountain bikers are getting in half lids these days, I think the extra material out back is its best aspect on paper. The increased price tag is a bit of a bummer, but that is par for the course compared to other helmets on the market these days, so I can’t criticize TLD too harshly for that. At the end of the day, I wasn’t really expecting this helmet to be coming about so quickly, but I did really appreciate all of the updates – namely to the visor, buckle and retention system. Fortunately for my personal health, I’ve yet to crash in it, but having had quite a few crashes in A2 lids over the years, I do think the dual density foam is a bit easier on the old skull. Surely the A3 is even better still. At the end of the day I can’t find anything I would personally change on this helmet – it’s a sure winner in my book.