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Appealing to the dashing young rider with flash and force, ICON Motorsports and their insane marketing department has been turning heads for the better part of the millenia. Equally qualified, and only slightly less shocking, Scorpion Sports is also trying to draw you in and “Get Stung.” But what are these helmets really made of? Is their stuff really tougher? Is their trot really hotter? Having some hands on experience with these brands, I’d like to take you through a closer look at Scorpion and Icon to see how deep their iron runs.

Behind the overt marketing campaigns, both of these helmet manufacturers have a good deal of substance. They compete on a continually refreshing line-up of helmets, replete with limited edition graphics every season. Each selection constantly redefines what it means to be current, with the latest styles, fashions and anti-fashions that the industry can cook up. However, if you look closer, through all the smoke, mirrors, and crazy burn-outs, they both exhibit an extraordinary commitment to safety and function, as evidenced by a number of the unique technologies that they each have to offer.

Let’s start by looking at the assembly line of helmets that ICON and Scorpion have to offer. It is difficult to break either of these sets of choices into ‘Sport’ or “Touring’ categories since they are all quite versatile in function. ICON operates very simply, offering just 3 standard full face helmet choices and one dirt-inspired full-face option. These helmet rise progressively in price offering slightly improving fit and features at each level. Choosing a helmet model is easy, choosing a graphic can be more difficult, with scores to choose from each year. Though their helmets could easily suit riders of many different styles, they have definitely taken a stance with their marketing campaign to favor sport and stunt riding, with a slant towards the edgier rider.

Scorpion has an increased selection presenting 6 full face helmets, along with a variety of open face, half helmets, and dirt helmets. Scorpion flings their net to a wider market by offering more lids at broader price points. In addition, they do a better job at marketing and designing their helmets to work across the gamut of rider styles. We’ve reviewed several helmets as ‘sport’ or ‘touring’, but quickly found that the opposite demographic enjoys them equally.

OPINION:ICON riders, you know who you are. If this is your game, decide how much your budget allows and choose your lid accordingly. The more you pay for, the more you receive in features. Scorpion riders are a more eclectic bunch. No matter what kind of bike you ride, you can find a Scorpion helmet that matches your style and personality.

What about fit? Internal headshape, along with the quality and fit of the internal liners, plays an important part in making these helmets to be successful. ICON, though presenting a smaller selection, actually has a wide range of internal shapes. The Variant is round-oval, the Alliance is fairly intermediate oval, the Airframe runs narrow, and the Airmada is closest to long-oval.

Scorpion tends to stick much more towards the intermediate oval fit. After all, this is the most common headshape. An exception to this trend is the EXO-900, which fits surprisingly long oval for a modular helmet. In fact, for those with a more oval headshape, the EXO-900 is probably the best modular option of any brand. There are other minor differences, like a round oval EXO-400 and a slightly oval EXO-1100.

Regarding the internals of the helmet, both brands approach this topic with ingenuity. Icon designs and brands their cheekpads with care, using plush materials and a noted attention to detail. Their internals are comfortable and fashionable, reinforcing the ICON pride. Scorpion takes a more technical approach with their Airfit system, which allows custom inflation of the cheekpads for a customizable fit. A better fit leads to better shock absorption and ultimately better safety, an intentional choice by the dedicated Scorpion team. Both feature moisture wicking interiors in the form of Hydradry (ICON) and Kwikwick2 (Scorpion).

OPINION:I personally find ICON helmets more comfortable, which is likely due to my particular headshape. Additionally, ICON uses softer, plusher internals that definitely give a better first impression. Scorpion helmets offer a more custom fit for the majority of riders who are intermediate oval through the Airfit system.

Outside of fit, both brands offer a lot of other creature comforts that make your riding experience more enjoyable. Lets break them down into a few categories:

Internal Sunvisors - Icon has none. Scorpion utilizes a speedview actuator that allows the sunvisor to be dropped with a quick flick of your left hand. These pieces are also replaceable.
Faceshields - Both Icon and Scorpion have a quick-release faceshield mechanism. From my experience, Scorpion’s system is easier and faster to use. However, ICON’s sideplates come with custom covers that match the graphic of the helmet. This covers the mechanism and provides a much more ‘finished’ look. Both brands use anti-fog coatings.
Venting - While each brand will tout their system as the best, I’m calling this a tie. ICON and Scorpion both have good venting, however, each offers a flagship model (EXO-1100 and Airframe) that has superior ventilation to the rest of their line-up.

OPINION:ICON’s features are in the materials that they use and the design of their product. The end result is a higher quality product, however, they don’t have a lot of extra goodies. Scorpion offers more interactive additions to their helmet like the air-pump, drop-down sunvisor, and faceshield lock. With that said, Scorpion also uses quality materials, so you’ll end up with more features at a better price with these helmets.

Digging further past features and fit, the shell construction brings up a few other points of comparison. As required in the US, each brand carries the DOT certification. Scorpion takes this a step further with their more recent helmets and adds the European ECE standard. In Spring, we will also see the release of the Scorpion EXO-R2000 that will meet SNELL M2010. ICON, doesn’t differentiate their line, certifying all helmets to DOT and “World” standard. This is basically a shortened way of saying that the helmet is certified to pass DOT, ECE (Europe), SAI (Australia), and SG (Japan) standards simultaneously.

Scorpion has upped their game for 2013 with the TCT Composite Shell technology used in the new EXO-R2000. This is one of the contributing factors in qualifying this helmet for the SNELL M2010 standard. However, ICON has been producing carbon-fiber options for several years and the remainder of their helmets are all fibreglass. Carbon-fibre provides a clear advantage in weight savings as well as vastly improving energy absorption upon impact, a quality needed to pass many of the world standards.

OPINION:Many US race-tracks require SNELL 2010 certification to participate in a track-day event, which may preclude ICON for track use. As far as raw protection is concerned, my vote goes towards anything that is made with fiberglass or, better yet, carbon-fibre.

I mentioned a lot about flash and fashion up front and both brands succeed in this department. Between the two of them, ICON and Scorpion probably represent the largest source of new graphical updates every year to the helmet industry. Complete with absurd, boundary-pushing pieces of art like the EXO-400 Showtime, or the Airframe Pleasuredome, the world of helmet manufactures will never be the same as long as these two are around.

Each of these helmet brands offer excellent value for money. As someone who was once a starving college student with a motorcycle, I know what it is like to need gear that won’t break the bank. Unfortunately, I chose another brand within my price point and was sorely disappointed. If I could re-live that ‘first helmet’ decision, it would likely be from either ICON or Scorpion.