We’ve been testing Troy Lee Designs’ latest mountain bike helmet; the A3 MIPS. Protection should be your top priority when considering a new mountain bike helmet, and the Troy Lee A3 certainly doesn’t fail to deliver on that point, with a 5-STAR rating from Virginia Tech. On top of its rather radical aesthetic, it offers a magnetic 3-Way adjustable visor, Fidlock buckle and an innovative way of dealing with sweat. Here’s how we got on with it.
Feature image by Finlay Anderson
Review: Troy Lee A3 MTB Helmet
When Troy Lee Designs released the A3 MTB Helmet back in March, they did so with the bold claim that this helmet is so comfortable that you’ll never want to take it off. The adverts featured a number of Troy Lee sponsored riders, including Rob Warner, pictured doing some rather ordinary things such as making coffee and relaxing in a hot tub, while wearing the Troy Lee A3 helmet. Alas, this is not what caught our attention… what piqued our interest was the fact that this helmet has received a 5 STAR safety rating from independent helmet safety testers, Virginia Tech.
That’s the highest possible safety rating, going by the number of stars alone. It received a score of 11 (the lower the score the better the protection offered). While that is a very respectable score, we noted that it is actually marginally less protective than the cheaper Troy Lee A2 helmet which received a score of 10.
Contributing to the excellent score of the A3 helmet is the Mips B-Series liner, designed to deal with rotational impacts, reducing the risk of concussion injuries. Other notable safety features include the co-molded EPP and EPS, dealing with low and high speed impact energy absorption, respectively. Finally, there’s the magnificent coverage. None of that really matters if the helmet doesn’t fit properly though, so let’s discuss that first.
There’s no point beating around the bush here; the Troy Lee Designs A3 helmet is the most comfortable open face helmet I’ve worn to date, road or MTB. While I haven’t found myself wearing it whilst doing house hold chores, or doing the weekly shop, Troy Lee are somewhat justified in their claims on comfort.
I accredit much of that to the comfort liner covering almost every inch of the inside of the helmet. The padding is thick and squashy, absent only at the rear where the retention system cups the occipital lobes of the skull. It is of course removable and washable.
The retention system is adjustable in its circumference, through use of the dial. It is also vertically adjustable, with a standard three positions to choose from.
I opted to run it in the lowest position, as I feel this is where it cradles my head best for the most secure fit. Even here, it is not ponytail compatible, due the amount of coverage at the rear.
On the topic of coverage…. the Troy Lee A3 is nothing short of excellent, comparable to the coverage offered by the Bluegrass Rogue Core, a helmet that recently took one for team. At the rear, the helmet extends down to cover the occipital region of my head. There is reasonable coverage at the temple region, too, and almost too much coverage at the forehead, if such a thing is possible.
Why too much? The A3 sits so low on my forehead (~1cm above the eyebrows) that I can’t comfortably wear goggles with it. As I have a relatively small face, my preferred SMITH Squad goggles end up pushing down on my nose, closing my nostrils in the process. Not ideal! This is unlikely to be an issue for most folk.
A sweaty affair?
Not really. I don’t suffer too badly with sweat pouring down my face (it’s usually too cold in Scotland for that). For hotter climes, and more prolific sweat-producers, Troy Lee have built in a solution; the TLD Sweat Glide System. It consists of an EVA moisture wicking foam that sits at the forehead region, positioned to capture any beading droplets of sweat, preventing them from running down your forehead and into your eyes.
For me, the EVA foam doesn’t actually come into contact with the skin on my forehead; there is around a 1mm gap between. That said, a droplet of sweat is big enough to bridge that gap, so the Sweat Glide likely does exactly what it is intended to. The A3 comes with two spare Sweat Glide pads.
Troy Lee have also put a lot of effort into ventilation, here. There are 16 vents in total. What we like about the A3 is the fact that the vents actually link up with one another internally. They aren’t just basic holes; the channels inside the lid allow air to flow between vents, over the top of the head to help moisture and heat escape.
The TLD A3 Visor
Troy Lee have put a lot of thought into the visor, too. The A3 features their 3-Way adjust Magnavisor, which indexes into three possible positions assisted by a magnet.
In the mid- and low positions, I found that the visor actually partially occluded my vision of the trail ahead, especially on very steep sections of singletrack. I can still see it in my peripheral vision while it rests in the top position, but not so much that it is a distraction.
A ledge built into the body of the helmet (just in front of the temple region) prevents the visor from falling down over the rider’s face. There is a fair bit of flex in the visor however, and it would quite easily bend to slip past this ledge during an impact.
While I wasn’t able to comfortable wear goggles with the TLD A3, I can tell you that there is plenty of room to stow them underneath the visor when it is pushed right up.
Can I recommend the Troy Lee A3 MTB Helmet?
Absolutely. The TLD A3 helmet offers excellent fit, substantial coverage and superior comfort and great adjustability. Objectively, these characteristics coupled with the top-level results of independent helmet safety testing make this mountain bike helmet worthy of consideration. Subjectively, we really like the rather aggressive, fast-looking aesthetic, others may not!
Pricing & Availability
The Troy Less Designs A3 mountain bike helmet will set you back $220 USD. It is available in sizes XS/S, M/L and XL/XXL, covering head circumferences of 53cm to 63cm. There are 10 different colorways to choose from, and you can also get your very own custom lettering, in Script or Block font, printed on the back for an additional $150 USD.