Troy Lee Designs A3 Helmet Review

Lester Perry | Wed 17th Mar 2021 19:00

As a youngster in the 90’s, Troy Lee Designs was synonymous with the world's fastest racers. Custom painted, brightly coloured helmets adorned the melons of many of my Mountain bike heroes. Greg Herbold, Dave Cullinan, Myles Rockwell, Shaun Palmer et al. These names may mean nothing to the modern breed of rider, however, these guys helped provide the foundation for the TLD helmets we see today.

Jump forward a few years, skim over a few iterations of full-face helmet, the ill-fated “Vapor” XC helmet, and land in 2013 when TLD finally had something to shout about in the open-face helmet realm once again. The A1 launched to great fanfare as one of the pioneers of the new-school style of increased coverage helmets. No longer were riders limited to lightweight, xc-styled lids that sat “on top” of your head rather than covering it, the A1 became ‘the’ hemet to have for trail and enduro use but it’s no secret it wasn’t the best in hot conditions.

The Troy Lee Designs A1, A2, and A3.

Fast forward a few more years, TLD released the A2, a more refined helmet, a little more XC styled than the A1, more ventilation, lighter weight and distinctive sculpted look (not everyone’s flavour). The A2 is still a super popular helmet, but with competitors and riders moving towards even more coverage and increased ventilation in these helmets, TLD needed to jump. And jump they have! Introducing the new A3 helmet...

Global supply issues (thanks Covid!) has meant a bit of a delayed and somewhat staggered launch globally, NZ though is one of the lucky countries who received their A3’s early! (not something we see often!) We managed to get a pre-release helmet to test for a few weeks prior to the launch - here’s what we think about the TLD A3 helmet.

The Camo Grey/Red colourway is a nice middle ground in my opinion. Some previous TLD models have had some pretty out-there colour options, but the A3 is pretty subtle in comparison. The NZ range currently has 4 colours available, none of which I’d term visually offensive.

Fit-wise, the helmet feels like it encapsulates my head really well, sitting low over the head. The back extends a fair way down the rear of the head, and the front edge of the rear is curved forwards slightly, offering further coverage just behind the wearers ears. How a helmet fits a wearer's head certainly varies depending on head shape - for me though this fit reminds me of the first time I put on my A1, way back in 2013 - just right. No pressure points, sort of a “glove” feel but on my head. It’s secure enough that it doesn’t move around while riding, and it passes the “bend over with your helmet undone and see if it falls off when not done up” test.

The helmet features an adjustable (vertical and tension) retention system with a BOA style adjuster. This entire retention system is actually integrated into the MIPS layer, giving a full 360-degree adjustment of fit, where most tensioning systems are separate to the MIPS layer and only offer adjustment of around 270 degrees so not offering the same comfort.

The internal padding (aka Comfort Liner) on the helmet is extensive and for sure is one of the reasons it’s so comfortable. By cutting out some sections of the liner you can fine-tune fit, simply follow the marked cut lines on the liner. The helmet is supplied with a second liner with thicker pads to further dial in the fit. To take it one step further you could cut sections of both the installed and the 2nd liner and customise things further. The A3 really is a super adjustable helmet if you take all these little things into consideration. TLD has a great video on customising your helmet fit.

The Fidlock chin clip is super sweet, easy to close - it magically magnets together and stays secure, and opening it is as simple as sliding its two surfaces sideways. Secure, clean, simple and easy to use, what more could you want.

The visor is attached by ‘smart shear’ screws, these screws are designed to shear off should you have a large impact or catch it on something, reducing forces that would otherwise be translated to the neck. A spare pair of screws are included with the helmet should you break one. The magnetic system that secures the “height” of the visor is pretty nifty too, 3 adjustment levels are available and make it super easy to adjust should you want to put your goggles up on your helmet, no faffing with screws or thumb adjusters it literally just snaps into place.

I’m a sweaty beast, just ask anyone I ride with! I’m always having issues on hot days with sweat running into my eyes, and if I’m wearing glasses they’re always destined for a pocket once they get all sweaty, which invariably doesn’t take long. Fortunately, TLD have introduced a smart (and basic) piece of tech into the A3, a sweat management system, literally a small strip of rubber that sits around the inside of the front of the helmet, essentially channelling the sweat away from your face. The helmet comes with 1 strip installed and 2 spares. The system seems to work as it’s designed and there’s been a distinct lack of sweat cascading down my brow - it doesn’t entirely solve the problem but does a fair bit to help.

What’s in the box? Helmet bag, stickers, spare sweat strips, extra helmet liner, spare screws, extra velcro dots for securing the liner.

Fortunately, I haven’t had to test the actual safety of the A3 yet, but with its integrated MIPS system, dual-density foams (for high and low-speed impacts), extended coverage and superior fit, I’ve got no qualms in recommending the A3 as a top-shelf trail helmet.

About the author:

Lester Perry, 39

Lester has been riding and racing bikes of all sorts since his early years. Kicking off the two-wheeled experience on a BMX, then moving on to Mountain Biking (back when one bike did it all). Lester dabbled in Road, and Track racing along the journey. His main focus has been on racing Enduro since 2013, but all the different types of bike in the shed still get used from time to time. Lester is part of the Marketing team at EVO and has been in the bike industry most of his life.

Instagram: @lesterperrynz