Airframe Pro helmet completely hand made
In August, ICON released a brand new helmet model, the Airframe Pro (AFP) as a solution for riders who want safety as well as superior style. The helmet features ICON’s signature 4tress weave design, and ICON staff will tell you the helmet takes more time to produce than a Mercedes Benz.
“Previously on our Airframe there were only 28 steps, and now there’s more than 38. It takes roughly about three hours to complete just one helmet,” said Justin Knauer, general manager at ICON Motorsports. “The short and sweet of it is that it’s the pinnacle of our helmet line. It’s the lightest helmet we’ve ever made; it has better ventilation and a ton of really innovative features that are not on any other helmets in the industry. It’s quite the piece of product.”
The production process is entirely by hand (no robots) and requires both skill and precision. Knauer says there are only a handful of people that actually know how to lay up the carbon fiber shells correctly. “There are five that do the layup, and there are 10 other guys that know how to create the molds, so that is part of the process, and the rest is kept top secret,”
The AFP graphics, like foils and details on the new Pharaoh helmet, are made of water slide decals that are skillfully applied to the curved surface. The carbon fiber 4tress weave creates sharp lines in the shell for a more modern look and helps cut through wind better. And, like the graphics, skilled hands keep the molding process in line, so they don’t have to scrap the shell hours into the process.
With only 15 people and the time it takes to create each helmet, it’s no surprise that meeting demand is a laborious process. But Knauer adds that the launch has been huge for the brand.
“We were a bit apprehensive about releasing such an expensive helmet, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive. We can watch a lot of the response from our core audience on Instagram,” he said. Every post that gains likes and shares was reportedly “off the charts” for the AFP and helps the brand judge what future products will be hits with their consumer base.
“Dealers like carrying it because we do a lot of the leg work for them — we’re driving people into their dealership to get ICON product. When customers go into a dealership that’s been visited by us and has a connection to us, it makes for ultimately an easier sale, but also hopefully makes them a long time customer to the dealership as well,” Knauer said. “Our customers are very educated on our products because it’s such a personal thing between our audience and us, whether they’re on our Facebook page, Instagram or following our YouTube.”
In 2011, ICON tied with Arai for customer satisfaction in a J.D. Power survey and has since proven that the brand can hold its own in the industry and remains dedicated to its core followers. “As much as Arai and SHOEI are competitors, we have respect for those brands, and to be considered in the same discussions as those brands is very important to us,” Knauer added.
“Having a light helmet that you’re stoked to put on is a win-win for everybody because when they feel good about what they’re wearing, they’re going to wear it, and thus, they’re going to be protected in case of an accident,” he said. “That’s really been the MO for ICON all these years: putting protective apparel on people who normally wouldn’t otherwise even consider it, and we do that by making it look really good.”
Heading into 2016, ICON has more projects in the works, but the company never ceases to return to the basics with custom-bike building, with hopes of keeping younger generations of enthusiasts involved.
“We’re always building [custom] bikes. Without motorcycles, there’s really no motorcycle apparel, so that’s where it all starts,” Knauer said. “Keeping people interested in motorcycles in general is not just for us; it’s for the industry. It’s trying to get people interested in powersports again.”
Many product ideas for ICON come from internal staff. With 17 riding staff members, oftentimes personal experiences aid in fit, style and theme. The “Stumps Don’t Lie” Splintered line, for example, started as an inside joke after a development manager crashed into a stump, bringing in a design line of splintered skulls and shattered branches. Note: He is fine.