troy lee a3 helmet 1
REVIEW

Troy Lee Designs A3 Helmet

Words Ryan Walters
Photos Robyn Walters & Ryan Walters
Date Aug 4, 2022
Reading time

"For the world's fastest racers."

Easily one of the most iconic brands in action sports history, Troy Lee Designs has been adorning some of the biggest names in our sport since way before mountain biking was even cool. While they now have a vast catalogue of gear and clothing, the Troy Lee empire is rooted in humble beginnings, with the man himself - Troy Lee, custom painting his buddies’ moto helmets in his mom’s garage. Painting helmets eventually led to making helmets, always with a nod to eye-catching graphics that left zero doubt you were wearing a TLD helmet. Name one other helmet maker that uses flames, checkered flags and pinstripes to such dramatic effect. I’ll wait…

The A3 is Troy Lee’s premium open-face helmet, aimed at riders looking for maximum protection, but without the chin bar. The A3 features a laundry list of safety features that all contribute to its impressive 5-star safety rating from Virginia Tech Helmet Lab. Notably, the A3 includes MIPS rotational brain protection, as well as dual density foam used in the impact liner - the first being a lower density layer to effectively absorb low-speed impacts, while a stiffer layer is designed to dissipate high-speed impacts. MIPS can be a polarizing feature among mountain bikers, as some riders don’t get along well with the sometimes quirky nature of this safety system. MIPS haters will be disappointed to learn that the A3 is only available with MIPS installed.

Other unique features on the A3 include the TLD Sweat Glide System, which basically translates to an EVA foam strip that lines the front of the helmet, just above the brow. This strip is designed to stop sweat from dripping down the front of your face. The Magnajust Visor allows for three visor alignments, and even pops up to allow for a clever goggle stowage option for all you wannabe enduro types. Rounding out the A3 package is a typical ratchet-style fit adjuster at the back of the liner harness, as well as an oh-so-easy-to-use Fidlock strap buckle. The A3 is available in three sizes, from XS/SM, MD/LG, and XL/2XL, and while I’m a bit suspicious of a $300 helmet that only comes in three sizes, the adjustable harness and customizable liner should ensure a proper fit for most head shapes and sizes. My novelty-sized, 4-litre cranium fell right in the middle of the XL/2XL sizing range, and I was able to dial in the fit quite easily.

The A3 wouldn’t be a Troy Lee Designs helmet if it wasn’t available in a zillion colour options, and you’ll all be super disappointed to learn that I opted for boring black (with nary a pinstripe to be seen!), as some of the more interesting colourways weren’t available in huge-brain sizing a few months ago. At publication time, A3 stock selection has improved significantly on the TLD website.

While the A3 certainly falls on the more expensive end of the spectrum, it’s worth noting all the bonus bits and pieces that are included in the box. In addition to the helmet, you get a drawstring fabric bag, two spare Sweat Glide foam strips, extra visor screws, a bunch of replacement velcro strips, as well as some stickers - but the most exciting bonus for me is the inclusion of a full replacement liner, as I’ve found that the liner is often the first point of failure on a mountain bike helmet. There’s nothing worse than retiring a perfectly good helmet because you can’t replace a $10 piece of foam.

Wearing the A3.

With the XL size weighing in at 456g, the A3 isn’t the lightest helmet in the field, but along with those few extra grams, the A3 brings a level of head coverage that is hard to beat without resorting to a full-face. Compared to my old Bell Super DH (in half-shell mode), the A3 is more substantial in every way - there is clearly more volume in the impact foam layers. The rear of the helmet also drops down significantly lower than most to protect the back of the head. You know that overused trope that bike journalists love so much - the one about feeling “inside the bike” when describing a big and burly 29er? Well, the A3 is similar in that your head feels “inside” it, rather than underneath it. The TLD Micro Adjust 360° ratchet system definitely contributes to this feeling, as it firmly cradles the back of your head. I found myself taking full advantage of the Micro Adjust system while out on the trail - loosening the ratchet before climbs for improved ventilation, and tightening before descents for a truly locked-in, secure fit.

troy lee a3 helmet 12

I'm convinced that running the visor in the highest position directs more airflow into the forward vents, and that no one can take a good mustache seriously.

A non-fatal flaw...

Before getting too deep into the things that I like about the A3, I need to say a few words about the Sweat Glide System. To be honest, I just don’t get it. This foam strip is designed to stop sweat from dripping down onto your face and glasses, but it proved to be a double-edged sword in my experience. The foam was very effective at stopping the flow of sweat, but it was equally effective at stopping the flow of air. This led to profuse sweating just above the strip, and quickly led to rivers raging down both sides of my face where the strip terminated. The lack of airflow also resulted in the fogging up of various “unfoggable” glasses that I own. After two rides, I ditched the foam strip (thankfully, it’s very easy to remove), and was rewarded with far better ventilation and comfort overall.

The Sweat Glide System certainly leaves me scratching my head. I can’t for the life of me figure out the scenario(s) in which a feature like this would be an advantage. Perhaps someone with lots of thick, sweaty hair? Or someone with a sweaty, bald scalp? Maybe climate plays a role? Maybe Sweat Glide works a lot better for those tanned and salty California surfer boys with shockingly luxurious magazine hair, than it does for pasty, middle-aged PNW dads with receding hairlines?

troy lee a3 helmet 13

The TLD Sweat Glide foam strip. Spoiler alert - I wasn't a fan.

With the Sweat Glide strip removed, the A3 suddenly becomes one of the more comfortable helmets I’ve ever worn. For the amount of coverage and protection afforded by the A3, ventilation is quite good, and the liner works in unison with the Micro Adjust ratchet to achieve a truly custom feeling fit, almost like a comfy hammock, cinched around your skull. There is the tiniest bit of rotational play in the MIPS interface, and this might be a deal-breaker for the MIPS haters. This “play” is by no means unique to the A3 - it is noticeable on many (if not most) MIPS equipped helmets. I personally only notice this wiggle when I’m consciously trying to notice it, but when my attention is more wisely focused on the trail ahead, it’s a non-issue.

The 3-position visor adjustment works really well, and it’s the first visor adjustment that I’ve ever used on-the-fly while riding. I typically ran the visor in the highest position for unobstructed line-of-sight on fast trails, but the lower positions were useful for blocking out the low-hanging sun when riding home at the end of a long day - a scenario far more likely encountered in sunny SoCal where TLD calls home. And while I’m not the type to mix goggles with half-lids, all you enduro bros and girls will be happy to hear that goggles play nicely with the A3, and the goggle stowage option is indeed a unique and useful feature.

The A3 continues the long lineage of stylish and feature-packed helmets from one of the OGs in the game. With the exception of the easily removed Sweat Glide strip, I appreciated every feature on the A3, and the included extras are a nice touch for a premium helmet like this. While you can’t buy speed, you can buy a Troy Lee Designs helmet, and that’s almost the same thing, right?

TLD A3

$299.00 CAD. / $230.00 U.S.

Troy Lee Designs

rwalters
Ryan Walters

Age : 40

Height : 1803mm

Weight : 86kg

Ape Index : 1.03

Inseam : 787mm

Bar Width : 780mm

Preferred Reach : Pretty comfy at 487mm these days.

Related Stories

Trending on NSMB

Comments

olaa
olaa
2 weeks ago
+3 Chad K Ryan Walters Pete Roggeman

Regarding the Sweat glide strip, I think i might be in the target group for it. There is no scenario where ventilation stops sweat from dripping down from the helmet, either on my  bucket helmet or my very airy road bike helmet. It's just a matter of time before the floodgates open :) Some helmets are better than others at directing the flow other places than on my glasses/googles, and those are usually a win in my book.

So, i'm definitely interested in seeing how the Sweat glide strip works! Good on TLD for thinking of us overly sweaty people!

Reply

zombo
Zombo
1 week, 6 days ago
+1 Andy Eunson

I highly recommend the Sweat Buster.  It was a game changer for my helmet and you can get a 2 pack for like 20 bucks.  I no longer have to stop, lean over and press on my helmet to drain it every ten minutes on hot days.

Reply

andy-eunson
Andy Eunson
1 week, 5 days ago
0

The Sweatbuster is the only thing that I’ve found that actually works.  Get two and put a dry one in for the other part of the ride. I’ve tried those thin headband things and d they work for a very short time. The weird Urge liner where it curled out and forward from the helmet worked too. I just simply overwhelm whatever brow pad or directional thing there is.

Reply

el_jefe
el_jefe
1 week, 3 days ago
0

I'm a huge fan of the Halo Headbands, which have a silicone strip on the inside to redirect sweat to the sides. I sweat a lot riding and this works brilliantly as long as you get the right version for the amount you sweat. If I don't use it, pretty much guaranteed to drip sweat into the inside of my glasses. I think the Sweat Glide strip is a good idea, but I did take mine off my A3 and keep using my Halo Headband - current favourite version is Halo Super Wide.

Reply

cxfahrer
cxfahrer
1 week, 6 days ago
0

When I first read about the TLD sweat strip, my idea was to put a similar shaped insulation tape strip for windows inside the front of my Smith Session. Longer uphill pedaling I always do without helmet anyway, but the Smith helmet is only wearable with the visor up on hot days.

But I bought a Fox Speedframe instead, which has a vent in front under the visor, which is a good solution as long as I am fast enough. The Fox is only scarcely padded in front, which helps regarding sweat but not getting a good fit. I had to fix that with some extra padding from another helmet.

Reply

martin
Martin
2 weeks ago
+3 Cam McRae Ryan Walters cxfahrer

Well, no wonder you had better airflow and no fogging after you removed the Sweat Glide... you also cut your facial hair at the same time!! The suspicious looks you had with the mustache also morphed into an almost-smile afterwards, so it's hard to say which removal had the most effect on the other. My 0.02$!! ;)

Reply

rwalters
Ryan Walters
1 week, 6 days ago
+1 Martin

You might be onto something there! Haha!

Reply

agleck7
Agleck7
2 weeks ago
+1 Ryan Walters

Funny I just bought this helmet last week and the differentiator was the sweat glide thing. It’s pretty hot/humid where i ride and on xc rides where I’m not stopping a lot sweat builds up and starts dripping on my glasses. It’s annoying and kinda sketchy if a big droplet is blocking my vision in the middle of a fast/tricky section. On more ‘enduro’ type rides I stop enough that i can wipe sweat before dropping in. So far so good!

Reply

mtmc99
mtmc99
2 weeks ago
+1 Ryan Walters

Ryan touched on it briefly, but I just wanted to emphasize that the XL/2XL helmet is one of the few helmets I have found that was large enough to fit my head.

Reply

rwalters
Ryan Walters
2 weeks ago
0

Several years ago, I was hell-bent on getting myself a flashy D2, but was disappointed to learn that the biggest size was still too small for me!

Thank you TLD for fixing your sizing!

Reply

rwalters
Ryan Walters
2 weeks ago
0

Interesting. Maybe I need to give the strip another try!

Reply

kos
Kos
2 weeks ago
0

What's up with the channels on the brow pad? I've tried a few helmets with those, and they make great portals to allow sweat to drip down.

Reply

trouty
James Graham
1 week, 6 days ago
0

Side question - what are your glasses in the main article photo? Clear with the yellow lenses :)

Reply

rwalters
Ryan Walters
1 week, 6 days ago
+1 Martin

Ryders Pangor. They’re great - look out for them in an upcoming Gear Shots article.

Reply

delusional
delusional
1 week, 6 days ago
0

While the 5-star virginia tech rating is great, it's probably worth noting that around 3/4s of the MTB helmets they've tested (33 out of 46) have got that rating, so that alone isn't the biggest differentiator among modern helmets. The A3 just squeaks into the top 20% of the MTB helmets tested, but notably gets a slightly worse safety score (11.01) than the A2 (9.99). I'm not entirely sure how to read a 1 point drop like that, but, considering the difference between a 4 and 5 star rating seems to be about 5 points, it might not be an insignificant shift.

Reply

Heinous
Heinous
1 week, 6 days ago
0

I had two of these and they were great except for the fact that the MIPS liner works so well the helmet slips and moves a lot on large impacts / drops, to the point I was often trying to move it back to preserve field of vision while still riding. I think that's become a thing with lots of MIPS, so I was totally blown away when I tried a new Merit Spherical and it just stays put.

I was planning on putting some light friction fabric between the two planes in the A3 and probably still will so it's a usable spare.

Reply

GT350
GT350
1 week, 6 days ago
0

What glasses are those in the first pic?

Reply

rwalters
Ryan Walters
1 week, 6 days ago
0

Ryders Pangor AntiFOG. Highly recommended.

Reply

rwalters
Ryan Walters
1 week, 6 days ago
0

All these positive comments about the Sweat Glide strip - you’ve all convinced me that I should give it another try. Good thing the helmet comes with several extras!

Reply

Peabobryson
Peabobryson
1 week, 6 days ago
0

You should review the Kali Cascade.  LDL vs Mips

Reply

scratchy303
scratchy303
1 week, 1 day ago
0

I'm pretty happy with my Oakley DRT5 helmet with a silicone brow pad. Any comparison between the two?

Reply

rwalters
Ryan Walters
1 week, 1 day ago
0

Sorry, no experience with Oakley helmets! Looks like a cool helmet though, and it seems like AJ did review it a few years ago:

https://nsmb.com/articles/oakley-drt5-helmet-review/

Reply

Please log in to leave a comment.