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Troy Lee Designs D3 helmet

Cheap kitchenware is not an option.
When it comes to head protection, our philosophy is very simple: Seek the best possible protection, get the wallet out of the pocket and swallow the bill. Riding and racing street and off-road motorcycles, and snow scooters over the past twenty years, Arai has become our motorcycle helmet brand of choice. Not that much because of the brand in itself but more because, besides their great technical quality, Arai also happens to be a perfect fit to us.

In the following we first share our experiences on moto helmets, then draw some parallels to MTB helmets and finally discuss our experiences with D3.

Lessons from motorcycle race tracks
For road racing tracks, our helmet of choice has been Arai's flagship RX-7 GP (pictured below) since it was introduced some years ago and before that its predecessor RX-7 Corsair. For motorcycle enduro, we stick to Arai's motocross helmets.

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Safety standards alone don't make a perfect helmet. In addition to all technical aspects, it is essential to find a helmet that provides a perfect fit both for the sake of safety and comfort. A helmet that fits your head like a glove can be worn tightly but still comfortable. Basically, the tighter the helmet, the safer it is. The helmet essentially needs to meet your scull's specifications.

TLD D3 Composite (2012)
What does all this have to do with mountain biking? Well, having used several top of the line moto helmets, our demands and expectations were set high when we started to seek the best possible DH / freeride helmet - a cheap plastic kitchenware was not an option. We wanted to have a helmet that is robust but still light helmet and that has effective ventilation system to facilitate high pulse activities.

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A lot has been already written and said about TLD D3. It is commonly regarded as one of the best DH / freeride helmets currently available on the market.

Holding D3 in hands, it doesn't only look like a off-road moto helmet but also feels substantially robust for a MTB helmet.

Finnish of D3 is very nice with great attention to details. Not necessarily fully in parity with winning standards of top of the line (and much more expensive) moto helmets but still very, very nice indeed.

Off-road helmets get wet, sweaty and dirty all the time which makes as appreciate a lot D3's removable and washable liner. D3 has robust visor screws that are machined from titanium instead of sometimes flimsy plastics. As a desirable safety feature, it has a quick-release emergency cheek pad removal system. As a very nice touch, D3 comes with a spare peak and a carry bag included.

Overall, D3 is good a looking and confidence inspiring piece of MTB equipment.

Hey, where did that noise come from?
As happy as we have been with our D3, there is a minor issue that makes us scratching our heads. In a slow speed riding, we can hear a minor mechanical noise initiating from some part of the liner, possibly cheek pads moving just slightly to scrub against helmet's outer shell. No, the noise is not necessarily disturbing and it is audible only at very slow speeds but it is still there. As a reference, we have never noticed anything similar with any of our flagship moto helmets (which of course might be because of a screaming motors and ear pads…). However, we are quite confident that our Arai moto helmets would be dead silent if they were tested on a DH track just for a sake of comparison. While the noise certainly is not a major issue, we still wanted to document it here as a surprising observation.

All systems green
We have so far been wearing D3 for the 2012 season both in MTB enduro and DH riding. So far it has met our high expectations and we have no reasons to doubt that it wouldn't do so also going forward. We have been especially satisfied with its venting system with well designed air intake and exhaust ports, making D3 usable even when pedalling small uphills of typical enduro course.

While D3's weight is by no means an issue (we haven't compared how it compares to other helmets), with hindsight we would have preferred to try also the carbon version of D3 to see if its weight makes any noticeable difference to our composite D3.

Overall, we co-exist happily with D3 and certainly recommend those looking for a top-of-the-line full face MTB helmet to give it a try.