MTB Flashbacks! | Troy Lee Designs Edge

November 6th, 2015

By Andrew Dodd in Features

The evolution of TLD Trail Helmets

Mountain Biking hasn’t always been a cool sport – the early years were hilariously bad by all accounts.

Top tubes sloped the wrong way; we wore hideously bad neon lycra and if not wearing roadie sausage hats, the helmets most riders wore were barely more than polystyrene bowls with lycra covers. And they made us look like something from Super Mario Brothers.

Troy Lee did things differently from the beginning though. He had vision.

Troy Lee Designs Edge

The Troy Lee Edge is one of the most recognised mountain bike helmets ever, and it still something many would wear now. Luckily, the modern A1 isn’t a million miles from the Edge – and you can see where it took influence from, with  a low rear, great shape and the all important Troy Lee Designs peak. More on that further down!

Already involved in the Moto and BMX world with his infamous helmet painting skills, Troy was producing the Aero 2 MX aftermarket peak, which had a better shape than everything else on the market. Troy fitted one to every custom painted helmet – completing the highly sought after appeal from the beginning.

As a result of working with helmet manufacturers, in 1990 Troy received an early example of an RC3 helmet from Shoei helmets, which had a plastic shell and partial ear coverage. Despite a big name in the motor industry, Shoei didn’t have any clout in the cycling world, and the RC3 was a bit of an outcast. It was heavier than the popular lycra covered mushroom helmets; had a big grill on the front and an odd oval shape with flat sides.

Troy instantly saw potential though and modified an Aero 2 peak to fit the helmet. Half the front grill was covered giving a much smoother look – and the helmet had instant appeal that screamed mountain bike. With some TLD graphics applied, the look was complete and the RC3 TL Comp was born.

Troy Lee Designs Edge

This is how the Shoei RC3 TL Comp was shipped. Plain white, in the box with Troy Lee Designs decals. It’s such a cool looking helmet, with moto and BMX influence – Troy Lee’s vision for mountain bike helmets started here. Image | eBay

In 1991 Troy brought the helmet to the MTB market, along side some TLD branded XC riding kit, and sought out some riders to represent the brand.  Dave Cullinan was the first sponsored rider to wear the new helmet at the Mammoth mountain NORBA nationals that year, and took a win. Other riders started asking about the helmet he was wearing, which had an undeniable mix of BMX and Moto about it.

It just looked rad compared to anything else around.

Greg Herbold was next to don the modified Shoei helmet, and once he won the North American Championships wearing it, the phone at TLD didn’t stop ringing.

Troy Lee Designs Edge

This is the custom painted Shoei RC3 Tl Comp that Greg Herbold used to take a world title. We think this paint job needs to be resurrected on an A1 – it’s killer! Image | Craig Glaspall/TLD Bike

The early helmets were modified versions of the Shoei though, and for Troy to make the helmet a success he needed the whole helmet to be produced at the factory. Another peak was developed from a jet ski helmet, which was a better fit. Shoei produced these the next year, and although wasn’t satisfied with the volume, offered to make the tooling so the helmet could be manufactured in the US.

There was a considerable delay in the production transfer and a lot of momentum was lost when all the RC3 helmets had all been consumed.

Troy Lee Designs Edge

Our Troy Lee Designs Edge Comp is a 1997 model. Although the external is mint, the padding has deteriorated with use and age. Note the styling of the Race Face chin bar – it looks a lot like the Daytona and D2 helmets. The style was there from the beginning.

By this time the need for additional protection prompted the development of an experimental Fiberglass chin-bar add-on for use by professional level riders, of which only a very small number were produced.

In 1993, the Troy Lee Designs Edge TL Comp began production in the USA, manufactured by US Foam in San Diego. A plastic accessory add-on chin-bar followed some months later, called the Race Face.

This chin-bar fit very close to the face and basically created a plastic/padded layer over the riders jaw, offering some abrasion protection and making the TL comp the first Full Face DH bike helmet available – and as such was immediately sought after by all the top level riders, and those wanting to look like them.

Troy Lee Designs Edge

Dave Cullinan was the first Pro rider to don a Shoei RC3 TL Comp, and later rode for TLD for many years. This time whilst riding for Diamond Back, he wore the Troy Lee Designs Edge TL Comp lid, and an awesome custom paint job. Image | Craig Glaspall/TLD Bike

Troy Lee Designs Edge

This Troy Lee Designs Edge TL Comp was custom painted for Myles Rockwell, who at the time was racing for Yeti, and was sponsored by Etto. They didn’t make a full face helmet – so the choice for Rockwell was simple. Image | Craig Glaspall/TLD Bike

Troy Lee Designs Edge

Brian Lopes was another of the earlier riders to adopt the Troy Lee Designs look, and with a BMX background it suited him down to the ground. Note the damaged peak and the scuffs and crack on the Race Face chin bar – it did it’s job, and no doubt contributed to TLD developing the Daytona. Image | Craig Glaspall/TLD Bike

By 1994, the TL Edge Comp continued to sell well and was becoming an iconic helmet. As the market started catching up with cycling helmet technology, TLD explored future designs, envisioning separate specialist models for both XC and DH disciplines.

An early XC helmet was a collaboration with helmet manufacturer Troxel (who now specialise in horse riding helmets) who with a high level safety record, came in to the cycling world and brought with them concept of manufacturers adhering to ASTM standards. Not many of the Troxel/TLD helmet made it to production – so they are a collectors piece if you can find one.

Troxel Troy Lee Designs Vapor

We found these images of the Troxel/Troy Lee Designs Vapor helmet on eBay from an old sale. If you have a Vapor, or know some one that does we’d love to see it to take some photos! Image |

Troy Lee Designs Edge

Thanks to Factory Jackson reader Craig Henry for sending us these shots from the 1996 Troy Lee Design catalogue. Could that possibly be a younger Kathy Sessler on the left?  Photos | Craig Henry

Whilst the Troxel/TLD Vapor ran it’s course, the first full face helmet – the Daytona – was under development.

This was completely designed from scratch by Troy and his design team, and was the strongest and lightest full face helmet out there. It was also insanely expensive at the time – about £450 – although they still sold out fast. More on the Daytona right here.

Following the Daytona came the D2 which was launched in 2000, and the modern D3 which is still the bench mark in style and safety. We’ll be looking at the full face development in more detail soon in a separate feature.

Troy Lee Designs Edge

The styling of the modern D3 helmet is stunning – and you can see that it took lines from the early Tl Comp and other motocross style helmets. This styling carries across the whole TLD range – right up to the A1 trail helmet.

Whilst the D3 was busy taking all the attention, Troy and his team had been working on the A1 – a trail helmet incorporating all the detail and styling that TLD had been known for. Other helmet companies like POC had some stylish helmets around on the market, but when the A1 was launched it became a game changer and put TLD at the fore front once more.

Troy Lee Designs A1

The A1 has got all the right stuff going on. Low back, huge vents, stylish peak, plenty of room for graphics and a killer look. Not a million miles from the original Shoei RC3 that Troy received. We’re glad he had the vision for that helmet – or we wouldn’t have something as cool as this today!

If you directly compare the Edge to the A1, you can see where Troy and his team took their inspiration from. The A1 shares so much with the early Edge helmet, but with the features of modern day helmets. Lighter weight, better ventilation, stronger, comfier – and ultimately, better looking.

It retains large surface areas for graphics, has a great shaped peak that channels air in to the helmet – and many more features like the retention system. And like the early Edge helmet, it has that Troy Lee Designs thing going on.

It’s just such a desirable helmet.

Troy Lee Designs A1

Unquestionable Troy Lee Designs styling, detail and quality.

For more information on the development of the A1, check out this cool video below…

If you have some retro, vintage, or just classic mountain bike gear and think we might be interested for #MTBflashbacks here at Factory Jackson, drop us an email on




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