It debuted at the Tour de France last summer. This spring, Giro offers its new-generation aerodynamic bike helmet to the cycling masses.
I’ve been wearing the streamlined hard hat, called the Air Attack, on training rides this month. The helmet, $200, is unique in that it balances a cut-through-the-wind design with comfort and ventilation.
Traditionally, serious time-trial bike racers and triathletes wear helmets with dramatic, swoop-away tails. These “aero” helmets cut wind drag but are heavy and hot.
Giro’s offering sits in between a highly-vented road bike helmet and the “speed racer” look of the aero design. The Air Attack is touted to reduce wind drag yet remain comfortable for the long haul on a hot road.
I could feel the difference. Tucking on a road bike to 30 mph, the Air Attack was noticeably quieter than my normal helmet. Air seemed to split off my forehead.
Giro tested its Air Attack models extensively in wind tunnels. The company cites figures on increased biker speed and touts the “lowest wind-averaged aerodynamic drag” of any road helmet design it tested.
In truth, mainly racers will notice. The average rider may gain a few seconds of time over a ride with the Air Attack’s aero advantage.
But the helmet breathes and vents similar to its road helmet cousins, so even with the subtle gain it may have wide appeal. Vents on the helmet let air flow through. An internal harness system keeps the head a few millimeters from the inside of the shell, allowing air to swirl in and cool.
On a recent hot day I could feel the effect. Indeed, the helmet seems like it’d be hot when you’re standing still. But air flows in with ease as soon as a bike gets up to speed.
As an optional upgrade, one version of the helmet, the Air Attack Shield ($240), comes with a snap-on lens. The shield attaches with magnets to the forehead area of the helmet.
The tinted polycarbonate shield offers shade from the sun. A bonus: Glasses fit underneath the shield, letting you ride with prescription lenses on.
Wind is blocked as you sprint and so is precipitation. One day, in a sharp spring drizzle, I was happy to have the shield down to deflect the water drops as I cranked on a road.
So far I dig the Air Attack as a racing helmet or for serious training days. It’s all but unnoticeable on the head, just like any good helmet should be, and its slice-through-the-wind design is a small advantage I will take.