Face it, having two helmets is not exactly the cheapest of propositions. But if you want to be fast on race day you are going to want an aero helmet, and if you also spend time on your road bike you are going to want a standard road helmet. Much like the choices we make when buying a frame (road or TT), triathletes (and any cyclist) either makes due with what they have or spends twice the money to get twice the product; but there are products out there that attempt to give you the best of both worlds without forcing you to make too much of a sacrifice. One of these products is the Aero Road Bikes that has become so popular lately and we are such fans of.
Now there is another, the Aero Road Helmet. Giro was not the first to consider this, we have seen athletes in the World Tour riding sealed versions of existing helmets for a few years now, but Giro is the first to truly bring this concept mass market with its new Air Attack.
The Air Attack
To create a best of both worlds helmet Giro knew they had to get two things absolutely right: ThermoDynamics and AeroDynamics. If the Air Attack was too hot to regularly wear, athletes would avoid it on all but race day, and if the helmet did not have an aerodynamic advantage over standard road helmet then athletes would stick with what they know. Any engineer will tell you that when you build a product with multiple goals, you are going to get compromises; the trick to getting it right is to manage those compromises.
With all of this in mind, let us introduce the Air Attack. The first thing you are going to notice is its resemblance to a skater’s helmet (there is no getting past it), but this is an obvious by product of the quest for aerodynamic efficiency. As we said at the top, sealed helmets are nothing new to the peloton, but when you build it from the ground up you will get a bit of an “unusual” design.
The Air Attack is available in two options; the standard Air Attack for $200 and the Air Attack Shield that comes with a Carl Zeiss Vision optical shield). The shield uses three magnets to anchor the shield to the helmet. The magnets allow you to remove the shield and attach it inverted to the helmet if you choose to remove it for a bit (an ingenious solution to a problem many aero helmets face).
The Air Attack uses Giro’s Roc Loc system to create a secure connection to your noggin. The Roc Loc system additionally positions the helmet 3mm above the riders head to create ventilation space. Giro’s design takes advantage of this space through the use of the helmets vents and exhaust ports to efficiently move air through the helmet. The result is a helmet that has 90% of the cooling power that you get from the road specific Giro Aero (and 156% of the cooling power of the aerodynamic Selector).
The aerodynamic numbers are opposite the cooling metrics. The Air Attack has 11.2% less drag than the Aeon. When compared against the Selector, the Air Attack suffers a 10% drag penalty.
From the charts above you can see the compromises that the Air Attack embodies. For that 10% decrease in cooling power (versus the Aeon) you get 11.2% less drag. The Selector would save you an additional 10% in drag but suffers quite a bit more in cooling power (about 12 degrees F). The Air Attack is essentially asking you to make a choice, are you willing to sacrifice a bit of cooling to ditch some drag. But numbers will only tell us so much, riding it will help tell us the whole story.
The first thing you notice while riding the Air Attack (with or without the shield) is just how much ventilation the helmet has. We are 100% honest when we say it feels to have every bit the cooling power of our Bell Volt helmets we typically ride with. More incredibly when we put the shield on it feels as if the cooling power actually increased. You feel the wind coming in the vents of both the visor and helmet and spreading across both your head and face. We were shocked that the wind was actually flowing fast enough that it gave us a bit of dry eye.
We would quickly forget that we were riding an aero helmet if it was not for the strange stares we continually get. The helmet just does not look “right” being used with either a road or TT bike, people tend to look at you funny. But, that seems to be a small trade off in the quest for free speed.
We have mostly been riding the Air Attack without the shield these past few weeks to see how it works as an everyday helmet. As we continue with the review we are going to start using the shield more often to see the effects on cooling power and to see how the magnets work in real world scenarios. (Can we scratch our nose without knocking the shield loose?) Our goal is to determine if this is a true “do-it-all” helmet that can be ridden all week for training and then raced on Sunday. Stay tuned to hear our final thoughts, and as always post any questions you would like us to answer as part of our Final Thoughts in a few more weeks!