Photos by Jay Prasuhn
Since the Tour de France last year, Giro had a helmet under wraps. Well, not really; the BMC Racing Team was rocking this svelte thing with a massive wraparound visor. Whatever it was, it helped Dennis to a prologue win (and the fastest ever prologue time, 55.44 kph.
Finally, that helmet goes public. Today, in parlay with the Tour of California, Giro debuts the Aerohead triathlon (and TT) helmet. I say “triathlonâ€ first for good reason. “Aerohead was more than just about making a streamlined helmet,â€ said Giro marketing director Dain Zaffke. “We wanted to check all the boxes.
Giro’s place in helmet history (nay, triathlon history) is without peer. Back in 1985, Scott Tinley was one of the forefathers of Giro’s entry into the bike helmet game, running the Advantage helmet. Of course, the brand took off when Greg Lemond used a Giro aero helmet (along with other accoutrements including then so-called “tri bars,â€ aka aero bars) in the time trial to defeat Laurent Fignon and win the 1989 Tour de France. That helmet was, not ironically, called “Aerohead.” Since then, the Scotts Valley, Calif. company has been a leader in helmet development in terms of safety, comfort, venting and all-important style.
Giro is clear to define that with Aerohead, they’re launching not just one helmet, but two: Aerohead Ultimate MIPS, and Aerohead MIPS.
Ironically, it’s the less-flashy, less-expensive Aerohead MIPS helmet that is going to find focus with triathletes. “What, no carbon fiber helmet for me!?â€ you cry? Lemme explain.
AEROHEAD ULTIMATE MIPS
The Aerohead Ultimate MIPS is just that: the company’s ultimate helmet. Its shell is comprised of TeXtreme carbon fiber. The TeXtreme fabric (that large crosshatch carbon variety we see on top models of the Felt IA) allows for a fiber with less resin. Less resin means lower weight, and happily, a lower thickness of material. That lessened thickness makes for a helmet with reduced volume—Giro says by 2 percent. Reduced volume makes it smaller, and thus makes it a fraction more aero by lessened frontal volume. So while it looks slick, carbon was used here with true reason.
“The different that two percent makes becomes a bigger number in drag, especially when you calculate it out over distance,â€ Zaffke said.
Giro adds a soft cloth cover over the after underside of the helmet to close off wind flow under the tail. The cloth is capable of being pulled back with the fingers in order to access the RocLoc retainer device.
Weight? 430 grams. With the use of carbon comes a premium price: $550, or 600 Euro. Color options include nude carbon weave and matte white/silver.
Giro’s second helmet is Aerohead MIPS. The big difference? Vents. And this is what will make it more applicable to triathletes. Two fore vents and two aft are designed with Kona and other long-distance hot races in mind. Will it be cool enough for Kona? It’ll be a good question; Giro athletes—including Linsey Corbin and Brothers Raelert (Andreas and Michael)—will have it at their disposal if they make the October start. There’s also no soft cloth underside tail cover.
Beyond that, Giro eschews carbon in favor of a standard polycarbonate shell. That helps drive the price down. It weighs in at 415 grams.
Price for Aerohead MIPS is $250. Color options include matte black/vermillion (as seen in photos here), matte black/titanium, matte white/silver and matte white/turquoise/vermillion.
Aerohead Ultimate MIPS come with a padded carrying pod, with a zippered front sleeve for shield storage of the smoke and clear lenses provided. Aerohead MIPS users will have the option of buying a case at $50, and extra eye shields at $60 each.
AEROHEAD SHIELD & TRIGLIDES
Giro took what it learned with the Air Attack Shield (as well as what it knows through Giro’s own snow goggle line), reworked it and employed it within the Aerohead.
For starters, Giro uses Zeiss Optics to provide the clarity of vision with both the Aerohead Ultimate MIPS and Aerohead MIPS. The visors (two are provided with each helmet; clear and smoke) have slight venting at the browline allowing a bit of cooling/defogging air in.
Like the Air Attack, the visor is affixed by four strong magnets that slot into spots along the helmet’s temples and browline. When not in use, the visor can be flipped upside-down and affixed again to the helmet, just above the browline, storing it cleanly out of the way.
For the sake of aerodynamics, Giro uses a simple helmet strap temple guide it calls “triglides.â€ They easily slide into position down on the ear, but happily, they also lay flat. In the past, these temple guides twisted, becoming a noisy air-catching drawback. Triglides lay flat, meaning once you set your chin strap and triglide position, everything lays flat on the jawline.
For Giro, this was a no-brainer: make MIPS—the decoupled safety net that helps refract shear impact damage which is built into the helmet’s interior retainer—a compulsory piece in the Aerohead line, not an optional upgrade. “The more we looked at MIPS, the less we saw as reasons to not use it,â€ Zaffke said. The result is the first triathlon/TT helmet employing MIPS.
Giro tested in its wind tunnel using Wind Averaged Drag (WAD), project engineer Rob Weston said, against its own helmets (including the Advantage, Air Attack Shield and Selector) and those of competitors, but used the Advantage helmet of a few years ago as their baseline. Further to that, Weston said all testing was done at two head angles: an idealized 30 degrees and a more down-facing 60 degrees—an angle that the typical exhausted triathlete will be seen at late in an Ironman.
The Aerohead Ultimate MIPS came in with the lowest WAD number of 1,862 grams, with a 9.4-second advantage over 40k or 47.4-second advantage over 180k/112 miles versus the baseline Advantage.
The Aerohead MIPS came in right after it, at 1,685 grams; 8.4 seconds faster than the Advantage over 40k, and 42.4-seconds faster over 180k/112 miles.
Giro invited LAVA to the ADT Velodrome in Carson, California last November along with to watch Rohan Dennis as he testing of the Aerohead helmets. “If it wasn’t faster, Rohan wasn’t gonna wear it,â€ Zaffke said. Using power savings as a metric, Giro came away with 17 watts saved with the Aerohead Ultimate MIPS over the Advantage. The Aerohead was 15 watts saved.
“It is a quick helmet,â€ Dennis told LAVA in November. “For team time trials, we used Selector or Stubby and that was purely we were mores used to it, but I think we’ll see more use of this one.â€
This is where we see that yes, the Aerohead is designed with triathletes in mind.
“Shielded helmets are fastest, but warmer,â€ Zaffke said. “That’s no big deal for time trialists doing a short prologue, but for triathletes, it’s a big, big deal.â€
Giro put to use its heat retention/dispersal tool, affectionately called the “Therminator.â€ The company created a head form that can be heated with thermal couples. With winds driven to mimic 22mph, Giro is able to test how (and if) a helmet actually cools the head form, and where on the head it cools.
Beyond the four vents in the Aerohead MIPS (two fore, two aft), Giro uses the RocLoc Air Fit system, with suspends the retention device system from the helmet, keeping the head off the polystyrene and allowing air to flow over (and cool) the head.
The result? Giro says the Aerohead MIPS (with vents) cools 14.3 percent better than the Air Attack Shield by comparison.
So what about that awesome pair of Oakleys or Smith shades your sponsored athletes simply must run? Weston said Giro has been testing some product. “We have ear covers that give athletes that option, Weston said, “and in that case, the drawback isn’t that much.â€
Giro will offer differing CE helmets for Europe versus the CPSC version approved for use in the United States, with a difference in polystyrene density, Zaffke says.
Giro says Aerohead MIPS will definitively be available in August. Aerohead Ultimate MIPS is a bit more open, calling for a “fall” release.
First, props to Giro for being the first brand employ MIPS in its triathlon helmets. There’s zero downside to making a helmet safer, so why wouldn’t you? Even if there is an upcharge, it’s a price we’d all pay anyway if the situation arose where we’d need it. Chapeau, Giro.
Giro provided the small crew of scribes an Aerohead MIPS to test on the last third of a three-hour ride around San Diego’s North County, with that third mostly on a flat to rolling to climbing section from Encinitas to La Jolla.
Fit is as you would expect from any other Giro helmet; true, no hotspots. Nothing to notice, so nothing to report. Flipping the visor into and out of position was easy with one hand on the bars; the magnet strength is such that there’s no long searching for the magnetic connection; the attraction will nearly take the visor out of your hand and fix it in place as soon as it’s close.
Anyone who has ever worn a TT helmet that covers the ears will note that it creates a sound chamber; you hear the whir of the wheels and nothing outside; not the guy behind you yelling to stay left, not the course marshals hollering about the dismount line.
After three minutes talking with the other journos as we rode south, I realized “wow, I’m actually able to hear what they’re saying!â€ Without an earflap covering the ears,
That said, the ears are covered; the helmet comes low in the aft, with everything coming in line with the visor out front. It’s just that they’re not set flush on your ear, so sound is able to creep in underneath. It’s a nice, non-claustrophobic feeling.
That lack of an ear flap also means the obvious: it’s incredibly easy to get on. Yes, you can start a race with the visor up, pop your helmet on and then flip the visor in its down position once your feet are in your shoes and you’re rolling, but there’s still plenty of room to put it on with the visor already in its down position. We tried it both way, both are super swift.
While the browline is extended out front, there’s no difficulty in seeing up the road. There’s plenty of visor rising up to give you lots of “lookâ€ up the road without running into the browline getting in your way.
The visor itself is faultless; I tried to find warping and distortion. I can imagine there was a fair bit in early versions, but I reckon that’s why they’ve had the helmet under wraps for a whole year, getting these things ironed out. The visor is great. Yes, I sweated on the inside of it on the climb up Torrey inside, but hell, the same thing will happen to your favorite sunglasses, too.
All told, this has to be the best “triâ€ effort ever from Giro. It looked on its face to be a TT product (especially given that they’re launching it around the Tour of California’s time trial today—look for Rohan Dennis and Bradley Wiggins to be rocking it in the TT today), but we’re super happy the company looked at triathlon as its true consumer base. (Because really, how many time trialists are gonna buy the Ultimate?) With true practicality for triathlon and a reasonable price for that technology, we predict Giro will sell the hell out of the Aerohead MIPS. To triathletes.