Friday, October 3, 2014

PRODUCT REVIEW: Giro's 2014 Air Attack Shield Helmet

Every time I wear it, riders are still asking about my helmet so I thought it would be helpful to rerun this review that ran earlier this year on RoadBikerider.

There's a Giro video about their development of this new helmet at the end 
Good rides!

An Every-Ride Aero Helmet For Roadies

I received this Giro Air Attack Shield (about $200, 360 grams) last winter (2014) and liked it so much right out of the box, that I was tempted to give it a great review after only a few rides and races.

However, it was mostly chilly back then and I wanted to see how it handled the heat. Last week, I finally got my chance when we hit 100 degrees, a record high for us, and perfect for helmet testing.

It was important to hammer in the heat in the Air Attack because its unique design includes a fuller-coverage body, only 6 narrow vents (you can barely get a finger in to scratch your head) and a full wraparound faceshield (there are three slit vents in the faceshield, too).

I suffered a minor concussion crashing and hitting my head hard while wearing an ultralight helmet not too long ago. So, I like how the Air Attack covers more of the head and its seemingly fuller and tougher In-Mold polycarbonate shell that resembles a BMX-type lid rather than a road-racing model (I say ‘seemingly’ because I haven’t crashed to test this - and hope not to!). It does feel stronger on your head though.

Full, crystal-clear faceshield 
The other obvious difference of the Air Attack is its full, wraparound faceshield. This polycarbonate, tinted lens attaches to the helmet via three powerful magnets, which means you can quickly and easily remove, invert and reattach the faceshield upside-down to expose your full face to the wind.

I haven’t had this happen, but it’s possible to drop the faceshield if you fumble while removing and replacing it. That wouldn’t be good for it, however, the magnets are so strong, that even if you only get it close to the helmet, they’ll grab and hold the faceshield tightly and it won’t drop.

The faceshield is tinted just the correct amount for my vision. It features Carl Zeiss optics for exceptional clarity and I’ve experienced no distortion or eye fatigue. I also find it to be exactly the right shape for full protection whether I’m sitting upright or in a full tuck. There’s a nose protector built in, however, it doesn’t come close to touching.

Most impressive, and among my favorite features of this helmet, is that the faceshield provides excellent protection and coverage and is also far enough from your face that you rarely get sweat on it. This means it doesn’t become blurry forcing you to have to clean it on rides the way glasses do. In fact, so far, I have only had to clean the faceshield about weekly.

It’s also great not having glasses resting on your nose and ears and not having to deal with fogging issues. Or having to put the glasses somewhere safe when they’re not working. I’ve damaged or lost many expensive pairs of glasses that way. 

Handling the heat 
On one of those hot days last week, I pushed hard for three 20-minute repeats up a sun-baked climb to see if I would overheat in the Air Attack. I felt warmer than in my standard Giro and Specialized helmets, but I didn’t have any overheating worries after the hour’s worth of intervals.

I credit Giro’s Roc Loc Air system and airflow design. Even though the helmet isn’t riddled with large vents, and even with the full faceshield, you feel air coming through the helmet and over your head at climbing speeds (a lot more on descents).

It’s because the harness holds the helmet slightly above your head. A dial in the back and sliding mechanism let you both tighten and raise/lower the harness for a custom fit.

Also, there are large exhaust ports in the back of the helmet and channels built into the inside that suck air through to help keep you cool and dry. Complementing the fine fit and venting are Giro’s antimicrobial and moisture-transferring X-Static comfort pads (removable for washing) and soft straps and Slimline buckles that you barely feel against your face.

The Air Attack fits me fabulously and I bet you’ll agree if you try one on.

Aero advantages
I was most interested in trying out the Air Attack’s full faceshield and having what might be a tougher lid. But, on my first rides with friends, someone asked me why I was wearing an aero helmet. Ditto, when I wore it during my first race this year, the Madera Stage Race. 

This caught me a little by surprise, because the Air Attack is hardly an aero helmet when you compare it to my rocket-ship-shaped time trial lids. It’s round and blunt and those are so long and pointy they look ridiculous. But those helmets are among the fastest things you can add to your time trial setup, so they’re essential.

Since everyone thought I was cheating the wind, I started paying attention to downhill coasting speeds and air noise (the quieter the helmet, the less wind resistance, in my experience). And low and behold, I started seeing higher speeds in my Strava PRs and on my computer. And the helmet was quieter at high speed, too.

That’s another excellent reason for wearing the Air Attack. By cheating the wind and making you faster, it’s also saving you energy, which is a great thing. And, if you’ve already upgraded to an aero road bike, this helmet is the icing on the cake.

Giro’s Air Attack Shield has a unique look, is slightly heavier and is warmer in really hot weather. It’s also sure to attract attention on rides. This all means that it’s probably not the right lid for all roadies. Yet, if you want a super-comfortable helmet that helps you ride and lets you ditch your eyewear, plus could provide more protection, you might love it just as much as I do.

The Air Attack Shield comes in sizes Small/Medium/Large (51-55/55-59/9-63cm) and colors Black/Red, Black/Silver, Blue/White (shown), Fluorescent Orange/White Matte Black and White/Silver.