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Exclusive: How Giro Made a Cooler, Faster Helmet

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Giro says the Air Attack increases a rider's efficiency by providing optimal aerodynamics, cooling and light weight. Giro claims the helmet will make you faster. Photo: Peter McCollough/Wired


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SCOTTS VALLEY, California — When it comes to bicycle helmets, protection is paramount. Everything else — cooling, aerodynamics, light weight — is a compromise. If you want more of one, you’ll surrender a little of the others. But Giro says it has achieved an ideal combination of excellent cooling, low drag and light weight in a bicycle helmet that actually makes you faster.


The California company spent 18 months developing the Air Attack helmet, which makes its official debut when the

Rabobank and Garmin-Barracuda teams wear them during flatter stages of the Tour de France. We’ll also see them in London during the 2012 Summer Games, helping riders slice the wind and keep cool, thereby saving energy — and time.


“The two biggest obstacles a rider has to overcome are the wind, which forces a rider to work harder, and heat, which forces the body to divert energy to cooling,” said Eric Richer, Giro senior brand manager. “The Air Attack can help riders to overcome both obstacles efficiently.”


It all comes down to a shape honed during six visits to wind tunnels at the universities of Washington and British Columbia. Everything about the helmet’s design, by Greg Marting, was dictated by the tunnel.


“The shape of the helmet was not determined by the designer,” says engineering manager Rob Wesson. “It was determined by the data.”


The Air Attack was designed in the Dome, the in-house think-tank where engineers from Giro, Bell and Easton design

helmets for everything from bicycle time trials to field hockey. From initial design to rapid prototyping to crash testing and certification, it’s all done in an R&D center a stone’s throw from awesome cycling trails and roads in the Santa Cruz mountains.


Wesson, engineer Paul Kele and advanced concepts developer Chris Pietrzak paid particular attention to the frontal profile when designing the Air Attack. The profile, or shape, is similar to the Giro Selector time trial helmet. Although the Air Attack isn’t quite so sleek as the Selector, Wesson says it provides a 49-gram drag differential over Giro’s top-tier Aeon road helmet at 25 mph and a 30-degree head angle. In English, that means you’ll save a significant chunk of time in a 40-kilometer run.


“All things being equal, if you switch to this helmet you pick up 17 seconds,” Wesson says. That differential grows to 41.5 seconds over 180 kilometers.


The helmet is almost as cool as it is fast. Although it won’t keep you as cool as the Aeon — which keeps you cooler than going without a helmet at all due to a venturi effect drawing warm air away from your skull — Wesson says lab tests showed the Air Attack stays within 1 degree Fahrenheit of your bare head.


“You might be able to tell the difference,” he says. “You might not.”


To maximize cooling, Giro’s Roc-Loc fit system keeps the helmet 3 millimeters above your skull, maximizing air flow and creating a venturi effect. The visor — designed and manufactured by Zeiss — is affixed to the helmet with three magnets, making installation and removal a snap, even at speed.


So what’s it weigh? The Air Attack with CE certification weighs 264 grams (the visor adds 32 grams), compared to the Aeon at 192 grams and the Selector at 430. Wesson calls it an ideal helmet for flat stages, when riders will need maximum cooling and aerodynamic efficiency.


Pros get the Air Attack this summer. The rest of us must wait until next spring. Look for a sticker price of $200. The shield will run another 40 bucks.

Edited by Hannes Zietsman
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It looks like those old top sport helmets, now only in a shiny finish vs the then lycra covers

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shining increases a rider's efficiency


only if said shining is coming off a material that is red in colour ... simple physics 101

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