It�s been quite a while since we first got a look at the Giro Air Attack, and at the time, I was very anxious to get one to review. I�m happy to report that I�ve been riding one for the last six months or so, and this is my full review of the helmet. To say that I like it would be an understatement. Since getting it, I haven�t used anything else in training or racing. It�s awesome, and I�m delighted that the industry has moved to making aerodynamic road helmets.
When I published our First Look article about the Air Attack last year, I wrote that this helmet could usher in an entirely new product category, and that the aero road helmet would be embraced by the industry as a whole. And that�s exactly what�s happened. In the year since the Air Attack was launched, virtually every major helmet manufacturer has developed a similar product, designed to improve the aerodynamics of the standard road helmet. Critically, these helmets are being positioned not just as a product for roadies, but also for triathletes, to provide an option for better helmet ventilation on particularly hot courses, like Ironman Hawaii.
I love the concept, and think it�s been long overdue for development with modern design technologies including CFD and cycling-specific wind tunnel protocols. Consider this: as far as equipment goes, the helmet probably represents the largest thing you ride with in terms of frontal area. Your frame comes close, but at best it�s probably a tie. That�s why dollar-for-dollar, the helmet is the cheapest way to improve your aerodynamics on the bike, even without doing a single thing with your position or riding style. For $250, a fast helmet can provide more 'free speed' than a snazzy new frame costing ten times as much. Here's our video review of the helmet:
On The Attack
So how does the Air Attack stack up? It�s awesome. Like any road lid, it�s incredibly easy to put on, it�s a fair bit lighter than its longer-tailed cousins, and it promises aerodynamic performance approaching that of dedicated TT helmets. Certainly, a good-fitting helmet like Giro�s own Selector, that covers your ears, flows into your back in a way carefully integrated into your own position (preferably with some wind tunnel testing specific to you and your equipment), will always be the fastest thing going. But if you resign to using a no-flaps road-style helmet for tri, you�d do well to look into the new wave of aero road helmets, and the Air Attack should be right at the top of your list. Giro has been making helmets for a long time, and they really know what they�re doing in terms of fit, comfort, and adjustability. The Roc Loc ratchet at the back of the helmet allows for simple, on-the-fly tuning of your fit, and it works perfectly to cradle your head gently with no hot spots or painful pinching to any part of your skull.
Moreover, the Air Attack has one critical feature that other manufacturers have neglected to put into their aero road helmet offerings: the detachable visor. There is actually some debate about what impact visors have on aerodynamics; Specialized has published data to the effect that sunglasses are preferable to visors, while other tests have shown the opposite to be true. Regardless, I�m strongly in favor of visors, because for aggressive aero positions, there is no better option for clear visibility. Visors are better than any sunglasses, rimmed or rimless. They don�t slide down your nose, there�s nothing to hinder visibility, and who knows, maybe there is some aerodynamic advantage depending on your position.
There are some small nitpicks I have about the visor itself. The first is that the view through it is ever so slightly distorted, particularly at the lower half of the visor. To some extent this is difficult to avoid with such a large and rimless optic. Any warping of the visor itself will result in that distortion, and given that it�s not supported anywhere except the three magnetic snap points, the distortion is inevitable. The Carl Zeiss lens is otherwise very good, and probably about as good as it can be given the design constraints. My other complaint about the lens is that it�s just not quite tall enough. I�d like to see another inch or so of real estate on the lower half, such that the lens nearly hits the cheek, like you see on the Kask Bambino lens. At its current size, the Air Attack�s lens is short enough that if you�re sitting upright, you might be looking under the lens to see the road. And finally, I would REALLY like to see some more options in the optics themselves. Can we get a full mirrored lens? How about some snazzy colored mirrors? I'd personally love to rock the orange lens that Giro gave to Levi Leipheimer for his 2011 Tour of California TT ride.
But again, these complaints are small. In general, I�m overwhelmingly in favor of the Air Attack, and I�ve been riding mine exclusively for the last six months or so. For road riding, there are a lot of options that have recently come to market, such as the LG Course, the Specialized Evade, and the Giro Air Attack. Any of them would be worth exploring for road use only. But for triathletes, and especially those with aggressively-low positions, an integrated visor will always win TriRig�s endorsement. Giro has created something really special with the Air Attack, and it�s great to see how the whole industry is moving in this direction.