Sharp eyes might have noticed unfamiliar helmets on the heads of certain riders in Tuesday’s team time trial. At the start line, we spotted riders from the Astana and Garmin teams with new Giro-branded helmets. The Saxo Bank team, which is sponsored by Bell, also had new helmets, including a yellow one for Fabian Cancellara to match his leader’s jersey. Reportedly, other teams sponsored by Giro (including Rabobank and Caisse d’Epargne) are also wearing this new helmet in time trials.
Bell Sports owns the Giro brand, so it’s probable that the new time trial helmets from both brands share some similar features and design parameters.
Giro helmets brand manager Kevin Franks has not been able to give much information. He said the new helmet has yet to be named, priced, or targeted for release to the public. But he did describe a few design elements built in to the unique looking lid.
Franks said, “Performance drove the design of the helmet, not aesthetics.” He noted as well, “It is a very different looking helmet, but all for good reason.”
The new helmets do not have the pronounced, elongated tail of most TT helmets. Rather, they have a shorter, rounder teardrop. Nor do they have vents at the front — it is completely smooth across the top and front. However, small exhaust ports can be seen on the short tail. Franks said that if we could see the inside of the helmet, we’d note internal channels to direct airflow, especially in the forehead and brow area.
In a first (to our knowledge) for Giro and Bell, the helmet has an integrated (but removable) sunglass/shield. Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador rode the opening time trial using their own sunglasses, as did many of their teammates in the team time trial. On the other hand, Garmin riders and Saxo Bank riders in the Bell helmets rode the TTT with the shield in place.
It’s hard to tell, but a portion of the gap on the underside of the tail appears to be covered with fabric or lycra. Danny Pate on team Garmin-Slipstream appeared to have removed the fabric, plus some shell material, from his helmet.
The Bell and Giro helmets are similarly shaped, but the Bell has a single rear exhaust port, while the Giro has two.
New school: multiple positions, multiple wind angles
In describing the design process for the new Giro, Franks said, “The helmet is adjustable to accommodate the ‘modern’ TT position. We built the helmet around a broad range of positions, i.e., from Levi in his ‘lotus’ position to Lance with his extremely curved back.” Explaining the longer helmets that were once considered the fastest, he said, “Many existing TT helmets were designed around one specific (old school) TT position.”
Franks added, “Most importantly, we designed the helmet to perform well in yaw situations. Most helmets do not address this properly.” Franks said that the new Giro TT helmet was independently tested at the Kirstin Wind Tunnel, and according to him, it’s got very low drag numbers, especially with wind at various yaw angles.
Franks also hinted at another new helmet on the way, possibly as soon as Friday. He didn’t say if this one, a road helmet, would look significantly different or not. Keep your eyes peeled, and we’ll do the same.