If Tyler Farrar, Mark Renshaw or any other Garmin-Barracuda or Rabobank riders should win a stage at next month’s Tour de France, one of the many pieces of equipment used to accomplish the task will be a new aerodynamic helmet from Giro, called the Air Attack.
In general terms, traditional road helmets have been either aerodynamic, or well ventilated, but not both, as increased ventilation ports increase airflow turbulence. But Giro claims the Air Attack combines the aerodynamic qualities of its Selector time trial lid and the ventilation qualities of its top-of-the-line Aeon. (Giro claims the Aeon, which has 24 ports, is so well ventilated that it’s actually cooler than a bare head.)
Giro claims that in wind tunnel testing, the Air Attack was 12 percent faster than its Aeon, and 12 percent slower than its Selector TT helmet.
The Air Attack’s improved aerodynamics comes from its unusual aesthetic; with its solid outer shell, sporting only six vents, it similar looks to a BMX or skateboarding helmet. An optional, magnetically anchored optical shield, which raises the price from $200 to $240, increases wind-cheating properties. The optical shield was designed to be easy to install or remove with one hand, and can also be flipped upside down during pre-race or warm up if the rider wants it out of the way.
The helmet’s ventilation comes courtesy of Giro’s new Roc Loc Air adjustable fit system, which suspends the helmet 3mm above the rider’s head — the additional space between head and helmet forces airflow through the helmet’s vent channels and ports. Its six optimized external vents are synchronized with deep channels in the helmet’s liner to enhance cooling. Giro claims that in testing, using a heat-measuring head form, the Air Attack comes out a touch warmer than the Aeon, but cooler than the Selector, and about the same as a bare head.
(In terms of cooling properties, it will come as news to most cyclists that a well-ventilated helmet is actually cooler than a bare head, by virtue of the fact that a helmet keeps direct sun off the head and moves air over the head more efficiently.)
In the pursuit of both aerodynamics and ventilation, the final product is an unusual-looking road helmet that Giro PR manager Mark Riedy admitted might not be for everyone.
“To me it’s a bit like the Cervélo S5 (aero road bike),” Riedy said. “It immediately feels faster. It’s a helmet that will have fans right away. Some will say it’s too weird looking, but I think it will find its niche in the market. Giro doesn’t expect to stop selling Aeons or Selectors but I think the Air Attack will turn up in triathlon, on the track and definitely in road races.”
Riedy also said that Giro-sponsored athlete Lance Armstrong had been considering using the Air Attack in this weekend’s Ironman triathlon in Nice, France, before he was banned by race organizers following the announcement last week of USADA’s case against him.
Instead, the helmet will be on display at the Tour de France and the Olympic Games. The benefits of aero helmet design came into the public eye in a major way after Mark Cavendish wore a Specialized lid with an arguably illegal cover in his world championship road race win last October. Citing a regulation barring the use of fairings, UCI officials reportedly stopped the Lotto-Belisol squad from using a cover-equipped Lazer helmet at the Tour Down Under in January, but Team Sky and Lotto have both used the cover in more recent races.
“For the Olympics, the national federations were adamant that we deliver the helmet in time,” Riedy added.
The Air Attack will be available in two versions, for $200 and $240 with magnetically anchored optical shield. The helmet will be available in Spring 2013.
A video highlighting Giro’s development of the Air Attack can be viewed here.