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Giro’s new Aspect helmet, like most of the company’s discipline-confused New Road line, is lost deep in the thorny, mustachioed hinterlands between urban aesthetic and performance-oriented functionalism. We’re still glad we found it.
That the rather subdued appearance of the Aspect is at first startling speaks to how accustomed we’ve become to strapping spaceships to our heads. With the evolving look of cycling kit, away from aggressive lines and logos and towards simple style, perhaps it’s time we had a helmet to match.
Riders seeking something aesthetically clean and simple but still functional have been largely out of luck. Most “commuter” or “urban” helmets fall too far on the “none” side of the performance scale. Like Giro’s own Reverb or Bell’s Intersect, they look and feel more like skateboard helmets than road or mountain bike lids. They’re heavy and hot, with rubbish retention systems and low-quality plastics. They’re also cheap — because nobody in their right mind would pay more than $50-75 for one.
The glaring question when we first strapped into the Aspect was whether it managed to somehow combine two incongruent ideals. Could the Aspect possibly maintain the performance its $175 price tag demands without the spaceship look? In other words, would I actually want to ride in it?
In a word: sometimes.
First, though the looks do fit a more pleasing urban aesthetic, and we would consider the Aspect more visually acceptable to the general public than the average racer helmet, the Glowing Red color we acquired looked quite a lot like a pumpkin. Consider any of the four more subdued colors available.
Looks aside, performance was not quite on par with the best racer helmets we currently have in at the Velo service course — helmets like Giro’s own Aeon, the Lazer Helium, Specialized Prevail, and Bell Gage. But it was close.
The Aspect is light. Our medium came in at 242 grams with the removable visor. That’s not much heavier than the Aeon, and lighter than plenty of high-performance options on the market.
The primary concern was breathability. Despite its use of the same RocLoc Air retention system as the Air Attack, which allows the helmet to float above the scalp, drastically improving airflow, the Aspect can’t keep up with the coolest helmets available. The long, thin vents and solid back end simply don’t move as much air. It is, however, no worse than road helmets from even a few years ago, and is lighter and cooler than many mountain bike helmets available today (though, we’d guess, probably less safe as the coverage area is smaller).
Despite this drawback, the Aspect has been picked off the shelf more often than not in the last month. We’ve used it for the everyday commute and, increasingly, on singletrack days. It’s comfortable — the RocLoc Air retention system is one of the best we’ve ever used — and in our recent fall weather, it is certainly cool enough.
The Velcro-in soft visor, which mimics a flipped-down cycling cap, is a great touch to instill an even more casual look, while keeping rain and sun out of the eyes. Rubberized side panels add a bit of durability to a helmet that may see more time strapped up at the bike rack than your standard racer helmet.
The Aspect works just as well with a pair of Ray-Bans as it does with Oakleys; equally at home matched up with some tailored trousers and a Rapha jacket or slim mountain baggies and Giro’s New Road SS Merino Jersey. It’s not bad with traditional lycra, either, as long as the kit is simple.
Is it worth $175? Well, if you’re happy with your Aeon or Prevail or Gage or similar for all of your riding, then probably not. But if the look of modern racer helmets isn’t for you, and you still want some semblance of performance, it is without a doubt the best option currently available.
And by currently available, we mean available sometime in mid-November, for $175, in five colors, four of which we would gladly wear.