Road Gear

First Ride: Giro Vanquish helmet

Dan Cavallari's initial thoughts about Giro's latest helmet are positive.

LOCHAU, Austria (VN) — We spotted Giro’s new replacement for its Air Attack at the 2017 Tour de France on BMC Racing riders, and now we’ve got the details on the new lid dubbed the Vanquish. Like its predecessor, the Vanquish’s ultimate goal is speed, but with an added dose of ventilation and a much-needed infusion of style. And it’s much more than a simple rehash of the Air Attack’s features, with a bold look and exceptional fit.

Photo: Giro

The front of the helmet sports a vastly different aesthetic than the rear, which somehow Giro has made to work well. The front is smooth and round, while the rear appears slightly boxier and angular. While it still looks less sleek than a typical minimalist road helmet, it’s a gem compared to the Air Attack and many of its competitors in the aero-road category.

“We had some instincts as to where the market was going,” says Eric Horton, Giro’s creative director. “We didn’t have the tools to design the shapes as we do now. The market’s changed, and we were forward observers. The competition has certainly caught up, so it was time to re-think” what could be done with the Air Attack’s goals.

To reevaluate, Giro turned to its engineering team to create something faster, cooler, and more comfortable. The engineers had carte blanche to design whatever would meet those goals, regardless of aesthetics. Once those goals were met, Giro’s industrial design team gave the helmet a more human touch to ensure it would be something people would actually want to wear.

Photo: Giro

The Vanquish directly addresses one of the Air Attack’s major failings: ventilation. Four large vents up front scoop air and shoot it over your head, releasing through the six rear vents. The system works quite well but the Vanquish won’t compete with the likes of the Synthe and other heavily vented helmets, so temper expectations here. The included Zeiss Vivid Road shield also presents something of a ventilation problem: The helmet is actually cooler when you’re wearing the visor rather than stowing it via the magnetic attachments at the front of the helmet. When you stow the visor, it blocks the vents almost entirely. Luckily, you can wear your own eyewear and leave the visor at home if you’re expecting a hot and sweaty day.

Giro has also integrated a new MIPS system into the Roc Loc Air fit system, an integration we first saw on Bell’s Zephyr helmet. Rather than working two components into the fit system — i.e. the Roc Loc Air system and a MIPS liner — the two components are integrated into one system. That means the helmet isn’t nearly as bulky as other MIPS helmets that essentially had to upsize to make room for the additional material within. Consequently, I had to size down from my typical size Large to a size Medium. The Roc Loc Air system works identically to previous iterations and holds just as securely.

While the front and rear of the helmet differ aesthetically and create a dramatic appearance, this juxtaposition goes well beyond notable looks. The front of the helmet overlaps the rear slightly, forming a dropoff (Giro calls it an aerodynamic cliff). This dropoff is called Transformair and essentially acts as a boundary layer separation. It’s something we’ve seen on other helmets in various iterations (Lazer’s Wasp Air is a prime example), but the execution here is unique. The aim is to separate airflow from the helmet’s surface at a certain point to ensure it doesn’t form eddies of air behind the helmet. Such eddies create drag. The Transformair seam essentially kicks the air layer off the surface of the helmet so it flows more naturally off the rear of the helmet. Giro says this creates a similar effect as a long-tailed TT helmet.

Giro’s claims

According to Giro, the Vanquish is 7.8 percent faster than the Air Attack (without the Zeiss shield) and 3.17 percent cooler. With the shield attached, the Vanquish is 6.8 percent faster than the Air Attack. Giro representatives said the helmet ventilates even better when you’re wearing the shield (a 6.61 percent cooling improvement), and the shield also improves aerodynamics.

The progressive-layered EPS liner (which appears similar to Bell’s bifurcated construction) helps manage impact energy by positioning harder EPS further away from the head and softer EPS closer to the head. This is all encased in a four-piece polycarbonate hardbody shell.

The $275 helmet has a claimed weight of 355 grams with the shield and 305 grams without it (size Medium) and will be available in Small, Medium, and Large sizes starting November 1. A lens shield is included with the helmet, and aftermarket lenses will be available in various colors for $55-60.

First Ride

I got the chance to ride the Vanquish in Austria and Switzerland, both on flat valley roads where the Vanquish is likely to give sprinters something to grin about, as well as up the steep and sustained climbs up into the surrounding mountains, where the new ventilation system would come into play.

It’s all but impossible to tell if a helmet is saving you any watts on a ride, but I can say this: The Vanquish is a quiet helmet. In theory, that means air is moving quite smoothly over (and/or through) it, perhaps a testament to the CFD and air tunnel testing Giro performed on it. But again, this is just a first ride review and I don’t have any data to support or refute Giro’s claims.

That said, I can speak to the helmet’s comfort and ventilation, as well as the more fun functions like the Zeiss shield and integrated MIPS system. For starters, all of these elements come together exceptionally well, though none of them are perfect. Ventilation compared to the Air Attack is indeed much improved, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’d make this my everyday helmet, I certainly wouldn’t leave it on the shelf as much as I would have with the Air Attack. It’s unavoidable that a helmet with this much unbroken surface area will build up heat, but the venting works well enough that it didn’t become a major distraction on a five-mile climb under the midday sun (the temperature was somewhere in the high 70s). But again, ventilation efficiency varies depending on your eyewear choice: stow the Zeiss lens and you’ll be blocking your vents.

The Zeiss lens was crystal clear in direct sunlight and in shadows — a result of blue light filtration; blue light can reduce contrast, making it more difficult for you to pick out road hazards — so I have no complaints in lens quality. And the magnets hold very strongly in both positions (stowed and down in front of your eyes). It is unfortunate that the visor blocks the air vents in the stowed position, but this is hardly a dealbreaker. I imagine I’d be wearing this helmet most often with sunglasses anyway, and if I’m using the visor, it’s going to be in the eyewear position most often. It’s clear, unobtrusive in the eyewear position, and positioned perfectly, so I’ll tentatively call this a win until I can test it longterm.

Photo: Giro

Giro has fully embraced MIPS and this new iteration will likely take all of Giro’s MIPS-equipped lids in a new, sleeker direction. I’ve said in the past that the Roc Loc Air system is perhaps the best fit system on the market, and integrating the MIPS system into the harness only improves ventilation, not to mention the overall bulk of the helmet. Less material coming in contact with your head and blocking vents means better cooling without sacrificing the advantages of both MIPS and Roc Loc. Win-win.

My only complaint about the fit was an easily solved one. The helmet had a tendency to dip downward in the front over time, especially with the Zeiss shield affixed. As it turns out, sizing down to a Medium helmet rather than my customary large provided a more secure hold around my head, so again, consider sizing down. If you’re unsure, measure your head and consult sizing charts.

My early impressions are very positive, but I’m interested to see how the venting and “coolness” claims stack up to high 80s and low 90s temps back home in Colorado.