A review of the new Giro Air Attack Shield helmet.
Aero gear has gone through an amazing transformation since it first gained popularity. At first, aero gear was seemingly restricted to races only and often underperformed in every way other than straight-line speed. Aero helmets, for example, were laughed at, and then adopted by everyone. Now, the aero helmet has been transformed into something that can be used every day. The Giro Air Attack Shield blends aero design with the benefits of a standard road helmet to create a lid that can shave you seconds on every ride and keep you more comfortable during a race.
The first Air Attack omitted the shield and was used at the highest levels of triathlon and cycling during its first year, including the 2012 Ironman Hawaii and the Tour de France. Sitting between a standard helmet and a full out aero lid, this helmet has been seen more and more by road riders looking for another small advantage and triathletes that need more comfort. Giro claims it to be 17 seconds faster than Giro’s standard Aeon fully vented road helmet at 25 mph for an hour, or roughly a 40k time trial. So it’s faster than a standard helmet, but certainly not as quick as a singularly purposed aero helmet. Giro has now released a newer version which, as the name implies, adds the shield.
The shield is held in place with three simple magnets. They create a solid connection and the visor doesn’t rattle. You can use the shield, take it off completely, or take it off and flip it upside down so it is attached to the helmet but out of the way. The shield itself is not a simple piece of flimsy plastic. It is a Carl Zeiss lens that allows for clear vision.
Six large vents, four along the top and two in the back, help bring in airflow. With fewer vents, this aids in the aero department, but also gives it a skateboard look. This helmet has been compared to skate helmets so much that Giro themselves poke fun of it in their ads. The Roc Loc Air retention system keeps the helmet slightly off your head for a light feel. As with all Roc Loc systems, a simple dial is used to tighten it down. The adjustments are in small increments so you won’t find it just a bit too tight or loose. The rear basket is adjustable up or down in three increments to allow for the best fit possible.
So if it’s not as fast as an aero helmet, why would you choose it?
First, it is noticeably cooler than a full aero helmet. While time trialing with temperatures in the high 70′s I noticed a major improvement over an aero lid. A big advantage is that without flaps coming down and covering your ears the Air Attack Shield lets more wind around your head. Additionally, the four large vents on top and two in back create a nice flowing channel of air around your head. With the Roc Loc keeping the shell off your head you can feel the circulating air. Staying cooler may allow you to have a faster day overall during a hot race, despite giving up a little time due to aerodynamics. Leanda Cave used a non-shield version of this helmet in the notorious heat and humidity of Kona to win the Ironman World Championship this past year.
With the suspended retention, multiple fit adjustments, minimal weight (our medium came in at around 300g) it feels lighter than an aero helmet as well. Without the extra weight cantilevered from the back of the helmet your neck doesn’t feel the normal strain from being in the tuck and keeping your helmet tucked down out of the wind. Over long races this can save energy and keep you comfortable.
The view out of the Carl Zeiss lens shield is crystal clear. At no point did I experience any fogging of the lens. Unlike wearing sunglasses, there is no frame to look over or to push back up on your nose. Peripheral vision is very good and I found that I didn’t experience the feeling of tunnel vision that I normally get with a regular aero helmet. The gray/silver flash tint is relatively dark, which is going to be good or bad depending on the weather. There is a clear/silver tint shield available for those that want to be fully prepared for any sunlight conditions. Of course you can always omit the shield and use sunglasses if need be. I found that sunglasses did fit nicely under the helmet.
Another benefit of the Air Attack is that you can take off the shield to use this as your daily helmet. It’s not as svelte or sleek as a regular helmet, but for those on a budget, this helmet can be the only one you own without sacrificing much comfort during training or speed while racing. On my local group ride I got few odd looks and some comments about having a skateboard helmet on my head. Some riders asked me if I was racing and told me to pin a number on. Shrugging off these comments will be a common theme for any Air Attack owner, but that’s a small price to pay. There are three versions of the Air Attack in black, and the white pictured here. In my opinion, the black versions look sleeker than the white but that is a matter of taste.
At an MSRP of $240 it is not necessarily cheap, but it can do the work of two helmets. The Air Attack has many true benefits for triathletes, including heat management and comfort. It does give up some aerodynamics performance compared with a pure time trial helmet, but its practical applications make it a viable option. This may be just the start of a new revolution toward semi-aero gear that can be used in both racing and training, but for now the Air Attack sits at the top of this new hybrid category of helmets.
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