We were quite excited by the launch of the Giro Air Attack and sang it’s praises in the Preview article, but since then it might perhaps be considered a bit ‘old hat’ (forgive the pun) in light of Giro launching the new Synthe. Well we think there is plenty of life left in the old dog yet and in anticipation of a head to head with the newer Giro lid sometime soon, thought we’d best have an in-depth look to determine if it’s still worth investing in an Air Attack..?
I am going to start this review with a huge positive in support of this genre defining, aero road helmet: it has to be a good sign when, having damaged the Air Attack helmet we had in for review (as I did when I crashed at the Hillingdon Winter Series in quite spectacular fashion as you can see in the photo below), I immediately bought a new one to replace it – with my own cash.
It says that the test helmet has made a huge impact on me (as well as me on it unfortunately!) and that I’ve fully bought into the Air Attack concept. So I’m obviously answering “Yes” to the question in the opening paragraph, but why didn’t I buy the new Synthe? Why am I so enamored with the Giro Air Attack?
First of all I had to get over the Air Attack’s styling. My initial thoughts were that it is a bit ‘old school’ compared to most top of the range vented helmets, perhaps even a step back in design terms, but then like anything, it looks great in certain situations so you get used to the styling and even grow to love it. Shouts of “Go on mushroom man!” at a cyclo-cross race late last year didn’t deter me. I like the way it looks. It’s a helmet which says, “I mean business. I have come here to race”, though whether that’s what I say to others when I am wearing it is another matter entirely. And dare I say it, I prefer the way it looks over the Synthe. It is a totally hardcore helmet.
Giro may have launched the Synthe claiming better aerodynamics in an upright road position despite its venting, but many pro-riders, sponsored by other helmet manufacturers, are still sporting clip-on aero covers over their vented helmets, and in that climate the Giro Air Attack still makes complete sense. The events I do seem to suit the Air Attack as well, with my diet of track, cyclo-cross and criteriums; I rarely ride more than 60 miles nowadays, and usually that includes a commute to and from a race…
As you’d hope, safety wise we are sure that the Air Attack is on the money, especially as our test sample now has a huge dent in it, a bit embarrassing for me to explain to UK importer, Zyro, but a sure sign that the in-mould polycarbonate shell and protective EPS liner did their job, protecting my skull from almost certain damage, adding further to my assertation that one should always wear a helmet when cycling…
That crash happened in a sprint and it’s in the sprints that I most covet the Air Attack. There is something strangely secure about wearing it in those situations that helps you focus, helps keep you calm and makes you feel faster. It’s a point that was touched upon by my teammate, Vince Halpern, when he claimed that of the Air Attack, “It definitely feels faster, and is nice and quiet as there’s no sense of wind battering your head (in a sprint)”, implying that not having the blustering you associate with vented lids helps him focus in such stressful situations; it’s hard to argue with someone who has been consistently winning sprints for over 20 years now.
Even if all that is just mind games, Giro do have research to say there’s an aero advantage to the Air Attack and their marketing spiel does claim that it delivers ‘a dose of free speed’. The areas they claim it excels in are in those head down moments – sprints, breakaways and time-trials. In the normal head up position, the Air Attack boasts drag savings of 11% over a vented helmet but the new Synthe saves 16% over other Giro vented lids. Get your head down though and the numbers are as good as reversed. Now I figure that during the crunch time of any race, when the hammer goes down, so does my head as I try to get as low and aero as possible. It’s at that time that the Air Attack is still the best helmet to have and that’s the reason I bought one.
Surprisingly I have yet to experience any real issues with being too hot whilst wearing the enclosed Giro. I admit that I have yet to use it on a hot summer’s mountain ascent but it can certainly cope with the worst (or should I say best) the British summer has to offer. Heat build up is no more noticeable than any other helmet I own, vented or otherwise. Giro’s new ‘Roc Loc Air system’ which forces air in over the head via the front, six vents and then out of the rear exhaust ports works well. The same Roc Loc system also secures the lid to your head and being adjustable for both tension and vertical fit, allows really comfortable positioning. The Roc Loc’s webbing and X-Static comfort pads work well and I can’t find issue with either. It’s by far the most comfortable lid I have used to date and Giro have managed to make it feel very secure.
The Air Attack Shield includes a Carl Zeiss visor which attaches magnetically to the helmet, great for time trials and summer, open air track races but as of yet not really useful in crits or road races. Still it only takes one person to start using it in such before we are all doing it…
There’s no real weight penalty over other helmets, though obviously you can go lighter if that’s your thing. The Air Attack weighs in at 298g on our scales, whilst even with the magnets of the Shield version it was fractionally lighter at 296g, though with visor added it is 328g. The Synthe is around 250g we are told.
The colour range is pretty broad and there’s the glossy finish, as in our test example, or a matt finish as in the one I later purchased. You should be able to find something that matches your kit.
So in summary, the Giro Air Attack is an awesome lid if you are a ‘short track specialist’ (by which I mean crits, shorter road races as well as on the velodrome), or an occasional tester against the clock cum head down, attacking rider, and as such will bring you major aero benefit without, I feel, any real downside. In fact the only negative I can think of, especially if you don’t fit into one of those categories mentioned previously, is the availability of the Synthe. Good problem to have if your name is Giro…
The Air Attack Helmet retails for £149.99/$199.99
The Air Attack Shield retails for £179.99/$239.99
The Synthe is £199.99/$249.99
Giro Air Attack Shield
Giro Air Attack
Zyro (Giro UK)