This article first appeared on BikeRadar.com.
Aerodynamic technology is all the rage in road frame and wheel design so it was only a matter of time before it trickled into other equipment segments. Giro resurrects the old Air Attack moniker for a novel new road - not TT - helmet design that can supposedly save riders up to 17 seconds over 40km of racing as compared to the company's latest Aeon model.
Claimed to offer the "lowest wind-averaged aerodynamic drag of any road helmet design", the new Air Attack is certainly unusual looking, sporting a mostly solid outer shell with just six vents in total. In contrast, the Aeon is almost more air than foam with 24 air-sucking ports but according to Giro, that nearly solid outer shell is precisely what gives the Air Attack such a slippery profile.
The most aerodynamic configuration, called the Air Attack Shield, also includes an integrated eye shield that attaches with magnets and can be flipped out of view in case of rain - an especially rare inclusion for a road helmet.
Other features include lightweight webbing, a slim-line buckle, and anti-microbial X-Static padding. Claimed weight is 264g for a medium Air Attack with the shield adding another 32g.
Ventilation is obviously still a paramount concern for road cyclists, though, and Giro has tackled the challenge by maximizing the Air Attack's internal channel design - an approach similar to the company's full-blown Selector time trial model. There's also a new Roc Loc Air retention system that helps suspend the entire helmet 3mm off the top of the rider's head. In theory, the combination creates enough space inside the helmet such that whatever air does come in has so much room to flow that the Air Attack doesn't feel overly hot.
In fact, Giro PR man Mark Riedy claims that pressure differentials and Venturi effects make the Air Attack about as cool as having no helmet on at all based on Giro's in-house testing on its instrumented headform (the Aeon, by the way, is supposedly cooler than a bare head). That being said, such a cooling mechanism likely also depends on the rider moving at a reasonable rate of speed, meaning that at first glance, the Air Attack doesn't seem to be the ideal choice for a hot day of steep climbing.
Then there's the question of the Air Attack's aesthetics, which Riedy admitted are polarizing but that for many riders, function will trump form.
"Honestly, I'd say that it's kind of like the [Cervélo] S5," he told BikeRadar. "When that came out, we had a ton of people say, 'that bike is really ugly'. There are lots of people who are concerned about that but a lot that aren't, who understand that a little bit of aero that can go a long way."
Among those early adopters is Rabobank sprinter Mark Renshaw, who wore a new Air Attack for each stage of the Ster ZLM Toer GP Jan van Heeswijk in the Netherlands this past week.
Giro will offer the standard Air Attack in six colors and the Air Attack Shield in four, both with three size options each. Suggested retail prices are US$200 and US$240, respectively, and projected availability is spring 2013.
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