Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Review: Giro Aerohead MIPS

The Arrowhead Aerohat Aerohead. Few Helmets are as striking, and very rarely do they come with such high praise before release. It's no secret that I have a thing for aero lids and an almost sickness for looking for just a couple more "free" watts here and there... so when I read Jim Manton (ERO) had tested it better on everyone he put it on, I paid attention.

Rohan has set some impressive times in the Aerohead (and not in it as well)

The danger of claims like that (as you should know if you are a follower of this blog) is that blanket statements like that are dangerous. It's certainly NOT the best helmet for EVERYONE. We are all too different, if only slightly. But that said, it is certainly in contention for the most consistently good helmet offered right now.  I've seen nobody (again, dangerous terminology) test it that it wasn't in the top3 best helmets they put on.

So, let's talk about it... there's more to a helmet than being fast, right?

The Good
The good news is that there is a lot to like about this helmet. For me personally (and for many of you as well) the start and end of pretty much everything dealing with a helmet will be whether or not it's fast. In that regard I would guess it will be tough (not impossible) to beat. In my own n=1 example I tested most of the "fast" helmets against it at A2. In the end, the Aerohead was a clear winner (size medium, beating the next closest, a size small Specialized TT04, by a couple of watts) with the only questions left out there (currently) being either the eye wateringly priced Aerohead Ultimate, the astronomically priced  Crux (Team GB 2012) helmet or the not yet released Kask helmet we saw on Froome at the end of last year. (A longer tailed Bambino, close to the Crux design)

Of course that is only for me... As I alluded to above, some very smart guys (including Jim at Ero and Brian / Heath from Aerocamp) pretty much agree that the Aerohead tests "very well" on most everyone. I wrote not too many weeks ago about the importance of doing your own testing, but also mentioned that if you were unwilling/able to do your own testing, a good fall back is to pick something that does well on a wide variety of people. In the case of helmets, I think the Aerohead is high on that list, if not at the top.

Whether you believe MIPS technology is a huge step forward or just a fancy acronym, I can't think of any reasons not to at least be lukewarm to the fact that it's included in the helmet design.

Many helmets use magnets to attach the visor, but Giro really got it right. The magnets they use are powerful and locked in place. "Finding" the right spot for the visor (both down or flipped up) to sit is very easy, as a corner quickly locks and then pulls the rest in place. After dealing with snap on visors or (even worse) the old glued on magnets, it's refreshing to find one that just works without a bunch of hassle.

snapped up

normal position note the long powerful magnets

Another thing that's pretty nice is the price. At $250, it sits as the cheapest buy in the "superhelmet" category, slightly cheaper than other good options like the POC or Specialized. It's not a big price drop, but considering what they could have priced this helmet it's refreshing not to just be getting heavily price gouged.

The Bad
The visor, despite being well thought out, is not really an optional piece of equipment with the Aerohead. Sure, you can pull the Taylor Phinney and ditch it, but at that point you're better off wearing another helmet. So despite it seeming pretty nice to be able to remove it quickly, you really won't be. The exception to this is in the case that the visor fogs up. I wipe down my visors with anti-fog as a precaution, but in the even that it happens it's not nearly so catastrophic as it would be in a lot of helmets with visors, where you simply have to choose no visibility or ditching the visor and hoping to pick it up later. Still, that's not ideal.

Phinney seemingly ditched his visor (from fogging up likely) halfway at the 2016 US Nats.

Another negative rolls back around to pricing. Sure, Giro cut a few bucks off the price, but they also don't give you much in the way of accessories. Most of the other aero helmets come with a carrying bag (or even a hard shell in some cases) and at least a clear visor to swap to. The Aerohead comes with some extra padding and that's it. The Ultimate does include a hard shell and clear visor, but at double the price. Supposedly both are going to be made available for purchase separately, but so far I haven't seen either listed on Giro's website. (This could be because of the visor redesign, see below)

Using my old selector bag to transport the Aerohead... not ideal with the visor

Heat and Weight aren't things that I normally factor in much to my helmet purchases, but if you do, then both segments are likely negatives. The helmet is fairly heavy (the heaviest aero lid I have just by my rudimentary "pick up" test.) which is somewhat surprising since a lot of the "helmet" is really the visor. I guess in most other helmets that space the visor fills up is really nothing more than a plastic fairing... As far as getting hot... I personally don't think it's anything especially warm, but I've seen that cited multiple times in different people's opinion of the helmet, so it's worth mentioning if you're prone to overheat.

The Ugly
Besides the helmet itself?  (It is a... "striking" design)

Giro has had a couple of hiccups with the helmet. The original release (check your date) had a lot of complaints about the visor digging sharply into some folks cheeks. That (I'm guessing) has delayed some of the optional pieces being released (like the different tint visors) as Giro has had to re-work the visor for the next batch. To their credit they will send you the (slightly) adjusted visor if your date matches up free of charge.

Fogging is the other issue that can get ugly. You can find endless discussions and recommendations about prevention online, and mostly I've found the "common" ones to work pretty well, but not flawlessly. Sometimes it seems like it's inevitable.  That's definitely something to consider. The other (current as of 4/12/17) issue is the lack of visor options. The dark lens is great on sunny days, but is pretty lacking in overcast/rainy days and also indoors or at night. This is a problem that is likely soon to be solved, but as of today it's not.

Final Thoughts

If you're just going to be guessing what helmet is best, I think the Aerohead is a very safe bet. The wrap around visor gives a nice full view and the MIPS *could* help save your noggin. There's a lot to like in the Aerohead's rebirth (Lemond was using the original in '89) so I'd say it should definitely be on your radar. As always with anything aero, it would be best to test it yourself, but if not... it's a smart guess.

Thanks for reading! I really appreciate it.

-Christopher Morelock

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