Hands-on Gear Review

Giro Cipher Review

Giro Cipher in Matte Red Black.
Price:  $200 List | $144.97 at Amazon
Pros:  Comfortable, click-on camera mount works with both GoPro and Contour cameras, quality feel, works well with Leatt style neck braces
Cons:  Chin guard is too close, poorly ventilated and too hot
Bottom line:  Super solid and comfortable, we like everything about this helmet except its chin guard and sub-par ventilation.
Editors' Rating:   
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Sizes:  4
Weight (size medium) oz:  40.32(M)
Number of vents:  8
Manufacturer:   Giro

Our Verdict

The Giro Cipher is a very solid full-face helmet. Its shell is made from fiberglass while the liner is made from the usual expanded polystyrene. The interior padding make this helmet comfortable and secure and give us a feeling of confidence that, should we eat an unexpected dirt sandwich, this lid would do its job of protecting our grill.

This helmet competes closely with the Bell Transfer-9 at the $200 price point. The Transfer received the second highest overall score in out test. The Cipher would have scored much higher if it wasn't for its very poor ventilation score. This is one of the hotter full-faces we've ever worn, but more importantly the chin guard is positioned much too close to the wearer's face and feels suffocating. Still, we think it is a hard choice between the two moderately priced helmet. The Transfer has a better fit and a slightly more solid feel, but it weighs nearly 5 ounces more than the Cipher. The Cipher is lighter but is hard to pedal in because the face guard issue.

This model replaces the long standing classic Remedy as Giro's only full-face bicycle helmet. Our testers feel that it is a significant improvement over the Remedy in both comfort and protection.

It is currently available in eight different colorways, from an inconspicuous matte black to a loud-and-proud red camo. We like that the color schemes cover the range of desired attention a rider may want. Though we didn't score helmets on based on style, our testers agreed that this is one of the cooler looking helmets in our test.

It is available in four sizes. We found it fit on the larger side. Our size medium test helmet fit very similarly to our size Large Bell Transfer-9. The Giro and Bell sizing charts reflect this, but the sizes don't necessarily line up from brand to brand, so pay attention before ordering.



RELATED REVIEW: The Best Full Face Downhill Mountain Bike Helmets

Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Luke Lydiard

Last Updated:
Saturday
November 1, 2014

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The Giro Cipher is a good looking fiberglass full-face downhill helmet, and it scored highly in all of our tests save one: ventilation. Unfortunately the chin guard is just too close to the wearer's mouth, which causes this helmet to feel a bit suffocating.

Performance Comparison


The Cipher's secure fit and light weight made it one of our favorite helmets for bike park riding.
The Cipher's secure fit and light weight made it one of our favorite helmets for bike park riding.

Comfort


Our testers agreed that this is one of the most comfortable helmets we tested. It scored just behind the Bell Transfer-9 and the Troy Lee D3, which took the top scores in this category. All three of these helmets have ample padding to cushion between the polystyrene and the head. We found that padding also plays a role in how well a full-face stays put while descending with reckless abandon, and the Cipher stayed locked in place no matter how sloppy our riding got.

The shape of this helmet is middle of the road, er… trail, and fit all of our testers well. If you know you have a particularly round head (looking from the top down) then you may want to check out the Troy Lee D3 which has a rounder shape. If you have an especially oval head, check out the POC Cortex Flow. If you are like most people and have a moderately oval head, then all of the helmets will fit you decently.

Giro sells extra cheek pad kits in different thicknesses for fine tuning fit. We think this is great, as it not only allows you to get a perfect fit but also makes replacement pads readily available when they pack out or get too stinky.

Jeff Fox slays a wall ride in the Giro Cipher.
Jeff Fox slays a wall ride in the Giro Cipher.

Visor


This helmet has an excellent visor which is one of our favorites, again along with the Bell Transfer 9 and the Troy Lee D3. All three of these helmets have broad visors that not only shield the eyes in front but at the sides as well. This is important when rounding corners towards the sun and looking out of the upper corners of the eyes.

The visor attachment is similar to the one on one of our favorite half-shell helmets, the Bell Super, in that it pivots around a plastic plug at either side of the visor and is locked in place using two thumb screws that don't require tools to manipulate. We found that the visor can be adjusted just low enough to shield the eyes in most situations and tilted up just far enough for goggles to be worn on the brow of the helmet beneath the visor. Some riders will appreciate this while others won't notice it at all.

Side view of the Giro Cipher with the visor fully up.
Side view of the Giro Cipher with the visor fully up.

Weight


Our size medium test helmet weighed 40.32 ounces on our digital scale. The lightest helmet we tested was the Bell Sanction, which weighed in at 34 ounces in a size large, and which had roughly the same fit as the medium Cipher. This isn't exactly a comparison of apples to apples though, since the Sanction is designed for much lighter-duty riding and does not meet all of the certifications. Namely, the ASTM-F1952 cert, which the Cipher meets and the Sanction does not. The lightest helmet in our test which meets that standard is the Fox Rampage, which weighed in at 36.8 ounces in size large.

The average weight of the six helmets we tested is just over 39 ounces, which puts the Cipher just above average. It is, however, the lightest of the our three favorite helmets which also included the Troy Lee D3 Composite and the Bell Transfer 9.

Unlike many of the other helmets we tested, this helmet is not available from Giro in a carbon version to save weight.

Jeff Fox rides in the Giro Cipher which is one of our favorite full face helmets.
Jeff Fox rides in the Giro Cipher which is one of our favorite full face helmets.

Ventilation


Ventilation is the only area in which the Cipher severely lacks. We found this helmet to be hotter than all of the others we tested, but more importantly we felt that it seriously hindered breathing.

After our first rides in this helmet, we noticed that it trapped a lot of heat. We thought maybe we had just picked this helmet on hotter days, so we made a point to wear this helmet on a rare California day of cold drizzle, and still found this helmet to be too sweltering. Though this helmet has about as many vents as other helmets, it just doesn't have as much airflow to cool things off. Even the cool looking brow vent doesn't seem to help much.

More importantly, our testers found this helmet to be suffocating while breathing hard. We feel that this is caused by the proximity of the chin guard to the mouth. The guard, which has smaller than average vents, is positioned noticeably closer to to the face than on other helmets we tried. It is also slightly higher in relationship to the mouth when worn by most people. This results in poor airflow in front of your breathing holes, and we are guessing results in a lot of recycled carbon dioxide, which causes the suffocating feeling.

If it weren't for these two things we would recommend this helmet much higher.

We wish that Giro had given the Cipher's face mask bigger vents. The combination of the smallish vents and a face shield that sits a little too close to the mouth make the Cipher feel suffocating.
We wish that Giro had given the Cipher's face mask bigger vents. The combination of the smallish vents and a face shield that sits a little too close to the mouth make the Cipher feel suffocating.

Protection


As soon as we got our hands on the Cipher, we could tell that it is a very solid helmet. Though we don't do scientific crash testing at OutdoorGearLab, we feel that this helmet would provide similar protection to the Bell Transfer 9 and Troy Lee D3. Of the helmets we evaluated, these three are the ones we would want to be wearing in a serious wreck. We can't say the same for some of the other helmets.

Our testers who choose to ride with neck braces found that this helmet worked very well with them. Specifically, the Leatt DBX Comp, which is the brace worn by two of our primary testers. The chin guard has a subtle downward sweep ,which we didn't notice until we set it on a flat surface. Usually this kind of curve can restrict forward motion when used with a neck brace, but we did not find this to be true with the Cipher. The rear of the helmet tapers in towards the neck, which allows for more rearward head tilt with or without a neck brace. This area is covered in the slightly flexible plastic that also covers the bottom edge of the helmet and increases durability where the helmet may contact a neck brace.

The Cipher works well with neck braces like the Leatt DBX.
The Cipher works well with neck braces like the Leatt DBX.

Like all of the helmets in our test, the Cipher meets the CPSC and CE EN 1078 bicycle helmet standards. It also meets the more stringent ASTM DH 1952 standard, which not all full-face bike helmets meet. Of the helmets we tested, the Bell Sanction and POC Cortex Flow do not meet the ASTM standard.

Extras


Hidden beneath the visor is a slot which accepts an included camera mount. This mount includes adapters for both GoPro and Contour. We like that this mount can be completely removed from the helmet when it isn't needed, but it isn't quite as wiggle free as an adhesive mount. That's okay though, because your girlfriend still doesn't want to watch your Go-Pro footage.

This helmet can be plumbed for sound using any TuneUps headphones. These headphones are essentially small, over the ear headphones without a head band which are designed to be dropped into small pockets in the helmet. Many of the Giro ski helmets use this feature, so you may already be familiar with it or own a pair of the required headphones.

We tried putting our iPhone earbuds in the pockets, but that didn't really work. Since the buds are designed to be in the ears, it sounded as if the music was being played in a different room. If you want to listen to music, we recommend you just spend the money and get a pair of the compatible TuneUps headphones.

Durability


This helmet has a quality feel to it. We especially like the single piece of rubbery material which covers the lower edge of the helmet as well as lines the face opening. This helmets' padding is especially dense and packed out noticeable less than other helmets during our test. We did manage to crack the shell of this material from a high speed whack on a rock, but we still feel that this is one of the more durable helmets in our test. Remember that expanded polystyrene bicycle helmets are designed to be replaced after significant impacts.

The two highest scoring helmets in our durability test were the Troy Lee D3 and the Bell Transfer-9, which just barely outscored the Cipher but both weigh a few ounces more.

The Cipher uses an injected gasket to cover the bottom edge of the helmet. At the rear of the helmet the gasket encompasses an exhaust port and tapers towards the top of the helmet.
The Cipher uses an injected gasket to cover the bottom edge of the helmet. At the rear of the helmet the gasket encompasses an exhaust port and tapers towards the top of the helmet.

Best Application


Lift assisted Downhill and Freeride

Value


The Cipher is an excellent choice in the $200 range. The Bell Transfer-9, which also retails for $200, scores slightly higher, making it a slightly better value by the numbers. Compared with the Troy Lee D3 Composite at $375, both of these helmets are considerably better values. Always consider that bike helmets are only designed to last until your next major impact, and should then be replaced. We feel this fact is an argument for buying a less expensive lid, especially for downhill riding where big, helmet-destroying wrecks are more common than with other types of biking.

Karl Anderson ignoring gravity in the Giro Cipher.
Karl Anderson ignoring gravity in the Giro Cipher.

Conclusion


The Cipher is a comfortable full-face helmet, and we feel that it is a great value. Its major downfall is that the face shield is not ventilated enough and sits too close to the mouth, making it suffocating. We wished that Giro had extended the chin bar out another inch to provide for a little bit of breathing room. If Giro had done so, this helmet would be a contender for our Editors' Choice award and would certainly be the best helmet at the $200 price point.

Luke Lydiard

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Most recent review: November 1, 2014
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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