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Giro Air Attack Shield Review
Cons: Expensive, poorly ventilated especially at low speed
Bottom line: The original aero road helmet with an integrated shield.
The Giro Air Attack Shield was one of the first of a new sub-genre of road cycling helmets that bridge the gap between teardrop shaped time trial helmets and traditional road helmets. This type of helmet is supposed to reduce aerodynamic drag over traditional helmets without the inconvenience and ridiculousness of a full on teardrop time trial helmet. The Air Attack is an excellent option as an aero helmet for occasional time trialists or for triathlon competitors. Also, because it is much warmer than other helmets we tested due to the lack of vents, we think it is an excellent helmet for both rainy cyclocross racing as well as winter time training rides.
Does the Air Attack actually make you faster? Our gut feeling says that yes, it probably does to some very small degree, but you would need to do wind tunnel testing to truly prove that. We did not perform this type of testing, so we can only tell you what we experienced when riding in this helmet in real world settings. What our testers found is that as soon as they put the Air Attack on, they felt a bit like Fabian Cancellara. In case you don't know who that is, he's the Swiss time trial specialist once accused of having a motor driving his bike. His response to that false accusation was that he in fact had two motors: a right leg and a left leg. Basically what we are saying is that the Air Attack made us feel faster before we even touched the pedals, and we think there is something to be said about that. If you believe you are fast, you are likely to smash the pedals just a bit harder. So, our very non-wind tunnel opinion is that yes, the Air Attack makes you faster.
Let's just get to the part that you really want to know about the Air Attack Shield: the Shield. We had serious doubts about this thing. Before we tried this helmet, we thought that the shield would fog, bounce around, pop off, not cover our field of view, or let in too much air at high speed. Once we rode with the shield we realized that all of these things were not a problem, and the shield proved to be downright awesome. It attaches to the front of the helmet with three magnets. Yes, magnets. How well does this work? Again, awesome. The best part is you can flip the shield upside down and store it on the front of the helmet using the same three magnets. This proved to be easier to do with one hand while riding than stashing a pair of regular sunglasses on the front of a traditional helmet, and a whole lot more secure.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Air Attack Shield is a polystyrene and polycarbonate cycling helmet that is designed to increase the aerodynamics of the rider. This helmet has an eye shield which is held firmly to the front of the helmet via three powerful magnets.
The Air Attack is a comfortable helmet but can not compete with the Bontrager Ballista. The Ballista was by far the most comfortable aero helmet we tested. If you are contemplating the Air Attack as an alternative to a full-blown time trial teardrop, then the Air Attack is many times more comfortable as well as much less ridiculous.
This helmet uses a somewhat unique retention system compared to most other modern road cycling helmets. The adjustment band at the rear of the Air Attack is the same, but in the forehead area, the helmet also uses a floating band to suspend the front of the helmet off the front of the head. This is supposed to increase airflow into this minimally ventilated helmet. (More on whether or not the system actually works in the ventilation test below.) All other helmets simply use foam padding in the front of the helmet and a rear retention band. The suspended fit system, which Giro calls RocLoc Air, is also found on the Giro Synthe, winner of our Editors' Choice Award.
If you factor in using the shield as opposed to regular sunglasses, the Air Attack becomes even more comfortable. The shield floats just above the bridge of the nose and shields the eyes just as well as any sunglasses we've ridden in. It also totally avoids the pressure points on the bridge of the nose and above and behind the ears that sunglasses can sometimes cause on long rides. The Bell Star Pro also has an integrated shield, but we had issues with lining it up in a manner where the edge of the shield did not obscure vision. This was not a problem with the Air Attack. The most comfortable helmet in our test is the Giro Synthe, which shares the Roc Loc Air fit system with the Air Attack.
The Air Attack uses Giro's Roc Loc Air retention system, which is very similar to RocLoc5 system found on the Giro Aeon and Giro Savant. Everything at the rear of the RocLoc Air is essentially the same as the RocLoc5. The rear band of both systems is adjusted with a small yet powerful and easy-to-find click wheel. The height adjustment of either system is also the same. Where the RocLoc Air and RocLoc5 differ is at the front of the helmet. The RocLoc5 helmets simply use bits of open cell foam adhered to the front of the helmet to pad between the head and polystyrene. The RocLoc Air system uses a lightly padded forehead band inside of the front of the helmet to keep the front of the helmet suspended slightly away from the forehead. The band is fixed and does not provide any additional adjustment over the traditional foam bits found in other lids.
The Air Attack uses the same thin, flat webbing that we love on the Aeon and Giro Synthe. It also shares the small plastic locking yoke hardware of the two more traditional helmets. The hardware allows for fore/aft positioning of the chin strap, which we've found is key to safely adjusting a helmet.
Our size medium Air Attack weighed in at a fairly hefty 326g with the shield. Of the fourteen helmets in our test, the Air Attack is the heaviest. The shield itself weighs 32.9g. For comparison, a pair of Smith PivLock V90 sunglasses weighs 27.3g. So you aren't saving any weight with the shield, but you are increasing the intimidation factor on the road by looking like a Super Power Ranger.
Looks and Design
Let's face it, aero helmets are not the best looking options when it comes to cycling helmets. We prefer the looks of the Bontrager Ballista over the other aero helmets we have tested, but the Air Attack comes in a close second. Despite being one of the first aero helmets to hit the market, the design of the Air Attack still rivals the majority of aero helmets on the market.
Despite the claims from Giro, we found this helmet to be considerably less ventilated than any traditional helmet we have tested. We've seen various data depictions that try to paint this helmet as just slightly less ventilated than the very well ventilated Giro Aeon. We will remind you that statistics can show anything 50% of the time. With that said, it does offer better ventilation than both the Bell Star Pro and the POC Octal Aero.
In an attempt to make this helmet better ventilated, this helmet uses the RocLoc Air retention system that suspends the helmet slightly off the front and top of the head in an attempt to promote airflow into the front of the helmet and around the rider's head. The inside of the Air Attack has deep air channels which connect the two front air intakes above the brow with the four top most vents. There are also skinny, shallow channels which run vertically from above the temples towards the deep upper channels. Again, this is an attempt to promote airflow inside the helmet with very minimal vents through its shell.
What we found in our user test is that the air flow through the Air Attack is minimal when compared to other helmets that have numerous vents. This was especially apparent while climbing steep hills at low speeds, when this helmet becomes pretty hot. At speeds of 20mph and above, air movement is a lot better and this helmet seems reasonably cool.
Though it wasn't the design intention, the Air Attack Shield is an excellent helmet for riding in cold or rainy weather because it keeps your head warmer and drier than others. This is why we recommend it for both muddy cyclocross races and off-season training rides. If you do a lot of riding in long sleeves and leg warmers, this helmet may be a welcome addition to your kit.
The Air Attack took the second highest score in our durability test, scoring just behind the Smith Overtake. In this test, we assessed how well helmets stand up to normal wear and tear. This includes things like dropping it on the ground and tossing it in the trunk of your car after a ride. We leave the crash testing up to the certifying agencies. Our test Air Attack is CPSC certified, by the way. There is also a CE EN 1078 certified version for our Euro friends.
What makes the Air Attack (as well as the Smith Overtake) so resilient to daily abuse is that they both have a full wrap polycarbonate shell that covers the lower edge of the helmet. We've found that helmets that lack this shell coverage are much more prone to dents and chipping of the polystyrene than helmets that protect the vulnerable lower edge with shell material. Not only is the bottom edge of the Air Attack totally shielded in polycarbonate, but the entire helmet is covered. The Air Attack has only six small vents, so there is very little room for anything to poke the more delicate polystyrene.
The weak point of the Air Attack Shield is the shield, obviously. It is prone to scratches just like any piece of eyewear. In order to protect the shield when the helmet was not in use, we would store the shield in the flipped up position and actually put this helmet back in the included bag between rides, just like we'd do with sunglasses.
Use this aero helmet for cyclocross races, time trialing, track races, looking and feeling fast, and for completing your superhero Halloween costume.
At $240, the Air Attack Shield is one of the pricier helmets we tested. If you divide its overall score by the retail price, this helmet comes pretty close to the lowest value. This helmet is not the perfect all-around road cycling helmet, but rather an excellent second helmet for serious cyclists looking to gain an aerodynamic edge or wanting a helmet for cold and rainy riding.
If you consider that you are also getting eyewear included with the Air Attack Shield, it does represent a slightly better value. Depending on what you usually spend on sunglasses, this could offset a good portion of the cost of this helmet. If you are like us, you can probably find a way to justify the cost of just about any fancy cycling related product you "need".
The Air Attack Shield is an awesome helmet, but it is not for everybody. We recommend it as a second helmet for occasional time trialists, road racers, and riders who often ride in the rain or cold temps. This is should not be the only road helmet you own. It is not extremely well-ventilated and is not a good option for riding in sweltering temps or for doing a lot of climbing. The included visor is a pleasure to ride in. It also commands attention from other cyclists as well as motorists, and may even increase efficiency.
It comes standard with a light middle gray shield visor which Giro calls Gray/Silver Flash. The visor is actually made by the optical powerhouse Carl Zeiss, and is also available in a lighter Clear/Silver Flash tint for darker conditions as well as Amber Scarlet and Loden Yellow. Extra shields retail for $40. This helmet is available in three sizes. We found that it fits slightly smaller than other Giro helmets because of the addition of the front retention band. If you are on the very upper end of the size range, you may want to go up a size.
— Luke Lydiard
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