Giro Ionos Helmet
Every year, we watch the Tour de France for product rollouts. The intros aren't as exciting as the race, of course, but they ultimately have greater import for the cycling public. The new stuff is requested almost immediately and is usually on the shelves by autumn. The more popular products are everywhere by the following March. By the following summer, the true paradigm-changing products have inspired other companies to rush copies to market.
The Giro Ionos first appeared on the noggins of Discovery, Phonak, and Rabobank riders at the 2006 Tour. Helmets have such a strong brand identity, few will dare make something that looks like another companies offering, but they will incorporate winning features. We didn't see how Giro could lose, as they took their eighth consecutive Tour, with Floyd Landis wearing their ware. Unlike the Giro Atmos introduction, the Ionos brain buckets weren't on the shop floor that August. It appeared that many of the helmets we saw at the Tour were taken back by Giro, as only a few riders seemed to have them at the 2006 Vuelta and they were gone completely at the start of 2007.
Was it a dud product? Were the original helmets failing crash tests? Was the helmet not cool enough? Not light enough? Giro wasn't saying. But the helmet reappeared at the 2007 Tour, was worn by race victor Alberto Contador, and arrived at shops in August. With over a year of breath-holding, many leading edge consumers blacked out. When they came to, they were clamoring for the new rig. Maybe it was merely a sales ploy.
To our eyes, the helmet seems almost unnecessarily big. It has a relatively large profile sitting atop a head; the size being enhanced by the micoshell bonded to the lower brow, which is there for both durability and structural integrity. The helmet looks large because it doesn't seem so much designed as a solid object with vents cut out, but more as a series of large vents, with a helmet built around the vents. The side front air scoops are huge, like the old Briko and Troxels, only the whole helmet is built that way.
Part of what allows for the massive holes, which are probably better appreciated when looking at the inside of the helmet, are the strips of carbon fiber that are integrated into the helmet. The strips are only seen where they cross air channels, but they are also hiding out under the microshell and hold the helmet together during and after an impact.
The vents are measured to allow in 1720ml of air through the forward vents; that's 15% greater than the 1462ml of the Atmos. We count nine forward intake vents and 12 rear exhaust vents. While we can't say that the helmet feels like we're wearing nothing when laboring up a climb, the helmet did do a good job of venting and keeping our head cool. Spend a chunk of time at your limit on a steep hill, and chances are sweat will soak the helmet's brow pad and then start to dribble onto your eyebrows, and then either onto your glasses or into your eyes. Salt residue on the inside of glasses are hard to remove when riding and distort the field of vision. We never experienced this, even on pretty warm days.
Giro includes what they call the Ionos Winter Kit along with the helmet. It's a liner that goes inside the helmet. Take off the X-Static pads and Velcro this padding and dense mesh shaped cloth to the inside. The padding is taller and the mesh is dense. The protection starts in the front and ends before reaching the rearward exhaust vents. We used it on days when the temperature was in the 30s through days where the mercury flirted with 60. While it wasn't the equivalent of wearing a hat, it did add a little warmth. It's a great idea, one we wish Giro and other helmet manufacturers would more fully embrace. We'd even love to see a solid liner for the truly cold days of winter.
Both the Winter Kit and the X-Static pads are machine washable. We tossed ours into a mesh bag before throwing in the wash. Smartly, Giro uses silver fibers in the X-Statics, which, with its anti-bacterial qualities, minimizes the development of untoward aromas. Giro says the pads should last a couple of seasons before they need replacing.
One feature that might work too well for its own good is the Roc Loc 4. We started by tightening it at the start of every ride and loosening at the finish. We found the Loc enabled us to over tighten the lid on around our skull. The result wasn't so much discomfort, but indentations on the forehead where the pads dug in. These could remain for hours afterward. After some experimentation, we have taken to leaving the Roc Loc in one position; we can put it on and take it off without adjusting. The result leaves an impression, but not as extreme as before.
Aesthetically, we like the mix of colors we tested with the Team Discovery pattern. The helmet seems big to us, so the darker colors minimize the size of the helmet, and the blue microshell on the bottom of the brow doesn't magnify the size there. We know there's a purpose to it, but the aesthetic result isn't ideal.
Through an accident, we learned a good bit about how Giro deals with helmet issues. While inspecting the helmet after its arrival, we noticed a tiny crack between the brow microshell and the upper microshell. Like 1cm long. The helmet had never been ridden, there were no signs of an impact anywhere. We figured it was good enough to ride, and we did so. Wondering what they'd say, we sent a picture of it to Giro a few weeks later. They immediately wrote back asking to send us another one. Better safe.
Overall, we have little to say about the helmet because it seems like little is there. And that's a good thing. With helmets, the less felt the better.