Bringing back the Cycling Cap one Domestique at a time

Review: Giro Air Attack

2012 really cemented a new Road Bike consideration: Aerodynamics. It was no longer enough that frames and components be light and stiff, they had to be aero. 

While Aerodynamics have long been the realm of wheel designers and Time Trial bikes, it has made its indelible mark on the roadie landscape with the slew of new aerodynamic frames, handlebars, pedals and what have you, all claiming they can cheat the wind and save precious watts.  

Eventually it had to come to this.  The call of aerodynamics found their way to the Helmet as well.  While we have heard of aerodynamic claims from ordinary multi-holed road helmets before, let's just say that this is the first time that we have seen something which really looks like something we'd imagine an aero road helmet to be.  

Here we have in our hands.... Giro's Air Attack.



Impressions

First off, let's get straight to the aesthetics issue. You either like the looks of the Air Attack or you hate it. I haven't seen anyone who's just fine or lukewarm with the looks. Anyone with an Air Attack is bound to get comments like 'it looks like something you'd find on a mountainbiker' or 'is that helmet from Tony Hawk?'.  We can't blame people for saying that because, well, it's true. But you do have to take into consideration where the design is rooted.

Only six vents present on the Air Attack

Giro's designers wanted to take their Selector tear drop helmet and somehow adapt the design to produce a road specific cycling helmet. Giro's designers tapped into the now familiar Kamm-tail aero principle. This states that you can still get very good aerodynamic performance by having the front end of the very aerodynamic teardrop shape and lopping off the rear portion as the air still tends to flow as if over a whole teardrop shape. This design has been implemented in newer aero road frames such as Scott's Foil and BMC's TMR01 among others.

Two of the vents are actually dedicated for exhaust

This lends to what the Air Attack looks like now... a truncated Selector. 

It may take some getting used to but from our perspective it's not at all ugly. In fact, it has a certain 'function over form' beauty to it.  

As in most Giro helmets, build quality is top notch. The outer shell is finished nicely with perfectly placed decals and chrome emblem. The cables and straps are well placed and the adjusters and locks are made of quality plastic. Overall, you're looking at a top-class lid.



Features

Giro claims that the Air Attack's aerodynamic efficiency sits somewhere between the Aeon and the Selector, with the latter being the best. This is to be expected as the Air Attack does not have as much drag producing vents the Aeon has but also lacks the long teardrop tail of the Selector.  If you want the maths of it, head on over to Spokeydokeyblog to see the extrapolated power savings of the Air Attack.


And speaking of vents, the Air Attack will come up dead last in most helmet vent comparisons, sporting just six (two front, two top, two exhaust).  However, Giro pulled up some tricks from its ventilation sleeve. Instead of the helmet making contact with your head, the helmet is actually suspended 3 millimeters above the rider's head by Giro's Roc Loc Air system. What this does is give room for the air to flow under the helmet and over your head thus providing ventilation.

Roc Loc Air mechanism suspends the Air Attack a few millimeters above your head

As seen here, there is a bit of space on the forehead as well as groove channels on the side of the foam to allow air to channel inwards. Giro claims that the air attack sits in between the Aeon and the Selector on this front as well, this time with the Aeon providing the best ventilation.

Internal grooves help channel air over the head

The adjustment mechanism works satisfactorily in-ride, but not as easily as our long term tester Prevail, mostly due to the smaller knob. We found initial strap adjustments a bit finicky, but its a one time thing so it's not really a big deal.

Our sample came in at is 312 grams, heavy by today's standards.

As weighted: 312 grams


A magnetic visor is available in the Air Attack Shield. This visor is made by renowned optics manufacturer Carl Zeiss Vision. The visor can easily be detached and reattached while in the saddle and can be mounted upside-down to allow the rider to get it out of the way for whatever reason. As the system uses magnets, this is easily accomplished.

The Air Attack Shield with the magnetic visor

On The Road

Our size Large sample sat quite comfortably and we found the Roc Loc Air mechanism was quite secure. That said, our Prevail is a tiny bit more comfortable, but then again not as comfortable as our old Bell Array in terms of pure fit. You can take this with a grain of salt however as head shape, and therefore fit, is extremely relative and varies from person to person.

The added weight, compared to our erstwhile staple lid Prevail, was a bit noticeable when initially worn but becomes a non issue over the course of a ride.

Ventilation, now this is what a lot of people ask about. Initial skepticism on probable marketing hype were dismissed once we were in motion. Yes, we were actually surprised at the airflow the Air Attack provides! Giro's gimmicky venting system actually works. The slits on the front of the helmet provide adequate ventilation from 14 km/h and good ventilation from 19 km/h. In between 25 to around 30 km/h is where you want to be to truly call the helmet breezy. And one more thing, you'd want to be facing a bit downward and point the vents onto incoming air to really ram it in.

That said, this is still not as well ventilated as our Prevail, whose mega mouthport just blows off or dries forehead sweat.

One positive thing we noticed with the Giro is the wind noise... or lack thereof. This is noticeably quieter than previous multi-vent helmets we used. The only noise we noticed is from the air going over the ears.

What we didn't like is the rear height/angle adjuster. It's a bit too easy to adjust and we observed that it keeps adjusting by itself.  The good thing is that our preferred fit is at the lowest position, which the adjuster seems to default to.

Final Words

They say that, as in fighter planes, if it looks fast - it looks good. And while we can't dispute that the Air Attack is faster in the wind tunnel, real world advantages are very much subject to debate. Nonetheless, the Air Attack is the first of a growing list of dedicated aero helmets for road cyclists with the Scott Vanish Aero having just been announced and Specialized's thing undergoing field testing (below).



With the advent of UCI banning helmet covers such as Lazer's Aeroshell, we expect that manufactures will continue to churn out dedicated aero road helmets. At this point it's looking as like they are here to stay.

Verdict

Not our first choice on long climbs in hot summer days but something we'll definitely sport on the flats.  Just get used to other Cyclists staring at you until these aero road helms become more commonplace. 

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The Cycling Epiphanies (2009)

A friend recently liked this note I made on my Facebook page way back 2009. Good thing he did as I totally forgot I wrote this. Anyway here's a collection of my random cycling induced musings.

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Cycling often induces conditions of extreme physical stress which isolates your mind. This isolation, in turn, separates your mind from immediate reality and allows you reflect on things apparent and things unrealized. To break down your complex life into simple nuggets (ahem) wisdom or common sense. Here are some what I still remember...

1. Happiness is simply expectation management.

2. Always smile or at least pose for photography students when cycling. You'll never know when or where your pic will end up posted!

3. Anything worth doing is worth doing in style. Really.

4. The more you give, the more you truly are rewarded.

5. Reward yourself continuously! You deserve it! Let yourself feel it!

6. Never let depression, negativity or anger take you over. 

7. Overanalysis overcomplicates. The quickest distance between two points is a straight line.

8. Truth be told, the fact of the matter is, if all things are equal = they are.

9. The right music can make you better. The wrong music can make you worse.

10. "Be yourself, no matter what they say" is constantly and perpetually true. People will like you just because you're you.

11. If you want something, focus on it and get it. Don't settle. You'll save a whole lot of money than doing incremental upgrades.

12. Always listen, be patient and learn. You neither omniscient nor perfect. 

13. Cycling requires fast legs, not strong legs.

14. Be not afraid of asking other people for answers. Not knowing is human and this is why pride is considered a sin.

15. First impressions are just impressions. Dig deeper!

16. Know what makes you happy. do it, enjoy it, cherish it and never forget it!

17. Don't forget to jumble life's priorities once in while! 

18. At the end of the day, it's the end of the day. GO HOME AND REST!

19. Be proud of and never forget where you're coming from.

20. This works for me: Preburn -> Carbo Load -> GO! Preburn: 250-300 calories (light cycling), Carbo Load: Eat lots of Carbo (+Coffee), Go: intense workout (usually 80kms/2000cal). Good for losing 2-3 lbs the next day.

21. Kung Nike, Nike. Kung Adidas, Adidas. Don't mix outfits and shoes! :D 

22. Keep evolving. It's not only exciting, it keeps you young! Only archaeologists dig dinosaur pits (pun intended). 

23. If you don't like what you see, step back or maybe step forward. A change in perspective might sometimes result in a change of view.

24. Keep forging on! However, while moving forward, look back once in a while. You might have forgotten something. 

25. Never think that you're too cool to dive into a new or baduy experience! 

26. It goes in like this... earphones, then helmet, then shades over helmet straps! Just do it.

27. When peoplewatching, always remember that you, too, are being peoplewatched. Now try it wearing cycling shorts in a resto full of people who just came from mass.

28. You know what they say about the Big Guy the door and the window, right? So stop banging on the door! :)

29. All uphills are followed by downhills. The harder the climb, the sweeter the descent!

30. Mas mahirap maging Rapper kesa Rock Star! I sang Stigmatized by The Calling...sakit sa lalamunan pero ok lang. Then we sang I Know You Want Me by Pitbull.... potek.... pagod kami mind body and soul ergo the conclusion :D  (It's harder being a Rapper than a Rock Star! I sang Stigmatized by the Calling... my throat hurt but was ok. Then we sang I Know You Want Me by Pitbull.... damn... we were tired mind, body and soul therefore the conclusion)





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Ok so just go ahead and ignore number 30. Be happy and ride safe! 

~Armand 

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Ride Report: Bugarin-Mabitac-Jalajala

Manila, The Philippines. Having a couple non-working holidays off due to Holy Week, my ride buddy Mr. Bourne and I decided to ride somewhere a bit farther away from our usual weekly fitness loops. At the back of our minds, we already knew where. A few text messages later and the plan set. We're gonna go back to Rizal and do the Bugarin climb and Jalajala loop.

The Climb

Bugarin is not a town in itself but is a sitio, an outlying community which is part of Pililla Municipality in the province of Rizal.

A sort of Mecca to Pinoy cyclists who have access to it, the Bugarin climb is one of those early challenges which simply must be conquered. The climb in itself is not that difficult. From the stopover known as Pisong Kape (One Peso Coffee)it's a straight 8.8 kilometer climb to around 1,100ft (332m). This makes for an average gradient of 3.7%. Deceptively hidden in these kilometers are two Strava Category 3 climbs, and first-timers are best advised not to exert too much effort in the earlier sections to prevent bonking.

In an area filled with climbs of all sorts, Bugarin may be the easiest. Cyclists looking for something more challenging can try any of a variety of other nearby routes including the Sampaloc Road climb with several Category 4s.

No KOMs nor PRs were to be broken though as Mr. Bourne and I agreed beforehand that this ride will be purely recreational... one of those "reconnect with your love of cycling" affairs.  We were just out to enjoy the sights and the sounds.

We headed by car to Pisong Kape hoping to start the climb early. Being Good Friday, we got into our fair share of traffic en route as we had to go through a crowd of devotees doing their yearly walk to Antipolo church. After spending 45 minutes of Good Friday penance in traffic, the rest of the drive was thankfully exceptionally smooth, devoid of anything you can remotely describe as traffic.



But the delay took its toll. Starting an hour later than planned, we were off following the Manila East Road to Bugarin. And while the climb itself was quite uneventful, the scenery was not.  All the way up, we got our fair share of fresh air and lush mountainous scenery.  and being Good Friday, there was almost no vehicle traffic, save for the occasional motorcycle rider doing a Valentino Rossi impression. But we were not alone.  Cyclists of all sorts were also along for the ride, from local pros to recreational cyclists chatting along on mountain bikes.

The view from Lookout Point (image: Jun Roche)

Halfway up, I stopped at the lookout point to rehydrate and admire Laguna Lake in all it's glory (all while waiting for my HR to drop below stress levels).  All in all, it took my gravitationally challenged self 44 minutes to climb 8.8 kilometers and overcome that last steep section and arrive in Bugarin. Not exactly like a Schleck but borderline acceptable for a big guy on aero wheels.

After the last few meters of the grind, I found myself stopping at a carinderia and hooking my bike on a stand. Bugarin itself is just a collection of houses welcoming tired cyclists. The place makes its intentions pretty clear as several bike stands are provided to hold on to your ride while you replenish. All the shops have Gatorade and are just raring to serve something up to refuel you on your way back.

To my surprise The Cannibal, another ride buddy, was already having a mid-ride recovery meal with Mr. Bourne.  After a few minutes of chit-chat, we refilled the water bottles, clipped in and headed off. While the guys had actual food, I just had a sachet of peanut butter Gu gel. Yes, I was saving the appetite for later.

The Descent

After pedaling all of twenty revolutions, we started our pedal-free descent into Laguna, a different province altogether.  It took me almost an hour to get over the top but only fifteen minutes to reach sea level. Even with safety as top priority, I still took the corners with relish. The roads were smooth and  inviting and just egging you on to corner even more aggressively. At this point, I'm really loving the BR-9000's braking performance. Braking power is very very good and it doesn't take much effort to apply that power.

Upon reaching the bottom, we traversed the long, flat straight which led to Mabitac.  The town is unusually quiet that day and we passed by it without the tricycle dodging that usually occurs.  On the way out we did pass quite a few flagellants. A gentle reminder of what day it is.

The Flats:  Mabitac - Jalajala

With the suffering of the climb and the adrenaline rush of the descent both over and done with, we now started the last part of our ride: 49 kilometers of oft-shaded two lane provincial roads around the peninsula going back to where we started.



With roads this open, there's always time for a photo op 

Providing a welcome respite from the madding streets of Manila, the roads in this area of Jalajala, Rizal province provide kilometer upon kilometer of cycling bliss. Most of the streets are well shaded, having ample tree cover. Apart from one or two instances of unfinished road repair (which only extend to around 3 meters max), the roads themselves are in good condition and are very rideable.

75% of the road back is this scenic. It's worth the trip. (Image: SGPanguito)

By 10:30am, there was a marked increase in vehicle traffic which we attributed to vacationers from Manila making a trek to Laguna. That said, we're talking about probably only a dozen vehicles every thirty minutes. A bigger concern as the miles rolled on was the heat, especially on some long unshaded stretches near the finish. Aware of this, we made pretty sure that we were properly hydrated, stopping whenever we had to. The availability of sari-sari stores on a holiday sure helped a lot.  It's always a good thing when you have ready access to a cold sweaty bottle of Coke before blasting through a section of road baked by the noon-day sun.

As the kilometers passed, the route had just once final trick up it's sleeve: a short  ~7% grade climb lasting about 300 meters with about 2 kilometers left in the loop. While this may not sound like a lot, having this section at the end of a ride in a sunny, tropical noon is a test your stamina, energy reserves and psyche.

After exactly 63.6 kilometers. We were back to where we started. We vowed to do this again next year and the year after that. Cycling future aside, I started looking for something more... short term... time to get some grub.

Recovery

Our goal was not to train. Not to grab a few Strava KOMs. The goal was to reconnect and get back to the root of why we love cycling. Mission accomplished.

Aerial view: We started from the left,  pedaled up the mountain in the middle and around the coast!

Ride safe!

~Armand

Post Script: 

  • Pre-ride and in-ride food toll: Two slices of wheat bread, a thick slice of dubliner, a glass of Glucerna SR, two bottles of Gatorade, one Gu gel, a Sprite and two bottles of water.
  • Totally forgetting my Catholic roots and partly because of post-ride hallucination, I ordered and ate a slab of liempo on Good Friday. Sorry God!
  • Trying to avoid the traffic situation in Antipolo, we took an alternate route going back to Manila. and encountered a parade of flagellants carrying crosses down Sampaloc road.  It doesn't look like they were having a good time but the 'Roman Guards' sure did!


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