Source: bike shops, catalogs
Weight: 260 grams
Colors: black/carbon, crystal blue/white, yellow/white, white/silver, blue/black, red/black
How obtained: sample from company
RBR advertiser: no
Tested: 300 miles
Modern cycling helmets come in different shapes and colors, yet they seem so similar that many people assume they’re pretty much the same. I’ve been in this group. So it was an eye-opener to learn how much went into creating Giro’s newest top-line road helmet, the Ionos (say “eye-oh-nose”).
The Ionos was expected to come out last year, but the first prototype didn’t meet Giro’s tough standards. The designers returned to their digital drawing boards and tried again, ultimately going through two production cycles and taking more than three years to bring the Ionos to market.
Why go to all the trouble? Because Giro equips a good portion of the pro peloton, including Discovery Channel and Rabobank. Now that pros can no longer remove helmets on climbs, the foremost things they want is for their lids to be cool, light and comfortable.
Giro already had the popular, superlight and nicely vented Atmos helmet, but the company felt it could push the comfort envelope farther. Its goal was even better ventilation to maximize cooling and comfort on the hottest days and toughest climbs.
The difficulty was doing this while also meeting safety standards — no small feat when you consider that for every bit of material removed to increase venting and air channeling, reinforcement must be added to retain strength.
Giro arrived at a brilliant solution, constructing the Ionos with a four-piece shell made of light and rugged composite materials. They call it an In-Mold Composite Sub Frame, a sort of external skeleton that runs throughout the liner and around the vents for reinforcement in all the right places. (This sub frame looks like white carbon in the photos.) Then Giro’s micro shell is placed on top of the sub frame and fused to the EPS liner — the main impact-resisting part of the helmet.
By using composites this way it was possible to put 21 large vents in the Ionos. Combined with Giro’s Wind Tunnel ventilation system, cooling is 15% better (according to company) than in its previous best lid, the $175 Atmos, which actually has five more vents.
Thanks to the composite sub frame, the Ionos also delivers improved structural support, impact dispersion and penetration resistance, thus meeting the strict safety standards for helmets.
It’s essential for a helmet to be protective, but you’ll probably notice and appreciate the Ionos’s airflow most. I sure do, and it’s more than the large vents at work. Giro’s Wind Tunnel technology includes sculpted channels throughout the Ionos that draw air into the helmet and then exhaust it, forcing stale air out to keep one’s noggin drier and more comfortable.
You can feel the air flow even at lower speeds. It’s something I appreciated racing in Bay Area hillclimbs this fall. I didn’t need to wipe my face nearly as much and I felt fresher too. Actually, Giro claims that the Ionos is the first helmet proven in tests to keep a rider cooler than wearing no helmet at all. Maybe it’ll stop guys from hanging their helmets on their handlebar on climbs — wouldn’t that be nice?
Complementing the turbo-cooled comfort is Giro’s Roc Loc 4 fitting system, a built-in micro-adjustable soft rubber harness that lets you simply pinch the back for a truly custom fit. It also stabilizes the helmet so it won’t move out of position on even the roughest pavement. Giro’s X-static padding wicks sweat to keep you dry, and Super Fit sizing ensures that the helmet will fit virtually every rider.
I don’t know about that, but I’ve been riding in Giro helmets since they first came out and have always found they fit me nicely right out of the box. So it is with the Ionos. I barely had to adjust the straps, which decreases the chance of botching the fit by messing with them too much.
All in all, it’s easy to see why the Ionos, like the Atmos before it, is likely to be one of the most popular helmets in the pro peloton in 2008.
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.