GIRO ATMOS HELMET Latest high-end cycling road helmet

Giro Atmos: It's lightweight, it's aerodynamic and it's stylish.
When Giro first introduced their Pneumo helmet a few years ago, I knew I had to have one. Its aggressive styling, 19 vents, Roc Loc 4 fit system -- all at a scant 270 grams -- made this a must-have helmet for roadies.

I scampered down to my local bike shop and picked up a yellow and titanium color model. I mention the colors because, admittedly, the added bonus was that it matched my Litespeed titanium frame at the time.

Let's face it. Helmets today will not only save your life, but they can also look very cool.

The days of balloon head, plastic foam helmets are long gone. You don't have to look like a geek wearing a helmet. In fact, helmets today are so sleek and aerodynamic that you may actually "look" fast. And wind tunnel tests show that an aerodynamic helmet is decisively faster than a plain head.

So now that we've established that helmets not only look better but can make you faster, you would think that I'd be happy with my 19-vent Pneumo. Well, yes, I'm very happy but Giro had to raise the bar again, introducing a newer, even cooler top-of-the-line helmet: the Atmos.

Resolving helmet envy

So here I am, all happy with my three-year-old Pneumo and Giro has to spoil it by introducing an even better looking, lighter and more aggressive-looking helmet. It's kind of like when you buy a new car -- and even though you're happy with the car -- you find out that next year's model has even more creature comforts, horsepower and cool gadgets.

On local rides here in San Diego, I was reduced to helmet envy as more and more of these 26-vent Atmos's starting making their way into the peloton. I decided I had to have one.

I scored a medium matte black Atmos and was pleasantly surprised it fit me right out of the box. With just some minor adjustments to the straps and Roc Loc 4 system, I was ready to head out on my maiden voyage.

Giro claims the Atmos fits about 95 percent of the population, which means there are some of you out there that may never get a perfect fit. There are all kinds of ways to adjust the straps and Roc Loc 4 system to give you that perfect dialed-in fit. But, and this is very important, if you happen to be in that five percent that can't get that perfect fit, I would pass on this helmet -- even though it looks way cool -- and get one that fits.

There's nothing more annoying than riding with a helmet that feels like it's pressing into your forehead or temples because you've either improperly adjusted the thing or it just doesn't work for your type of head shape and size. I strongly recommend trying it on in the bike shop and learning how to adjust the straps properly.

While the Atmos is only 14 grams lighter than my Pneumo -- 256 grams as opposed to 270 -- it definitely feels light on my head. Maybe it's the extra vents, or the psychological factor of knowing it's a little lighter, that actually makes it feel lighter.

The 26 air vents get so much ventilation to your head that it's easy to stay cool. One of my worries was that a black helmet might absorb too much heat, but after several July and August rides in the California and Arizona deserts, I can assure you the helmet is no hotter than any other colored helmet. No question the vents keep your head much cooler than a more enclosed helmet.

Noisier than Pneumo

One thing I noticed, and this is probably due to the increased number of vents, is the Atmos seems a little noisier than my Pneumo when descending, riding more than 30 mph or encountering stiff headwinds. On my commutes to work, I like to listen to podcasts on my Ipod, and I usually just hit pause till I get over the downhills because it's too hard to hear through my headphones.

Okay, before all you safety freaks get on me about riding with headphones, let me explain by telling you most of my commute is on closed bike paths and there's an advantage to listening to podcasts rather than music.

Because podcasts are effectively human conversation, there are many gaps with no sound and it's very easy to hear traffic behind you. With music, there's continuous noise which makes it harder to hear, especially if your volume is turned up.

That said, I don't recommend riding with headphones unless you're a very experienced cyclist and are riding on safe, traffic-free bike paths or lanes. I would never ride with headphones in any kind of group, race or event. They're just for my solo commutes to and from work.

The price of style

For those who own a Pneumo or other aggressively styled road helmet, you're not going to notice any earth shattering difference by getting into an Atmos. But if you like the idea of always having the cutting-edge product and technology, you're going to really like the Atmos. If you can stomach the mind numbing cost on the Atmos -- $189.99 suggested retail and $224.99 for a Premium Edition -- there's nothing wrong with having another slick helmet in the garage.

And if you're wondering what you get with the "Premium Edition" ... Yep, you guessed it, it's all about Lance. It's basically the same design and construction as the standard Atmos, with exclusive Lone Star 6 graphics. You also get a Lone Star 6 Premium Edition helmet pod carry case to protect your new lid.

The standard Atmos also comes with a helmet pod carry case, but not only have I never used it, I probably never will. I just throw my helmet in a bag whenever I travel.

For complete details on the Giro Atmos helmet, visit http://www.giro.com/main.html or call 800-456-2355.


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