Giro Aeon

In the early 1990s, I could count on one hand the number of helmets that fit me. Actually, I didn’t need all of my hand. I only needed two fingers. Even among those two, one fit better and it also stayed in place better. This wasn’t a matter of comfort; back then there were serious issues to just getting a helmet to stay put.

A lot has changed since then. I can wear more brands and all of those helmets not only fit better, they stay in place. However, that doesn’t mean I can wear just any helmet. I’d look like a fool if I wore the new Catlike helmet because my name doesn’t have an “X” in it and my blood doesn’t run Basque orange. There’s also something vaguely crab-like in appearance that makes it rather unsettling. Style issues aside, though I love the look of Bell helmets, and they fit comfortably on my head, I haven’t been able to wear one in years because the fit is so deep that the helmet hits any eyewear I don. I couldn’t wear Specialized helmets for the entire 1990s.

Giro is the only brand of helmet I’ve been able to wear without fail for the last 20 years. It’s an interesting distinction. That said, I’ve had my favorites among their helmets. The Helios (circa 1996) was the first helmet that I thought was so attractive that it constituted a style improvement over the bare head. That was also the helmet that first introduced Giro’s Roc Loc, a device that has been copied in one form or another by every other helmet manufacturer. The Roc Loc was the first device to wrap around the occipital lobe, that bump at the back of your head and it spawned an industry-wide A ha!

And while I liked the helmets that followed the Helios, it was the Pneumo that I thought significantly improved the look of a helmet and also happened to improve fit. Models that followed added carbon fiber and in a twist you won’t encounter anywhere else—I can guarantee it—the folks at Giro admit that while it increased their helmets’ strength, it also increased their weight.

Consider that the Giro Ionos—still one of the most popular helmets around—weighs in at 285 grams (if you wear the small size, that is). We’d have killed for a helmet that comfortable, stylish, light and safe in 1991, right? In an effort to remove as much weight as possible from the helmet, without rendering it unsafe, Giro introduced the Prolight.

While I don’t have sales figures (and it seemed impolitic to ask), there seemed to be some pushback on this product from the helmet-buying public based on comments I saw on the Interwebs. Some were worried that the Prolight, which lacked the Roll Cage, didn’t offer the same level of protection as the Ionos, while others complained that it wasn’t as well ventilated.  Perhaps it’s enough to note that I see many more Ionos helmets on the road than I do Prolights. That the Ionos seemed to remain more popular than the Prolight is surprising given that the Prolight was 104g lighter. That’s a noticeable chunk of weight.

So this spring Giro introduced the Aeon. To say it splits the difference between the Prolight and Ionos is an oversimplification, but that’s its DNA in a nutshell. The Roll Cage is back and the vents are much larger than those found on the Prolight. The stripped down Roc Loc found on the Prolight is replaced by the Roc Loc 5, arguably Giro’s easiest-to-adjust version of the device so far. It’s as minimal in execution as it is comfortable in fit.

The carbon fiber found in the Ionos? Also gone. Only someone working for a helmet maker can tell you, “Carbon fiber is heavy,” and say it with a straight face. And while the Aeon may split the difference in design cues between the two helmets, I’m told the Aeon provides the same level of ventilation as the Ionos. Maybe the Aeon’s tag line should be “all the air at two-thirds the weight.”

After riding in this helmet for several months I can say it feels like the least helmet I’ve ever worn. It weighs a mere 207g (again, I wear a small); that’s only 26g more than the Prolight, so yet another way it didn’t just split the difference is in weight. Perhaps a better way to describe the Aeon is to call it the best of both worlds.

It’s also, to me at least, the best-looking helmet I’ve seen or worn since the Pneumo. Key in this regard is that the helmet can’t position too much mass above the top of the head. The helmets with the best visual proportions have been those that minimized the amount of helmet above the head and instead concentrated more mass around the head. Visually, the effect is exactly the opposite of a stocking cap.

Part of the key to the Aeon’s ventilation has less to do with the number and size of holes in the helmet than it does the amount of helmet that actually contacts the head. Look inside the helmet and there aren’t many pads and the pads that do exist don’t rest on much. This helmet come closer to giving me the perception that I’m not wearing a helmet than any other; it’s the particular combination of ventilation and low weight that result in the less-than-a-cycling-cap perception I’ve experienced.

Smaller buckles and Tri Loc adjusters help with the perception that there is less helmet, but not as much as the thinner webbing. This is the same webbing that was used on the Prolight and at the end of a long day it may get a bit crusty, but it doesn’t hold as much water, nor does it get as stiff.

As to the all-important question of how well it functions as a glorified eyewear perch, I can say it scored well with this judge. I’ve tried Oakley (Radar and Jawbones), Giro’s unfortunately discontinued Havik IIs, Smith Pivlocks and Spy Alphas. They all fit well in the third vent up. People wearing other sizes may have a different experience; I can foresee that folks wearing the large may not enjoy as much success.

Is $250 a lot to spend on a single-serving item? I don’t think so. I’ve always been protective of my head and combining great protection with a piece of apparel that makes me look more fashionable rather than less so is easily worth an upcharge. That it comes in eight finishes in the year of its introduction just increases its appeal.

The Aeon does beg a question: With a helmet this light, this well ventilated and this attractive available, what could possess anyone to argue against their use?

Top image: John Pierce, Photosport International

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  1. Bikelink

    “The Aeon does beg a question: With a helmet this light, this well ventilated and this attractive available, what could possess anyone to argue against their use?”

    The ‘regular’ people who don’t wear helmets don’t wear them for fashion reasons, but they consider looking like a roadie bad fashion. I’ve seen a big increase in helmet wearing by non-roadie/cyclist types in my metropolitan area now that the Bern helmets are here. And they are hotter, heavier, and with less (but OK) adjustability. Fashion apparently is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s everything to these (most) folks. If there is a roadie out there that routinely doesn’t wear a helmet….well….there is always natural selection for that rare bird.

    1. Author

      Sidamo: Exactly. It’s an odd look. The Euskaltel riders look a bit like Visitors, huh?

      Bikelink: I hear ya. I wasn’t addressing non-roadies, though. I get how that’s a different mindset. Heck, I wouldn’t wear this thing while riding a utility bike and dressed in cotton for a run to the grocery store. I was thinking strictly of actual, dedicated roadies. And like you, I’m a bit Darwinian, but I like cyclists and I’d prefer it if they all had the good sense to make one small nod to their safety. No reason to take a potential friend (and aren’t all cyclists potential friends?) out of the gene pool.

  2. Elliott @ Austin on Two Wheels

    I appreciate the review and these comments are not to detract from providing valuable info about mandatory equipment for racers. Thank you.

    I hate to delve into this helmet debate, but I think it is an arrogant assumption by performance oriented riders that those who do not wear helmet make the decision because of fashion. The recent middle class urban cycling boom not withstanding, the majority of urban cyclists are the so called “invisible cyclists”, day laborers and working poor who use the bike as a tool to get to work, buy groceries, etc. They are using the bike as tool to live their lives, not pick up on the latest trend or look enviro. Whether they wear a helmet or not is the least of their worries.

    Compared to driving a car, riding a bicycle is statistically safer, yet there is no finger wagging at drivers who do not wear helmets. For the urban cyclist who is rarely going above 15 MPH, collision with an automobile, not falling off the bike, is the main safety concern. The actually protective ability of helmets when it comes to collisions with cars is unproven yet there has been some pretty compelling research done on how drivers treat cyclists wearing helmets (they are less cautious with these cyclists) and that riders are less cautious in their riding behavior when they wear helmets (the equipment becomes a protective talisman). Pro-helmet wearing campaigns have pretty universally resulting in fewer people cycling which affects the safety of all cyclists. It is well established that the more cyclists there are on the road, the fewer per capita auto related injuries and fatalities there are.

    This is all to say that each individual rider makes a calculated risk when they decide to ride with or without a helmet. Especially in an urban cycling setting, the actual risk factor between the choices seems to be blown out of proportion and many not only be statistically insignificant but actually favor the helmetless (again it is better to not get hit at all then get hit wearing a helmet.) Making jokes about how natural selection will kill these people off is not only in bad taste but probably an incorrect reading of probability.

    1. Author

      Elliott: This is well traveled ground ’round these parts. I can’t speak for Bikelink, but I can say that the #1 reason I hear commuter/utility riders say they don’t wear a helmet is that it will mess up their hair. I’ve heard it a number of times, though I don’t tend to go around asking everyone who doesn’t wear a helmet why not. I wouldn’t expect a commuter to wear the Aeon while riding a three-speed. Personally, I think the combination of racing helmet and cotton clothing is dorktacular. Giro’s urban line of helmets is really striking and I plan to pick one up for riding around with my son.

      We’ve covered a lot of the territory regarding helmet use already. I encourage you to check out this post:

      I think it does a pretty good job of addressing your points including the talisman argument. Be sure to read all of the comments.

  3. randomactsofcycling

    Padraig, thanks – nice review. I am also one who likes to stick to a particular helmet as it is the one that fits me the best. I choose with the same rationale when selecting a motorcycle helmet. In Australia, perhaps we have a more limited choice for helmets (bicycle and motorcycle) than some other countries as we are only allowed to wear Australian Standards Approved helmets (meeting Government standards). It is also mandatory to wear a helmet when cycling.
    That said, the choice is OK and I’ve chosen a Giro Ionos (large size, good for sunglasses in the bottom vent!)
    As this is a product review, I’ll steer away from the all too predictable politics.

  4. jorgensen

    For the shape of my noggin, the Giro has never fit, and I do like the details. Bell’s offerings over the course of time since about 1988, have fit. I appreciated when they went to dark EPS, and I like that fact that some models still come in white. I just had to buy another one as my son stole mine. He uses it because dad does too. I admit I buy cheap, the Solar is just fine, cool enough, I keep a more solid one for Winter.

    The Giro you reviewed does appear to have less of the extended pintail many have, and I think that is a feature I do not want to test in a crash, I can imagine my head pivoting wrong or not rotating with the rest of my body in a crash, but no one mentions that in a review.

  5. MT

    The Pneumo was (and still is) the only helmet for me. I was all over ebay the past few years trying to find them wherever I could. I still have one more in the box, keeping it in a cool, dark place…I’ll break it out next year and hope I can find something that looks and feels as good when the well finally runs dry

  6. comptonius

    I’m a little late to this party but here are my 2 cents. Just curious if Padraig has tried Rudy Project helmets? I have been a Giro guy since I got my first serious road bike in the late 80’s, you remember the ones with the lycra cover. Since then I have owned 4 or 5 other Giro models for both road and MTB (still love the E2) including most recently an Ionos. Two years ago I won a Rudy Project Kontact+ in a random drawing at a century ride and I think I’ve worn my Giros twice since then. They are a bit heavier but man to they fit nicely. Worth taking a look if you haven’t.

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