Fashionable Headwear for the Unfashionable Set

Fashionable Headwear for the Unfashionable Set

A bike helmet is a pretty strange creation. Ideally, it will never really do what it’s meant to do, right? You don’t want to go down, ever, and if you do, for all that’s gentle and sparkly, you really don’t want to pound your melon into anything harder than a beach ball. It’s insurance.

The funny thing is that unlike an insurance policy, it doesn’t sit in a filing cabinet waiting for the day you may need to call your agent. No, this policy goes with you on every ride, or most every ride, or all the rides you see fit or … we’re adults, you choose. So until it does that thing you don’t want it to do, it sits out in the open drawing attention to itself because our brains are attuned to look at heads. So as you pass the guy at the bus stop, the lady texting her husband to get the milk or the kids playing hopscotch on the sidewalk, what they see when they look at you is, yes, a person, but one with a perforated crab atop your noggin.

To anyone who isn’t a cyclist, we don’t rock it.

After years of increasingly H.R. Giger-ish designs, in the last few years we’ve begun to see some helmet manufacturers pull back from the barbs, flairs and fins that so typified the look. Of late I’ve been wearing three of these helmets, with varying degrees of success and enthusiasm.

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The Giro Aspect
This lid has the distinction of looking smaller than it actually is. That’s a selling point. When I’m running errands and ferrying kids, I like to wear a helmet, particularly to set an example for the kids, but also because I never know when some Swisher Sweet-smoking van driver is going to decide that he’s going to pass a car using the bike lane. (Don’t get me started.) Whether intended or not, the Aspect has dovetailed nicely with Giro’s New Road apparel. The simple visual styling, the modest vents and the monochrome presentation doesn’t scream Unabomber should you forget to take it off before walking in the grocery store. The helmet comes with two front pads, one of which has a bill built incorporated, to evoke the look of someone wearing a cycling cap beneath their helmet. For reasons I can’t articulate, it makes the helmet look a bit less “other.” As I mentioned in my opening, this helmet looks small. Compared to the Reverb I reviewed sometime back, the Aspect looks narrower, less like a salad bowl, but it measures out the same.

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The Aspect has a truncated rear, recalling some duck tail aero designs. The helmet runs $175, yet it carries many of the premium features found in Giro’s more expensive helmets, such as Roll Cage internal reinforcement, Roc Loc Air fitting system and lightweight webbing. It comes in three sizes and five colors, all monochrome so it’ll be easy to find something that works with your wardrobe.

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Specialized Airnet
When I first saw the subdued style and single color presentation of the Airnet, I couldn’t help but ask if it was a response to Giro’s Aspect, which had already been on the market more than a year. Naturally, my contact at Specialized insisted it wasn’t a copycat product, but there can be no doubt that this helmet is a direct competitor to the Aspect both in price point and appearance. I mean, it comes with a cloth visor that can be added or removed depending on need, or mood. It’s got six venting channels that recall the ribbed appearance of the Aspect as well. None of that is a criticism; just an observation. What Specialized did do as they designed the Airnet (and my God, is there any company more clever in naming their products?) was to use their Win Tunnel (like I said, clever) to refine the shape and make the world’s most aerodynamic $150 helmet. It helps when you’ve already designed one of the fastest helmets on the planet (the Evade).

In the small, the vents are well-enough placed that I’ve been able to fit almost any eyewear in them.

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The Airnet accepts glasses, at least in the small, and it is adequately ventilated for wearing during ultra-hot rides. The Airnet does have an unusually deep fit, though. It may be that this fit was in part a response to their plan to offer a MIPS version of the helmet. What I can say is that the fit was deep enough that the helmet banged against every pair of eyewear I own. Le sigh. It comes in five colors (the black and white are monochrome, but three others are two-tone) and three sizes.

Final thought: Perfect for not looking like a character dreamt up by Philip K. Dick.

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4 comments

  1. miles archer

    Love the way the Giro looks small by using a black edge.

    I wish there was a good way to judge these helmets for their intended use (e.g. keeping your brains intact). Judging by looks and by aero is nice but I’d wear something huge and ugly if it kept me from turning into a vegetable in a crash.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      As there is a MIPS version of the Airnet, it’s on par with the very safest helmets out there, at least, by that standard. The standard Airnet and the Aspect meet all the ratings for helmets lacking MIPS, which is the standard by which we’ve been protecting our heads for quite some time. A bigger helmet is unlikely to provide improved safety.

  2. Pat O'Brien

    They both seem to lack protection for the back of the head and temple areas. The Aspect appears to fit more around your head than on top of it. I think, especially for the price, I will stick with POC mountain helmets for all my riding. As I get older, protecting myself from injury becomes more important.

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