Giro Athlon helmet

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giro09_athlon_lo (16K)

Giro’s Athlon is possibly unique among bike helmets for sharing a name with a microprocessor. It replaces the venerable E2 at the top of Giro’s MTB range, and while it shares the general profile (and many features) of that lid, it’s got a few key updates.

While the Athlon actually has one vent fewer than the E2, the arrangement of holes is somewhat different, with the Athlon sporting two vents along its centreline. Gone is the E2′s distinctive full-width “letterbox” vent at the back, and that extra row of holes means that the ones in the top aren’t as wide either (although that’s possibly a blessing for those of us with “aerodynamic” hair, with considerably reduced danger of comedy sunburned leopard spots up top). Up front there’s the usual visor, adjustable up and down and not apparently prone to drifting out of position over rough ground.

Looking inside, the compromises involved in helmet design become clear. While Giro makes much of the “internal exhaust channels”, the channes inside the Athlon are actually considerably less deep than those on the E2 – the “struts” bridging the vents are a lot thicker on the new helmet. The upside is that the areas that rest on your scalp are thinner, with less sweat-grabbing padding in contact with your head.

The retention system appears unchanged, with Giro’s Roc-Loc adjustable headband and easy-to-use quick-adjust straps. We actually prefer clicky-wheel systems like Bell’s GPS for on-the-fly adjustment and guaranteed symmetry, but the Roc-Loc has the benefits of simplicity and light weight. On the subject of weight, Giro doesn’t appear to claim a weight for the Athlon, but it came to 320g on our kitchen scales (or a small bag of crisps lighter than an E2), so not in the premier league weight-wise.

While our tape measure can’t find any significant difference, the Athlon feels a little narrower upon the editorial bonce than the E2 did. This wouldn’t be a huge surprise – helmet manufacturers are constantly tweaking the shapes and sizes of their lids to suit the largest number of people with the smallest number of different sizes.

In use it’s business as usual – the Roc-Loc is as effective as ever, the weight difference may be small in absolute terms but it’s a noticable 10% lighter than the outgoing E2 and while we may struggle to perceive any theoretical boost in cooling performance, this isn’t an overwarm helmet and we appreciate having a little less pad in contact with our oft-fevered brows.

The Athlon is available in five mostly neutral colours (with the possible exception of “black/acid green” and three sizes.

Ups and downs

good Comfy, well-ventilated, easy to adjust, subtle looks

bad Not a huge leap forward from the E2, not the lightest, quite spendy

Verdict

The Athlon’s a perfectly good lid, but don’t expect more than incremental improvements if you’re a happy E2 wearer. If you’re after something for racing, there are lighter helmets out there for similar money, too. But we appreciate the Athlon’s subtle looks and comfy fit.

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