This story is part of the GP100, Gear Patrol's annual index of the 100 best products of the year. To see the full list of products or read this story in print, check out Gear Patrol Magazine: Issue Eight, available now at the Gear Patrol Store.
Giro's Aether MIPS cycling helmet is all about compromise. And that's not to say it's lukewarm or wishy-washy. Rather it's the perfect all-rounder, constituting what may be the ultimate compromise between style, comfort, weight, ventilation and — the driving force behind its game-changing innovation — safety.
The impetus for the Aether was that the brand wanted to eliminate the shortcomings of putting MIPS — the yellow plastic slip liner that reduces brain-damaging rotational forces caused by oblique impacts — into its cycling helmets without sacrificing its industry-leading safety. "We really believe in the MIPS technology," says Giro Creative Director Eric Horton, "but we always felt that there were compromises." The plastic liner makes a helmet heavier, can obstruct airflow and even feels scratchy to some riders.
That was Giro's jumping-off point for developing MIPS Spherical, a new rotation-reducing technology that isn't an add-on to the helmet; it is the helmet. Instead of a single EPS foam shell, Giro molded the helmet into two impossibly thin spherical EPS shells, nested them together ball-and-socket-style and attached them via elastomers. The low-friction surface between them, in this case, becomes the slip plane, eliminating the need for a liner. "This was a massive engineering challenge," Horton says, "almost on a level with reinventing the wheel."
But one that was worth it. Making the switch allowed Giro to enlarge the vents and use two different foam densities. The result is a helmet that's 20 grams lighter, two degrees cooler and 2.4 percent more aerodynamically efficient than Giro's respected Synthe aero helmet. And for all the technological advancements inside the Aether, all you can tell from the outside is that its swooping lines, laser-cut logo and translucent reinforcing arch are damn sexy.
That's no coincidence. The folks at Giro are cyclists, too, so they understand the complex relationship between a style-obsessed, performance-driven cyclist and his helmet. He wants it to save his brain in the unlikely event of a crash, of course, but he also wants it to be so comfy, lightweight, airy and aero that, well, it feels like he's not wearing it at all. And, oh, it would be nice if it matched his sweet paint job and polka-dot socks, too.
"We call it the mirror test," says Eric Horton, "and it means that when you put it on and look at yourself in the mirror, you should feel ready to go out and tear up the Saturday ride, because you're confident you've got the best-looking, best-performing kit that you can."
Could you buy a lighter helmet? Sure. One with better ventilation? Probably. Or that's more aerodynamic? Of course. But you can't find another that excels at all three the way Aether MIPS does, without jeopardizing safety and flunking the mirror test. And that's the definition of uncompromising.
- Safety Technology: MIPS Spherical (CPSC certified)
- Weight: 250 grams (size medium)
- Manufacturer's Warranty: 1 year