“Everything we make, we want it to disappear.”
That’s how Peter Nicholson, brand manager for Giro, described the overall design intent for the company’s latest flagship road helmet, the Aries Spherical, which is supposedly so well ventilated and comfortable that you essentially forget you’re wearing it.
We’ve heard companies describe bicycle helmets like that before, although usually it’s in reference to an ultra-low weight. To be clear, the Aries Spherical (I’m just going to call it the Aries from here on for simplicity) is light, but not that light. My medium CPSC-approved sample tips the scales at a good-but-not-amazing 280 g – about 40 g heavier than a similar POC Ventral Lite, or about 30 g heavier than a Kask Valegro.
However, making a helmet light is one thing; making one that offers excellent protection is another. But making one that’s light, safe, and also sports features that make you actually want to wear the thing is a whole different ballgame.
Perhaps most important is that the Aries has bumped the Specialized Tactic 4 as the highest-rated bicycle helmet Virginia Tech has ever tested. That’s particularly notable given the Tactic 4 is a deep-coverage trail helmet, not a lightweight road model. Speaking of which, only one other road helmet – the Specialized Prevail 3 – sits in the overall top five. And what about the Giro Aether that this Aries will replace? It still earned a five-star rating, but sits 70th in the latest rankings.
Similar to several of Giro’s other recent helmet models (such as the more aero-focused Eclipse Spherical), the Aries features a two-layer, helmet-within-a-helmet architecture co-developed with MIPS, each with its own EPS foam liner. and in-molded polycarbonate shell. Each of those layers gets its own density of EPS foam, with the innermost one using a softer form to better attenuate lower-speed events, and the outer one using a denser foam to tackle higher-energy impacts.
In between those layers is a perfectly hemispherical interface (hence the name), which allows the two layers to easily rotate against each other a bit during an impact. This layout supposedly provides better protection against rotational impact forces than more conventional MIPS low-friction liners while also eliminating the influence of the rider’s scalp for more consistent crash performance. As a nice bonus, those little yellow silicone rubber barbells that are normally used to secure a MIPS low-friction layer are now relocated to the interior of the helmet so you no longer have to deal with your hair getting caught in the things, either.
Helping to hold everything together is a translucent polycarbonate reinforcement structure that Giro has dubbed AURA II (Aerodynamic Ultimate Reinforcing Arch – yes, really). As compared to the first-generation AURA design used in the Aether and older Synthe, AURA II features slimmer spans that connect the various sections of EPS together, and no bridges at all on the inner EPS liner. According to Giro, this allows for longer and more uninterrupted venting.
Aside from the Virginia Tech ratings, the Aries isn’t all that different from the Aether looking strictly at the numbers. Giro claims the Aries offers 2.3% better cooling efficiency, 4% less aerodynamic drag, 5% less weight, and a 7% lower profile – modest improvements, all things considered. However, that last figure might prove to be the biggest differentiator to riders, as the Aries is noticeably lower-profile on your head.
Another key upgrade is a new DryCore browpad, which incorporates a flexible silicone rubber strip embedded inside the foam. Giro claims this helps divert sweat off to the sides of the pad where it can harmlessly drip down the sides of your head instead of down into your sunglasses, and it supposedly will work more consistently than the tabbed design currently in use.
Other features include grippy rubber pads to help stash eyewear, Giro’s latest Roc Loc 5+ adjustable retention system, slim-profile webbing with a conventional buckle (sorry, no Fidlock to be found here), and a big reflective decal on the back.
Giro is offering the Aries in six colors and three sizes worldwide. Specific colors will vary by region and distributor, and rounder Asia-specific fits will come next year. Retail price is US$300 / AU$500 / £290 / €320.
Remember what Nicholson said earlier about wanting Giro helmets to “disappear” on your head? Well, truth be told, I’ve been wearing this new Aries for the entire time I’ve been sitting at my computer writing this article, and I truly did forget about it until my wife came downstairs and asked why I was wearing a bike. helmet at the dinner table.
Point being, the Aries is indeed very comfortable. There isn’t much padding, but what’s there is logically placed, and the plastics used in the retention system are pleasantly soft and pliable. Even if you crank the dial down too far, it never feels like anything is digging into your scalp.
As promised, the Aries also admirably low-profile. That 7% figure Giro tossed out doesn’t sound like much (and I’m not sure exactly how Giro has come up with that number), but it seems more significant in practice. There are also some visual tricks with the design here (think vertical vs. horizontal stripes on a shirt), but comparing the two back-to-back in front of a mirror, the Aries certainly looks a lot sleeker with less of the dreaded mushroom. effect that makes you look like a power-up from Super Mario Brothers.
Unfortunately, I can’t comment on the Aries’ ventilation performance seeing as how my sample helmet arrived just a few days ago in the middle of a particularly wintery winter here in Colorado. Along those same lines, I haven’t been able to properly test that promising-sounding DryCore thing, either.
That said, the Aries has been one of the absolute worst helmets for cold weather I’ve used in recent memory. I’ve also got a pretty good handle on how well a certain hat will keep my close-shaved head warm on a given day, and I’ve since learned to bump up a layer when wearing this thing. Neither of those things is terribly conclusive, but they nevertheless bode well for how the Aries might perform in summer conditions.
Either way, even if the Aries is even just on-par with the Aether in terms of things like ventilation and aerodynamics, the lower profile and improved safety score are both solid steps in the right direction.
More information can be found at www.giro.com.