When some frightening-looking cracks began appearing in my 3yr old Giro Atmos helmet earlier this year, I faced a serious decision: keep riding with my existing helmet and hope to continue my unbroken record of never suffering a traumatic head-injury; or pony up the necessary dough for a new lid.
With a wife and two young children to consider, the choice was an easy one. I retired my much-loved Atmos and started browsing for a new helmet immediately. Since high-end helmets represent the ultimate in vanity for road-cylists, I knew I’d be stumping up several hundred dollars for a new piece. Excellent crash-rated helmets can be obtained for as little as $25 at most cycling stores, but as keen road-cyclists know, you’ll need to spend many times that much if you want to look good.
The Atmos, previously Giro’s most expensive and highly-regarded helmet, is now a genuine classic. It has since been usurped by two new designs; the Prolight, Giro’s most lighweight helmet, and the Ionos. Always an expensive option, the Atmos now retails for around $175, while the Prolight tops $200. The Ionos is the most dear at $230.
But is it worth it? I happened to have an REI dividend burning a hole in my pocket, and the Ionos happened to be on sale when I started looking, so I grabbed one in the same colors as my bike for a large discount. I eventually paid $130 for the helmet, which was well worth it, but would I have been happy paying a hundred dollars more?
Probably not. The Ionos is a wonderful helmet: it is sleek, light, beautifully finished, very cool in the Sacramento heat, and, most importantly, it is an elitist symbol of cycling prowess. It costs more than most starter bikes. It is the same model worn by Team Radio Shack in the 2010 Tour de France. It’s still a relatively rarely-seen piece of kit when you get out onto the roads and trails.
But, ultimately, I don’t like it that much more than my old Atmos. Yes, the extra vents make it marginally cooler when the weather heats up, but in order to compensate for the extra gaps, Giro made the Ionos larger, so you feel like more of a mushroom-head wearing it. And I have a nagging feeling that the Ionos is slightly less comfortable than the Atmos. I might be imagining it, but it feels a bit bony at my head’s pressure-points around my temples. Maybe I just need to get used to it.
The straps are standard, and they are identical to the Atmos. The Roc Loc fit system is simple to use, but no better than the Atmos. The brow of the helmet is wider, giving the rider a constant awareness of the helmet on his head, which isn’t exactly annoying, but it is an added distraction which the Atmos did not have.
Ultimately though, most riders will like the Ionos. It is more advanced and better constructed than 99% of the helmets out there, and it is very cool to look at. And if you must have the most expensive of everything, Ionos is your helmet. But if you’re forced to pay full price, I’m not sure you’ll feel the extra $55 that the Ionos costs over the Atmos.