'Matter'

MATTER: Giro’s Synthe Helmet – Fast, Comfortable, Stylish; Pick 3

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Product: Giro Synthe, Medium
Price: $380 CAD

Why Giro?

For bike riders who wear club or team costumes every, if not nearly every time they ride outside, there are but a few opportunities to express personal style: helmets, glasses, gloves, socks and shoes. Each piece – for the discerning cyclist – needs to blend form, function, and performance at a price that fits the budget. Now that helmets are understood to play an important role in terms of aerodynamics, aesthetics, fit, weight, and protection all need to be balanced against this attribute. Every rider will weight each aspect in their own way. Giro’s introduction of the Synthe helmet was but a piece in the puzzle in 2014 when I was making decisions about which brands I’d approach to partner with for 2015. After having supported our events for years with no retail connection in Tall Tree Cycles, a lot of goodwill was layered upon years of experience with Giro helmets. At the same time, Giro was moving forward with excellent shoe options, along with gloves and a slew of other soft goods. When we sealed a deal for the season, I couldn’t wait to get into the product.

In this second of three MATTER posts on the Giro products I used in 2015, I review their Synthe aero helmet, which is designed for all-round use. The preceding post details their Empire SLX and Empire VR90 shoes, and the following will look at Giro’s Ambient and Blaze gloves.

After a year in Specialized’s excellent Evade aero helmet, I was convinced that aero helmets make a difference. Whereas the Evade was not optimized for hot conditions, Giro’s Synthe features as many vents as the average high-quality helmet while testing very well in the wind tunnel, making it a ‘do everything’ option with no obvious downside.

I received a Medium Synthe in black and blue, which ‘happened’ to match our new kit, just like the shoes. Fit is consistent with other brands I’ve worn, and the Roc LocAir retention system is easy to use and effective. Like any good helmet, the Snythe disappeared in use, seamlessly integrated into my riding experience. Even when used for night riding with a light mounted on top, the helmet is always secure and comfortable.

© Jonathan Villemaire-Krajden
© Jonathan Villemaire-Krajden

The feature that stands out has to be the sun-glass ports, which allow you to slide your glasses’ arms into the helmet when sweating profusely or stopping for coffee. Some glasses don’t ‘stick’ as well as others, but that can be remedied by adding a little friction to the interface, perhaps with a little elastic around the arm or something of the like. I never lost glasses off my helmet, even when riding off-road.

Thankfully, I’ve not tested the crash protection of the Synthe, nor would I be able to remark on its efficacy if I did. I am a firm believer in the efficacy of helmets in general, and I am glad to see more manufacturers turning to safety as a metric of interest rather perpetuating the focus on weight, venting, aerodynamics, and style. Giro marked this transition mid-2015 with the introduction of their MIPS option for the Synthe ($415 CAN). The MIPS design is intended to allow the helmet’s outer shell to rotate upon impact, reducing some of the rotational force the brain can sustain upon impact, which tends to lead to more serious traumas than linear impacts. I hope to use the MIPS model in 2016, but not test it’s crash performance!

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Photo: Michael Johnson

Specs

Weight: 250g (CPSC Medium)

Price: $380 CAN

Features

  • Featherweight Webbing with Slimline™ Buckle
  • Roll Cage internal reinforcement
  • In-Mold polycarbonate shell construction with EPS liner, Thermoformed SL reinforcement
  • Roc Loc Air fit system
  • 26 Wind Tunnel vents with Internal channeling
  • Sunglasses ports

Conclusions – MATTER Rating 9/10

I find no significant faults in the Synthe. If not for it’s retail price being over $350, I’d give it a 10. I don’t mean to say it’s overpriced, but I can’t exactly call it a ‘bargain.’

No matter how hot it was during rides and races, it never once occurred to me that I’d prefer a ‘cooler’ helmet. However, during the hotter days I did find that sweat dropped off my forehead and down my glasses, which suggests there might be room to improve the Synthe’s padding design to channel sweat to the sides.

As stated above, I didn’t smack my head on the ground, so I can’t speak to the helmet’s crash performance. What I can say is that I loved the look of the helmet, which looks ‘fast’ to me, and I always felt confident that I had the fastest helmet in the peloton, if not one of the fastest. In other words, this important aspect of my overall aerodynamic set-up was dialed. By blending the attributes of their Air Attack and Aeon helmets, Giro has managed to create an option in the Synthe that is more aero than both and at least as comfortable in the heat as the typical hot weather option, the Aeon.

Given the fact that the head’s aerodynamics matter more than any other aspect of your kit, including your wheels, the small profile (sleekness) of the Synthe is of critical importance to it’s speed in the wind; size matters. This is to say nothing of it’s shape. I wore the Synthe during many successful rides in situations where my aerodynamics were paramount, including an OBC time trial, where I posted a sub-20 minute time for the 15km course (46.19kph), my second best, on a borrowed bike I’d never ridden, just to see if the helmet could go as fast as my Advantage. The ‘head-down’ aerodynamics of the Synthe actually give it an edge over a typical time trial helmet like the Advantage, which for some, it could in fact be faster on a time trial bike. Either way, the fact that I was able to post a fast time in the same helmet I use day in and day out provided me a great deal of confidence in the Synthe’s effectiveness as a do-anything road helmet.

After hundreds of hours of riding, my Synthe remains very fresh looking, and is ready for many more adventures. If you are in the market for a new lid, and the Synthe fits both your head and budget, I can think of no better option for virtually any conditions or ‘road’ discipline you might take on. I might be ‘a man of simple taste: only the best,’ but it really does feel good knowing I only need one helmet from March through December. Winter is a different story…for another time….

To see more from Giro, visit their site. Rebec and Kroes carries a good stock of Giro’s products, so I encourage locals to pay them a visit for more info and purchases. Many thanks to Giro and Rebec and Kroes for their support through 2015!

Disclosure: I was provided the helmet reviewed above from Giro at no cost as a sponsored athlete.

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