Lifestyle

Inside Giro Sport Design's Headquarters

Ever since its first helmet in 1985, California-based Giro has been at the forefront of design.

Not only did it kill the Merckx-era road sausage helmet and bring in the molded head gear we see today—in 1989, it showed the world that a helmet with a tail can lop off significant seconds off a time trial and prove decisive in the Tour de France. And as of late, it created the first road-specific aero helmet, then, shortly after, turned around and made it even better. Now, Giro's teamed up with MIPS to bring in new technology to make them not just faster, but safer. That is, after all, what helmets are for.

The center for all this innovation is located in Scotts Valley, right near Santa Cruz, California, in a storied facility called "The Dome." Let's look inside.

You know you're legit when your HQ has a nickname.

Classic lids on display include the original Giro Prolight.

Obviously, most people bike to work.

Modern helmet design isn't just a product of computers—designers mock up designs using old fashioned clay because it's an organic process that is easily tweaked.

Tools of the trade. Might as well be a pottery studio.

The non-clay side of things is pretty advanced, however. The Giro guys can scan someone's head and model everything in 3D on a rapid prototyping machine. There's some serious math and science involved.

Examining a prototyped helmet.

This Spider-Man fire helmet-looking thing was heated and a EPS foam liner was pushed up into it, giving it a shape. Since it had a grid on it, this helps Giro see how the mockups can translate from a 2D computer screen to an actual helmet in 3D, so they can design graphics for the helmets.

Helmet testing is no joke. To repeatedly simulate impact, there's a sweet helmet smashing machine.

Here's a helmet that went through the impact tester. They run it through many different impact scenarios to see what the helmet can take. Some impacts are okay, but some aren't and this process lets Giro know which areas need to be tweaked.

Because not everyone wants a black helmet.

Giro invented the aero time-trial helmet, and also invented the aero road helmet. Naturally, these aero maters have a wind tunnel at their disposal to get those drag coefficients down.

Recently Giro invented a special device called the "Thermanator" to measure a helmet's cooling ability, which has become important since it's a pretty tall order to keep aero helmets from baking your head.

This is what aero used to look like. Modern aero time-trial helmets lost this long tail, because research has shown tired riders aren't always the best at keeping their heads up, and helmet-tails flush to their back, where they needs to be

The cash, apparently, has been poured into the design process, not trendy digs. If you wear a Giro helmet, that should make you feel a lot better. 


Ethan Wolff-Mann is an editor at Supercompressor. Watching the Lemond-Fignon time trial still gives him chills. Follow him on Instagram.