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Over the past several years, a number of bicycle helmet manufacturers have added more urban-friendly lids to their lineups…in colors ranging from understated to 100% funky. Urban cyclists were growing tired of wearing racing- or racing-inspired helmets and wanted something with a more polished look…or they wanted something that really expressed their individualities with bright colors and patterns.

The kind folks at Giro Helmets contacted us a few weeks ago and offered to send us their take on the urban helmet — the new “Surface” model — to check out.

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As you can see, it’s rather “skateboard lid” in styling, with a gently rounded shape and a short brim. Volume-wise, it’s fairly massive; about 1/3 larger overall than a similarly-sized Nutcase helmet in my collection. The Surface helmet comes in a variety of colors from mild to wild…Giro didn’t offer me a color choice, but the matte titanium-finished sample they sent me was just the color I would have chosen — understated and rather classy. And, on first glance, the helmet vaguely reminded me of the helmets worn by Imperial Scout Troopers in Return of the Jedi. As a lifelong Star Wars nerd, I can live with that!

On the outside, the helmet is simple: the aforementioned short brim, four vents up top and two in back. Inside, the padding and suspension system is very much like their racing helmets…sweat-wicking pads and the excellent In-Form System that consists of the suspension and a rotating dial that allows up to 6cm of adjustability. This helmet is easily adjustable…from fitting to my freshly-shaven head to the fleece helmet liner I wear on cool days and all the way up to the helmet liner/wool balaclava combination I wear on truly frigid workdays. A quick spin of the ratcheting dial adjusts the helmet so that it fits snugly without tipping or rocking. Thumbs up!

Here’s a look at the back of the helmet and dial:

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Ventilation is adequate — although I haven’t tested the Surface on a truly warm Florida day, which to me is the real make-or-break test for a helmet. If I had to guess, I’d say that the Surface is probably a lot like other skate-styled helmets on the market…a bit stifling on a hot day. There’s room up front for a couple of discreet vents, and that’s something I’d like to see. Coupled with the internal channeling and the existing vents, a couple more small ones would definitely help. Not all is lost, though: I DID notice that the brim helps bring some breeze into the front of the helmet. We’ll see how this helmet does as Florida’s springtime temperatures ramp up.

Interior channeling and pads:
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The straps are made of a soft nylon.. no bells or whistles here, just a simple quick-release buckle and sliding strap adjusters like on most other helmets. The straps feel nice against my skin, at least.

Has anyone ever complimented you on your helmet? Yeah, me neither…but a few friends and riding partners have made fun of my patriotic-themed Nutcase. Well, that all changed when I started wearing the Surface to work. I’ve had three coworkers compliment me out of the blue on my helmet…and they even appeared serious about it! Will this helmet make you look dashing and debonair? Perhaps not, but at least it doesn’t scream SPORTING EQUIPMENT the way a racing helmet might. And, by carefully choosing the color, this Surface could pass for “office casual”; it doesn’t clash with my work wardrobe, in any case.

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Because of its overall size, the Surface is rather heavy. That can be a drawback for some. I can be sensitive to heavier helmets but the Surface hasn’t bothered me too much because it fits so securely.

So, the helmet isn’t perfect — I have concerns about warm-weather ventilation and the overall size and weight might not appeal to everyone. Otherwise, though, the Giro Surface is a nice helmet…the adjustability alone tips things over to the positive side… and is worth considering if you’re in the market for an urban bike helmet. Check out Giro’s many other offerings by visiting their website.

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