Review: Giro Surface Helmet

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.


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:


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:

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.


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.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.


  1. Ben January 7, 2011 7:34 am 

    How do you mount a light on the helmet for commuting in the dark? The lack of vents would seem to make this more cumbersome.

  2. VinceR January 7, 2011 7:40 am 

    Ghost Rider, does the. Surface come with additional pads? What would it retail for?
    I like the additional coverage it provides. Here in Portland, it would help with keeping my head warm but I feel ya’ when you talk about your concerns in warmer weather.

  3. Rider January 7, 2011 7:53 am 

    Nice looking helmet!

    I look forward to sensible urban/commuter helmets.

    Not sure this is it, though. I live in Florida, too. I would cook wearing this one, I’m afraid.

    Also, an urban helment needs a way to mount a lights.

    And here’s someting I’ve het to see — REFLECTIVEW PAINT! Do it, Giro, and I’ll buy one.

  4. Tim January 7, 2011 8:01 am 

    Thanks for the review. I’m pretty sure I’m going to order this helmet. It’s what I’ve been looking for. It retails for $45 on Amazon or $50 from Giro.

  5. Tim January 7, 2011 8:06 am 

    And just a quick thought a reflectivity. I used to put reflective tape on my helmets. It looked cheezy, I thought, but the safety improvement was worth it. However, I have seen a study in the mean time that shows that reflectors are best mounted lower on the bike: pedals, rims, pants clips, etc. While cyclists tend to put a lot of stock in reflective vests and helmets, car drivers notice the lights and moving reflectors the most. I had a friend go take my bike out at night and ride up and down the street while I sat in the car with the headlights on, and I’m convinced. I’ve now put small pieces of reflective tape on my rims in between the spokes. I think this is a more effective way to add safety and visibility.

  6. Iron_Man January 7, 2011 8:43 am 

    That’s not for me, looks-wise at least. I have a rather large mellon to begin with. Toss that helmet on my head and I’d end up looking like Kazoo from the Flintstones.

  7. Rob E. January 7, 2011 9:01 am 

    Who doesn’t like Kazoo (Isn’t it Gazoo?)?

    How does heat/weight compare to your Nutcase? I’m looking to replace my Nutcase helmet, and the biggest issue I have with it is that it cooks my head in the summer. I was looking at some Bern helmets and some of the other Giro models, too. I really like the look of the Surface, but I’ve come to the conclusion that picking a helmet based on looks isn’t practical unless I’m never going to take it off to reveal the sweaty mop of hair underneath.

  8. Doug Jesseph January 7, 2011 9:35 am 

    It’s probably a fine brain bucket for the cooler weather, but I can’t imagine it can work in the Florida heat. I have enough trouble keeping the noggin cool with a fullly-vented racing helmet when the temps get above 90.

    Does the brim do any good as far as shading the eyes from the morning sunrise? Heading east on my morning commute these days takes me straight into the sun. Even with sunglasses, I’ve had recourse to a cycling cap to keep the sun out of my eyes so I can see the traffic on the road ahead. It’d be nice to have a commuting helmet with a brim that actually gave the eyes some relief — the scrawny clip-on ones in my current helmet selection are really not up to the task.

  9. Ghost Rider January 7, 2011 9:43 am 

    @Doug — I haven’t noticed any real benefit to the brim other than to scoop some extra air into the helmet.

    @Rob E. — I’m afflicted with Sideshow Bob style hair, so I keep it closely shaved. I rarely wear my Nutcase in the summer months, either, so I can’t really make a comparison. I suspect both this and the Nutcase are too hot for summer riding.

    @Tim — right there with you on reflectivity. Reflectives are far better down low, preferably on moving parts (rims, pedals, backs of crankarms) to catch that extra attention. Also, thanks for the info on retail prices. I will edit that into the article as I forgot to add it.

    @Ben — I don’t mount a light on my helmet anymore. I was using it as a weapon against oncoming motorists and I cured myself of that nasty habit.


  10. Iron_Man January 7, 2011 10:43 am 

    Dang, it is Gazoo.

  11. Chip Haynes January 7, 2011 10:49 am 

    Great helmet, but THE WRONG COLOR. I want my bike helmet to scream “HEY- THERE’S A CYCLIST HERE!!!” The last thing you want to do is blend into the scenery.

  12. RL January 7, 2011 11:45 am 

    Reminds me of an Equestrian Helmet. But if you paint it, you can look like John Baker or Erik Estrada on CHiPs.

  13. Nick January 7, 2011 12:23 pm 

    It’s a neat looking helmet. I like it.

  14. Rob E. January 7, 2011 2:26 pm 

    @Iron_Man It’s the alliteration that helps me remember. I believe he was the Great Green Gazoo.

    @Ghost Rider Thanks for the further thoughts on warmth. There are a couple other Giro helmets that look to be slightly lighter and better ventilated. I may look there.

  15. Walt D January 7, 2011 2:44 pm 

    It’s nice to see a helmet that doesn’t pander to the racer boys look in that it avoids the “swoopy tail” of all other bike helmet except the Bell Citi commuter helmet. “Normal” folks avoid the Swoopy look which is why they don’t/won’t wear bike helmets.

  16. Mike Myers January 7, 2011 3:24 pm 

    I have to agree that an urban helmet needs reflectivity or a strap for a blinky. It’s a tough looking helmet, though. It will likely be a brain cooker in July.

  17. Chip Haynes January 7, 2011 4:46 pm 

    I’d say I miss my old leather “Italian Sausage” helmet, but that might leave me open to a veritable plethora of “Italian Sausage” jokes. So, instead, I’ll say this: I’d really like to find one of those old “Skid Lid” helmets. Seems like those would be just the thing for the Florida bicycle commuter.

  18. Chip Haynes January 7, 2011 5:14 pm 

    Yeah, that’s it. I just don’t remember them looking that… dorky.

    I guess I’ll hold out for an antique Skid Lid.

  19. dwainedibbly January 7, 2011 8:11 pm 

    Winter helmet, for sure, but that’s not a bad thing.

    And I agree with the comment that a helmet should be a bright visible color. Once you’ve gone there, “office casual” isn’t going to happen.

  20. chazz williams January 8, 2011 4:00 pm 

    Aesthetically speaking, I think it looks a bit too much like a batting helmet, although there is a nice surface for painting or stickers. Also, there are no vents. Bell makes a non-pointy typical helmet that works for me. I’ve also always liked the fabric stretchy things that fit over the traditional helmets. I always liked the turtle-look motorcycle helmets, too, but, there again, no vents.

  21. chazz williams January 8, 2011 4:01 pm 

    I take that back. It looks like a polo helmet.

  22. Chip Haynes January 8, 2011 5:20 pm 

    You know, Chazz, you might be onto something there. Anyone out there had a good look at a polo hlemet? Would it work for us?

  23. Raiyn January 9, 2011 4:41 pm 

    Tim sez “I’ve now put small pieces of reflective tape on my rims in between the spokes. I think this is a more effective way to add safety and visibility.”

    @ Tim
    I presume it looks something like this?

  24. vegan_commuter April 13, 2011 11:21 am 

    This thing looks huge. Reminds me of a Little League Baseball helmet I wore 30+ years ago.

  25. Phil J January 31, 2014 4:52 am 

    Giro makes a Surface model for snow sports as well. Can this helmet also be used as a helmet for skiing? If I wore a beanie under it, would it suffice? Or can I buy the ski helmet and take off the ear covers to use as a bike helmet?

  26. Ghost Rider January 31, 2014 6:14 am 

    @Phil J,

    I don’t know about skiing, but this helmet is my official winter-sport helmet nowadays. There’s room for a balaclava and/or a beanie hat inside. I’ve got my GoPro mount glued to it for epic sled runs with my kids.

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