In recent years, aerodynamics has been a topic of discussion among athletes, and not to mention, many time trialists. This topic has been widely discussed especially when Mark Cavendish swept to victory in the 2011 World Championship road race.
Cavendish won the race sporting a skinsuit and a specialized aero helmet with vents covered with plastic. From then on, many triathletes began using aero helmets instead of road helmets despite the loss of breathability.
As such, should you invest in an aero helmet or is it a waste of money? Is it better for your performance than a road helmet? We will discuss both briefly in this article.
What is a road helmet?
Road helmets are among the lightest helmets available and are often worn by professionals during races. They are designed specifically for professional biking competitions, from extreme to high endurance sports.
Because they are light-weight and have a good ventilation system, you can see them adorning the heads of pro triathletes during races and particularly in mountainous terrain. Also, the helmets not only feature excellent breathability, they can be useful for stowing your cycling glasses while idle.
Many of the features of a road helmet are different from those of other helmets. Some road helmets are also designed to maximize ventilation. This has resulted in some of the best-ventilated helmets on the market.
What is an aero helmet?
A cross between a traditional road helmet and a time trial helmet, this type of helmet has become increasingly popular in recent years. They are designed for a particular purpose. They are designed to be more aerodynamic than standard helmets; they reduce your drag. As, a result, you will find that they tend to have poor breathability and are a bit heavier than road helmets.
Despite their downsides, aero helmets are often favored by sprinters as well as breakaway riders since they are extremely beneficial when riding at high speeds. The reduction of drag helps you ride faster while expending less energy.
So, the million dollar question is “Which helmet saves you time and power?”
According to Michael Hutchinson, a time trial champion and author of Faster: The Obsession, Science, and Luck Behind the World’s Fastest Cyclists, a standard road helmet is the least aerodynamic among triathlon helmets due to its ventilation system. It can cause air to swirl around your head creating turbulence, and increasing your drag. This explains why aero helmets would work better for you on short-distance races.
Why are aero helmets more aerodynamic? They have less ventilation holes. As a result, they are less breathable and heavier. Though Hutchinson says that aero helmets can make you faster, various variables should be taken into consideration in order for you to understand and exploit the benefits of aero helmets.
Aero or road helmet?
Of course, head protection is of primary importance when it comes to using triathlon helmets. This head protection has been improved with the use of polystyrene structures protected by polycarbonate shells.
But as other aspects such as the significance of speed and drag during your race come into play, selecting the perfect helmet becomes increasingly trickier and more challenging. Should you choose a lightweight, well-ventilated helmet or a time-saving, speed streamlined helmet?
Indeed, wearing an aero helmet during your races will significantly increase your speed. However, due to its poor ventilation system, breathability is limited, and the heat build-up can be terrible. While riding under cooler conditions, an aero helmet can be a good option, however, it might not be a good choice as your sole, everyday helmet.
As a result, even though an aero helmet will help you race faster, and wearing one during a long breakaway road race may result in you shaving off a couple of minutes, don’t forget that comfort should always be on your top list of priorities, especially in terms of sizing, padding, fit, and ventilation.
So, is it worth it to splurge on an aero helmet? Definitely yes. Aerodynamic drag, after all, is the most significant force that affects any triathlete, and reducing every bit of it is crucial.