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During the Olympic Final of the Men's Keirin one competitor (Chris Hoy) was wearing an aero helmet (red helmet in the picture below), the other competitors wore normal helmets:

helmets

The advantages of wearing an aero helmet seem pretty obvious - less drag so you go quicker (Chris Hoy won the gold medal).

However, most of the competitors did not wear an aero helmet so I can only assume that there are some disadvantages to wearing an aero helmet, what are they?

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3  
You look like a dork. (But of course, you're already in rainbow-colored spandex, so no biggie.) –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 8 '12 at 14:07
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None of those helmets are "normal". They're all aero helmets of some kind. At this level, I would expect that these riders have all spent time in a wind-tunnel and are dialed into whatever works best for them aerodynamically. –  Angelo Aug 8 '12 at 16:13
    
I'm not sure if it applies to bicycle helmets, but the Kamm effect shows that you don't actually need a complete teardrop shape to get almost all the advantages of having a teardrop shape. –  Kibbee 11 hours ago

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

They're heavier, hotter (vents would do the opposite of what you're trying to do with an aero helmet, which is to route air up and over the helmet), and it's more difficult to turn your head (it doesn't completely prohibit turning your head but you lose the benefit of the shape as you turn it off-axis) so you have to depend on peripheral vision more.

Plus, if you wear one on a bike path while towing a kiddie stroller federal law requires all other riders (including small children riding Huffys) to treat you with "derision and scorn".

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Many of the newer aero helmets have air circulation now. The other riders are wearing "aero" helmets, they're very track-specific. Also, if you watched the TT in the olympics or TdF, you'll notice that not all aero helmets now have that big fairing thing on the back. Kask has produced some very tight aero helmets this year. –  Tha Riddla Aug 8 '12 at 14:49
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x2 on the profile. If you turn your head to the side, that nice aero tail becomes a nice non aero wall. –  JohnP Aug 9 '12 at 16:28

All the helmets in the picture are aero helmets, just different styles.

Helmet needs in sprint competitions are different than for individual timed events as the rider is more likely to turn their head around to assess the race situation as well as be in various positions on the bike (e.g. out of the saddle while accelerating) which means the interaction of the helmet and body for air flow is more variable and needs to be a compromise for this more variable situation. For this reason a more uniform spherical like shape has become common.

Nevertheless, depending on the rider, some helmets are a better aero choice than others. It is individual and no single helmet is universally the best aerodynamically. I regularly test helmet aerodynamics for riders and am constantly surprised by the results.

Hoy quite possibly doesn't turn his head as much as he has tended to race like a human derny.

For national level track riders, don't assume all have tested these things. That level of attention to detail isn't as common as some are led to believe.

For road professionals keep in mind they mostly ride sponsor's equipment whether or not it is aerodynamically superior or inferior.

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