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I am working to improve my segment times on Strava riding 10km to/from work.

My average speed is 32 kmph, and over short segments (1km) I can set avg speed 44 kmph / max 49.

Over the last year I have invested in a new bike and bike shoes, and now I leave a week's supply of clothes in advance in my work locker so that I can ride without a backpack - all of these improved my strava times.

Now, I am wondering if my "standard" bike helmet is a source of wind resistance that can be improved.

Is there a sort of bike helmet that is more aerodynamic? For example, a tempo helmet, or a helmet that doesn't have the "cooling" holes?

What features and considerations should I look for when buying a helmet, given I am most interested in riding faster.

Cheers Viking Steve.

  • The helmet that is comfortable and doesn't obstruct your vision will produce the best performance over 10K and longer distances. – Daniel R Hicks Sep 3 '14 at 11:23
  • I'm mainly interested in the sprint segments, about 1km... where I feel wind resistance can be worth an extra 3, 4 or 5 seconds over a minute and a half... – vikingsteve Sep 3 '14 at 11:34
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    Ride more. Ride harder. Eventually you'll ride faster. – Emyr Sep 3 '14 at 14:34
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    I agree with @DanielRHicks that unless you're an extremely serious rider, the efficiency difference between one helmet and another is likely to be unmeasurable. There are probably better places to invest your money. – keshlam Sep 4 '14 at 2:53
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    There are MANY contributing factors in a time trial (which is what you're talking about) of which the helmet is but one. No one factor completely dominates the other. If you're going to use a time trial helmet, then you might as well go with a skinsuit, shoe-covers, time trial bike, disk wheels, glasses, someone to block traffic for you at each intersection, a ramp in your driveway, and some time in a windtunnel to tune your form. Moreover, 34 kmh with all the trappings will scream "fred". – Angelo Sep 7 '14 at 15:18
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I think this is kind of a non-question. You want the helmet that rides the fastest? For anything "fastest", either components or kit, just look at what the professional riders are using.

This seems to imply that you either wear a regular-design lid (albeit one which is very light, very ventilated, and probably very expensive). Or, you go for a time-trial helmet.

I know some team helmets used to be made by Giro (as I bought one, Ionos springs to mind, but I'n not 100%). This was a couple of years ago, I would assume it is still the case. As for the exact model, just look at the top of the range. At the start of this year's Tour de France, a bike shop I follow on Facebook ran a competition to win a Team Sky helmet - manufactured by Kask. So there's two manufacturers to give you a start.

As regards TT helmets, when I watch time trials a lot of the riders seem to wear Specialized lids, not just the Specialized team. So they might be a good place to start looking.

I presume you realise (and accept) that for this kind of top-notch quality, you will pay.

  • Yeah, I do. I am a complete beginner in this regard, so thanks for the info. I will look at the Giro models. They run between 200 to 400 dollars. Which would you recommend, a model with a tail, or a round one without the tail? – vikingsteve Sep 3 '14 at 12:29
  • A lot of teams will have web sites and, while they generally don't say in black-and-white exactly what kit they use, they do generally list their sponsors. There are only so many companies who make helmets so you can make some deductions. – PeteH Sep 3 '14 at 12:32
  • Also, I have never worn a TT helmet, so cannot really advise. I ride at just over half your speed, what's the point ;-) To try and compare different models on quality alone, look at weight (you want low) and ventilation (you want lots). Also make sure it has the relevant safety stickers (although I'm sure at this kind of level that's a no-brainer) – PeteH Sep 3 '14 at 12:38
  • Be aware that TT helmets are often unventilated and you'll get very hot and sweaty under there. – Mac Sep 4 '14 at 0:05
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Aerodynamics of a helmet cannot be considered in isolation but rather how it affects aerodynamics when on the rider. The fastest helmet choice for one rider won't necessarily be the fastest for another, it's quite an individual thing. I've done many, many aero tests of helmets on rider, and am often surprised at the combination that proves best.

In general I wouldn't advise using what a pro uses specifically - they ride / wear what their sponsors require them to, not necessarily what's optimal. Instead perhaps note what they use as a guide for options to consider.

If this is riding on roads / commute, then functional considerations need to factor in. Comfort, ventilation for cooling, being able to hear road traffic, safety in case of accident (TT helmets probably are not ideal in that respect).

Of course there are many other ways to gain improved aerodynamics and speed. Tight fitting bike clothes, nothing loose or flapping, shaving exposed skin, improving aerodynamic position on the bike, use of aero bike components, better wheels and tyres, and of course training to improve power output.

  • Thanks Alex, since I've already addressed the tight clothes, more aerodynamic position and power training already... it very much looks like I'll have to shave my legs now ;) – vikingsteve Sep 4 '14 at 12:41
  • +1: "improving aerodynamic position on the bike, " deserves a paragraph in its own right, not being buried in amongst the most common and obvious shopping list items. – mattnz Sep 4 '14 at 21:20
  • For sure - it somewhat depends on your starting position on the bike. If you are currently a parachute, then some basic principles will gain you speed. However if your starting position is already pretty good aerodynamically, then gaining speed from positional changes is not a simple list of things to do and will work, but rather a process of experimentation with many subtle positional factors to test for. IOW - The poorer your starting aero, the More the A in CdA matters. The better your starting aero, the more the Cd in CdA matters. CdA = Coefficient of Drag, A = effective frontal Area. – alexsimmons Sep 6 '14 at 23:28
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There are now "sprinters" helmets that are bit in between TT helmets and regular bike helmets.

Giro Air Attack is a good example.

Dave Millar wearing Giro Air Attack

There are even some pro riders using them in TT stages.

  • Thanks Fred, it seems like what I might be looking for. I tried a TT helmet in the store last night and it didn't seem very sturdy. Since I ride on traffic roads, I need something that is still safe at the same time as speedy. This looks like a good compromise – vikingsteve Sep 4 '14 at 7:31

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