Sunday, April 29, 2012

The aero helmet debate

I'm still riding in the original Bell helmet I bought at Dick's Sporting Goods about three years ago -- just before I got my road bike from Craigslist. The helmet fits great, is very comfy and well vented. With the switch to the Q Roo tri bike last year, I'm clinging to this final artifact that says "recreational rider" and "I'm here to have fun."  Looks like the going price is about $40.

Ever since Nationals last year, I've been intrigued by the supposed benefits of aero helmets. I walked past the old Virginia Tech wind tunnel a thousand times (that sucker was LOUD when it was on) and I can appreciate what the teardrop shape could do. The engineer in me is like heck YEAH aero helmet!

So began the debate - go aero or not?

Don an aero helmet and you might as well put a giant sign on your head that says "I am serious about racing" and paint a target on your back. I am serious, in that I want to do my best, but I have no delusions of racing grandeur either.

A few days ago I was in the local bike shop (the one most aligned with competitive cycling). I stopped in solely to get new tubes with long valve stems (DISlike valve way to get an accurate pressure reading) and next thing I know, we are talking aero helmets. The two shop folks are saying of course you are at a point in racing where you really need/should have an aero helmet. Excellent sales tactic!! Normally this type of approach makes me dig my heels in and respond with a resounding NO, but hear myself say, yeah, OK, sure!

They ordered one (Bell, same brand I have now) for me to try with no obligation to buy. It will come in this week. Will I/would I/should I take the plunge? I acknowledge a helmet is no substitute for good coaching, training, hard work, and nutrition/weight, but if those are in place, does it make sense to squeeze out that last bit of speed in this way?

  • potential time savings - up to 30s on a sprint, a minute on an Olympic (source)
  • the whole "seriousness" factor
  • greatest benefit if you keep your head up and tail down...not sure if I do that. 
  • greatest benefit at higher speeds
  • less venting
  • expensive
My mom will tell you I've always liked accessories -- not in the classic girly sense, but in the sporty sense. I have half a basement of horse stuff to show for it. So there's a precedent for my interest in the uhhh..."peripherals".

Maybe I should go the total opposite direction, and cram my head in this cool kid's helmet (they get all the great designs).
So -- aero or no? What to do, what to do.