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Speed for Sale.
By Tom Demerly

The first time I saw an aerodynamic time trial helmet I thought, “Those things are cool, but I’d never wear one.” After using an aero helmet once I changed my opinion.

Nothing can make you faster instantly for less money than an aero helmet. A corroboration of studies from Texas A&M University to M.I.T. has accurately quantified the benefit of tear drop shaped aerodynamic time trial helmets. While each of these studies produce varied results about what the time savings actually are the end results are unanimous: An aero helmet saves time. Studies show time savings that range from as little as 30 seconds to as much as 2 minutes over 25 miles (40 kilometers, an Olympic triathlon bike distance).

At an Ironman distance triathlon an aero helmet could save between 3 and 6 minutes.

An aero helmet can easily mean the difference between fifth in your age category and a top three spot depending on the time gaps.

The real value of this research becomes obvious to the middle of the pack triathlete when you start to compare dollars to time savings. Nothing saves more time for less money than an aero helmet.

Nothing saves more time for less money than an aero helmet.

There is no equipment that will make a slow rider fast. If a rider cannot average at least 18 m.p.h. on a bike with aerobars they simply need to train more to get faster. If you survey most bike splits in local triathlons you do see average speeds for middle of the pack athletes beginning at about the 18 m.p.h. area. This group of athletes will benefit from more aerodynamic equipment and the place to start is an aero helmet.

As this realization has become more prevalent and the sport has grown more helmet manufacturers have enter the aero helmet market. Here’s our survey of the current popular aero helmets. One note on our survey: We do not know which helmet is “fastest”. Our take is that there may not be any one “fastest” helmet in all conditions. The variety of aero helmets means there are enough models and sizes so you can find one that fits you well and is an appropriate for the terrain you ride on. In hilly terrain, a lighter helmet will become more important. On flat terrain and in higher temperatures aerodynamics and ventilation become important factors.

Giro Advantage 2.

Weight: 420 grams. $149.99. Sizes: Small, Medium, Large. (3 sizes).




Not all sunglasses fit well with the Advantage 2.



At 420 grams the Advantage 2 has more vents than any other current full fairing aero helmet.

 

Giro’s long awaited aero helmet, the Advantage 2 is said to be the spin-off of aero helmets developed for Lance Armstrong. The aero helmets Armstrong wore were different than the consumer version of the Advantage 2 with a larger, fin shaped tail. The design used by Armstrong may not have been practical for large scale production at a reasonable cost and/or for C.P.S.C. certification.

The new Advantage 2 is fully CPSC certified for competition in the U.S. by U.S.A. Cycling and U.S.A.T. The Advantage 2 is the second heaviest of the helmets we tried but also one of the most full coverage helmets. This helmet extends completely over the ears and has a long tail. With the addition of seven vents in the front it is the most full-featured of the popular aero helmets. The Advantage 2 covers the ears for improved aerodynamics, has numerous vents and is a full length fairing aero helmet. This combination of features makes the weight forgivable.

The Advantage 2 fits snug, as an aero helmet should. Donning it quickly in the transition area requires practice. You have to gently pull the sides of the helmet out slightly to get it on in one movement. The ear fairing section has a tendency to fold your ears over if you don it incorrectly, so practice before race day.

Not all sunglasses work well with the Advantage 2. Oakley M Frame Pros fit poorly under or over the chin strap and are painfully tight inside the helmet. The new Oakley Radar fits perfectly as do many of the Rudy Project models. You need a flat temple sunglass to work well with the Advantage 2. As with every aero helmet, you put your helmet on first in transition, then your sunglasses.

We felt the three sizes in the Giro Advantage 2 did run a trifle on the small side. Because the helmet is difficult to don due to the ear coverage they seem even smaller. Once the helmet is on your head and adjusted the sizes are more true. This is meant to be a snug fitting helmet.

Forward vents provide excellent ventilation especially considering the trim fit. Sarah Demerly wore a black Advantage 2 at the Elite Endeavor's Women's Only Triathlon and reported that the helmet remained cool and comfortable despite high temperatures.

The Advantage 2 is available in 3 colors: The popular silver/white color, a new blue/black graphic scheme and the black version. Contrary to popular myth, the black color has not felt warmer based on our real world wear tests in hot weather.

Spiuk Kronos.

Weight: 358 grams. $229.99. Sizes: “Medium/Large” (one size only).





The fully enclosed tail of the Spiuk Kronos may improve aerodynamics.

A venturi in the tail helps pull air through the helmet.

The lightest and longest helmet we surveyed and the only one with a fully faired tail. Even the underside of the tail fairing is fully enclosed. The Spiuk Kronos is very long and extremely light.

The most noteworthy feature is the underside of the tail fairing which is completely enclosed. This may improve aerodynamics of the helmet tail by creating a smoother fairing behind the rider’s head. We don’t have wind tunnel data on this, and be sure to read our tips for aero helmet use on this page for more information about this.

As viewed from the front the Spiuk Kronos fits very trim and is less bulbous than most other aero helmets.

The Spiuk Kronos is only sold in one size that is just slightly larger than Giro's Medium but smaller than their large. This is a good in-between sizing but runs large on small heads that would take a Giro brand small helmet size.

The Spiuk Kronos covers the ears completely but is more comfortable and easier to put on than any other full coverage aero helmet.

The Spiuk Kronos worked well with most sunglasses except the wide earstems on the Oakley M Frame Pro which fit poorly and were painful to wear inside the helmet.

The Spiuk has minimal vents with two small venturi slots in the front and a unique mesh covered exhaust portal in the tail. Jon Wojcik rode the Spiuk Krono to a 2:28:19 bike split at the 2007 Whilrpool Steelhead Triathlon and mentioned it was very comfortable and never got warm.

The Spiuk Kronos is the most expensive of the helmets we surveyed but was our overall favorite due to the light weight, comfort, ease of donning and the possible aerodynamic benefits of the fully enclosed tail fairing (on other brand aero helmets the bottom of the fairing is open). The elegant microshell that surrounds the helmet is smooth, light and appears more finished than other aero helmets.

Jon Wojcik of Bikesport at Sylvania 2007.

Rudy Project Syton Open/Supercomp.

Weight: 370 grams. $139.99 (Syton Open). Sizes: Small/Medium (or) Large. (2 sizes).



The Syton Open is an excellent compromise if you don't want your ears covered.

The Rudy Project Syton is the only helmet with a full length tail but no ear coverage. This may be nice for a rider with large ears or anyone who finds the full ear coverage uncomfortable. Since the Syton Open does not cover the ears you can don it as quickly as a traditional helmet and it is comfortable with all sunglasses. The Syton Open is also relatively light weight, especially considering it is a full length aero helmet. The unusual twin-tail configuration is said to enhance aerodynamics by Rudy Project. This writer wore the Syton Open during much of the 2006 triathlon season and liked it. Ventilation is better than any aero helmet we tried making the Syton Open ideal for extremely hot conditions. A second version of the Syton called the Supercomp is also available that features ear fairings like a Roman gladiator’s helmet. These are snapped on to the Syton helmet. We didn’t like these and feel you are better off simply buying the less expensive version called the Syton Open for $139.99. Overall the Syton is an excellent aero helmet that has won at least one “editor’s choice” award. It’s light weight, long length and excellent comfort and ventilation make it a good pick especially for those who simply don’t want their ears covered.

Louis Garneau Chrono.

Weight: 359 grams. $89.99 Sizes: Small, Medium, Large. (3 sizes).




Light and comfortable, the Chrono is an excellent all-around choice.

 

At only $89.99 and as our second lightest helmet (only 2 grams heavier than the lightest) the Louis Garneau Chrono is a gem. This is also a great little helmet for athletes who can’t get past the appearance of long fairing aero helmets. Because of the smooth surface, minimal vents and moderate length tail the Louis Garneau Chrono still offers aerodynamic time savings. It is a good choice on extremely hilly or mountainous terrain. The Chrono does not fully cover the ears. All sunglasses work well and the trim appearance of the minimal design is appealing. The helmet is sold in three sizes (Small, Medium and Large). It’s small size makes it perfect for smaller riders. The helmet is super fast donning and very cool even in the hottest weather. This reviewer wore the helmet in the 2007 Whirlpool Steelhead Triathlon and liked it. A great all-around helmet that may not offer the same aerodynamic benefits of longer, full coverage aero helmets but is lighter, more comfortable, more conventional looking and inexpensive.

Tom Demerly of Bikesport at Whirlpool Steelhead 2007.

 

Louis Garneau Rocket.

Weight: 478 grams. $159.99 Sizes: Small (or) Medium. (2 Sizes).




 

There are probably more Louis Garneau Rocket aero helmets on athletes than all other aero helmets combined. It has been the most popular aero helmet for years. The Louis Garneau Rocket is a full fairing helmet with a long tail and full ear coverage. The 2007 version has four slot vents in the front with three exhaust vents at the top of the helmet. The helmet is relatively easy to don considering it is a full coverage helmet. The Louis Garneau is a large helmet with a somewhat bulbous appearance and is the heaviest of the helmets we surveyed. This may be related to it being on the market longer and being one of the earliest to be safety certified by the major certification bodies. The helmet is cool to wear, especially for a full coverage helmet. The Garneau is a proven design with years of happy owners saving seconds and minutes by wearing it. It is a fine choice for larger riders for whom helmet weight is not a big issue. Almost all sunglasses fit well with the Louis Garneau Rocket.

 

 

Image Name Weight Cost Sizes Buy Now!

Giro Advantage 2.

420 grams. $149.99 Small, Medium, Large. (3 sizes)
Add to cart

Spiuk Kronos.

358 grams. $229.99 “Medium/Large” (one size only).
Add to cart

Rudy Project Syton Open/Supercomp.

370 grams. $139.99 (Syton Open). Small/Medium (or) Large. (2 sizes).

Louis Garneau Chrono.

359 grams. $89.99 Small, Medium, Large. (3 sizes).
Add to cart

Louis Garneau Rocket.

478 grams.
$159.99
Small (or) Medium. (2 Sizes).
Add to cart

 

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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