Your cycling helmet offers a great opportunity to improve your aerodynamics because it meets clean air. The way that the air is separated, passes over it, and meets again behind it is entirely down to its shape. By contrast, your rear mech, for instance, is in such turbulent air that gains are almost impossible and most brands ignore it in their aero quests. Switching your standard road helmet for an aero road model will save you around a minute on a 40km bike leg.
There’s no disputing that the coned time-trial (TT) helmet is the fastest option. In our tests the best of them can save a further minute over even the quickest of this group. But TT helmets are typically heavier, hotter and for race day only. A £250 TT helmet is a big investment when it only gets worn a few times per year.
There’s also the increasing number of age-group athletes trying their hand at draft-legal racing, where the rules state your helmet can’t cover your ears like it does on a TT aero helmet.
Aero road helmets can – and should – offer a balance between TT and road helmets. That is, they have to be faster than a road helmet yet free from the compromises of weight and ventilation of a TT helmet. An aero road helmet that’s hot and heavy, yet not as aero as a TT helmet, is pointless; you may as well go for maximum aerodynamics. So while aero speed is really important here, we’re also looking for a helmet that you can train in and use on hot, hilly events.
What you’re looking for in a good aero road cycling helmet is a perfect balance between speed and ventilation. If
the former is too compromised, you might as well go for a light climber’s lid; if it’s too hot, then you’re
better off with a TT helmet. So an aero road helmet option should present a happy medium.
How we tested For the test here, we’ve picked nine of the best aero road helmets currently available and put them through their paces on the roads to assess ventilation, comfort and usability features such as the ratchet, buckle and straps. Safety features were examined (all the helmets here come with EN1078 safety certificates and some have the Virgina Tech ratings-leading MIPS) before the most noteworthy six were taken to Evesham’s stellar Boardman Performance Centre for wind-tunnel testing at a variety of yaw angles, tri-bar positions and speeds.
And the excessively-long strap award is instantly won by the Velocis, meaning you’ll need to cut it down and burn the frayed ends before you’ve ridden in it. Once on the move, however, the Velocis is a solid performer with a precise retention system. It’s not the lightest at 269g, but some of that extra weight comes from the MIPS system and we’d happily add some grams for added safety. The 12 sizeable vents produce decent airflow but the pads, sandwiched between the head and the plastic MIPS system, are denied the chance to dry when things heat up. Yet the crash protection policy is welcome.
Verdict: Does most things well, but rarely excels 82%
Buy from www.evanscycles.com
The Air Master debuted at the Giro d’Italia on the heads of the Astana team, and it’s lean, fairly light (250g) and, utilising the Venturi effect (where air goes into a wide area and is pushed out through a smaller area), provides impressive ventilation through the 15 channels. Good points include the chin pad and an easy-to-use retention system. It’s the cheapest helmet here and there are compromises – there’s no MIPS and the internal padding is loose due to few Velcro tabs. But, if you’re looking for a cheaper aero helmet that feels light and fast, you could do far worse. nrg4cycling.co.uk
Verdict: Light and well-vented, but not the best padding 84%
Buy from limar.com
Poc’s helmets divide opinion in terms of both style and substance, and that continues with the 250g Ventral Spin. Good points include the eyewear garage and easily-adjustable straps, while the airflow from the 13 vast vents (also using the Venturi Effect) is decent. In lieu of MIPS, POC employs its own SPIN padding with rotational impact protection capabilities. Onto the negatives, and the masses of exposed white EPS foam give it a cheap aesthetic, while the big elephant in the room is the £270 price for something that largely underperformed in the tunnel (scoring well in the low aero position at 35km/h). 2pure.co.uk
Verdict: £270 is a huge price to pay for decent venting 61%
Buy from www.bikeinn.com
Continue reading our guide to this year's best aero road helmets (2/3)