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Time Trial Helmets Versus Road Cycling Helmets

Time Trial Helmets Versus Road Cycling Helmets

Time trial helmets are often used in triathlon to decrease wind resistance while riding in the aero position. Also called an aero helmet, these racing helmets offer a sleek design that allows the rider to be more aerodynamic, in turn potentially improving performance. The helmet is rounded at the front and comes to a point at the back of the head, creating a tail that projects from the rear. Because increased ventilation has been shown to be connected to higher drag, there are very few vents on time trial helmets. Alternatively, road bicycle helmets are generally lighter and offer increased ventilation and air circulation. Still, because of the potential for performance improvement, triathlon aero helmets are considered a step up from a road cycling helmet.

Having trouble deciding between a road bike helmet and a time trial helmet? See our list of pros and cons below:

Pros of a Time Trial Helmet

  • Utilizes the space behind the head to make the rider more aerodynamicli>
  • Decreased wind resistance/drag
  • Potential speed gains and performance improvement
  • Sleek design

Cons of a Time Trial Helmet

  • Less ventilation/increased chance of overheating
  • Less effective if body is not in proper aerodynamic position
  • Less effective on hills or with cross winds
  • Typically heavier than a road bike helmet
  • Safety concerns

Various studies have been done on the effectiveness of triathlon aero helmets, and athletes have varying opinions on whether they are necessary. Additionally, there are arguments for and against the safety of having the tapered "tail" on a helmet.

Potential speed gains have been shown to range anywhere from four seconds to a minute, depending on the length and speed of the ride and body position of the athlete. These helmets have been proven most effective at higher speeds (17 mph +) and are recommended for competitors looking to gain seconds on their triathlon or cycling time.

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