Cycling has been suffering a crisis every since the use of a helmet became compulsory. This crisis is rooted in the simple fact that cycling peaked aesthetically with the cycling cap perched Casually Deliberate atop a sweaty cranium. It was only after mandatory helmet dictum spread its tentacles into all UCI-sanctioned races in 2003 that helmet manufacturers began taking helmet design seriously.
To be clear, I am a helmet advocate. I never leave home without mine, and no Cyclist shall ever be allowed to start a Cogal without perching one on their noggin. But I do this in the knowledge that I look less Fantastic that if I were rolling out in a classic cotton Cycling Cap.
Specialized was the first to make inroads into building a stylish helmet with the Sub-Six. The fact that every other helmet was a hollowed-out bowling ball didn’t matter very much because no one wore them outside Belgium, and even there, they were permitted to wear the second-coolest piece of headgear, the Hairnet. Giro made some inroads with their Air Attack series, but progress was generally at a standstill until the hardshell became mandatory after the tragic death of Andrey Kivilev in Paris-Nice in 2003.
The issue of the helmet has also been compounded by the fact that most continental Pros had no clue how to wear a helmet, given that they spent most of their lives not wearing one. When asked to, they often suffered from Toad Head and other anomalies commonly encountered when violating the Three-Point System.
Helmets are a necessary evil which are improving in style, but they are all uglier than the hallowed Cycling Cap. When wearing a helmet, keep the following points in mind.
- Keep the front low to the eyes. Forehead exposure must be limited to 1-2 cm at all times. As always, the Three-Point System is your guide.
- Keep the chin strap snug, but not too tight; you need to be able to move your mouth sufficiently in order to allow for the inhaling of wasps.
- Helmets look even worse without shades; they must be accompanied by cycling-specific eyewear at all times. If they are not in use over the eyes, they must be tucked in the helmet vents.
- Helmets are under no circumstances to resemble that of one worn in other sports such as hockey or rock climbing.
- If, at any point, you find yourself reaching for the same helmet as the hipster who arrived at the LBS aboard a fixie, reconsider your life because you are off the path.