Look Pro, Part I: Three-Point System

Look Pro, Part I: Three-Point System

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Aesthetics have always played a major role in my quest to become a better athlete. On the surface, this may seem a ridiculously vain assertion, but for me, the reality is that looking like a pro makes me feel like a pro, and when I feel like a pro, I’m motivated to ride like a pro.  After all, the mind controls the body, and if the mind believes something, it can shove it right down your body’s throat. This phenomenon plays a big part of why I love riding in weather that merits knee warmers, cycling caps, and shoe covers; when my head drops down in a swoon of agony, the sight of my flahute-looking legs and feet, framed by the water dripping from the brim of my cycling cap helps me find the motivation to lift the pace a bit more.

Central to this quest of looking Pro is the ability to look good when you place objects on your head, like helmets or cycling caps*. It’s actually quite easy to look good in these things, provided you follow a simple set of guidelines, known as The Three-Point System. Many people simply plop a piece of head wear on their heads without regard for how it is positioned on their orb-like noggins, and with little appreciation of how entirely idiotic it might make them look. Seemingly innocent mistakes such as placing it askew or tilted backward being the most common breaches of good taste, the most egregious allowing hair to be visible between the forehead and said head wear.

The Three-Point system was devised out of necessity when I was in high school on the Nordic ski team. A ski hat being perhaps the most difficult hat to look good in, my fellow teammates would commonly pull theirs down over their head to cover their ears, and would happily go about their business completely unaware that they looked as though they had an unfortunate encounter with a large woolen and overripe fruit. Through an iterative process of counseling and advising them on what adjustments to make to position the hat correctly, I stumbled upon this standardization which seems to almost universally yield Awesome results.

There are three main contact points on the head that contribute to looking fantastic while wearing something fundamentally ugly on your head: the eyebrows, the tips of the ears, and the nape of the neck. (In this case, the nape is referred to as the point where the skull meets the neck, not the hairline.)

Point 1: The Eyebrows.  Your forehead is your enemy when it comes to looking cool in hats or helmets. You know who rides around with a big swath of exposed frontal cranium? The guy in the YJA, riding in the Sit Up and Beg Position, that’s who.  Keep this gap to a minimum at all times; helmets and backwards cycling caps should be worn close to the eyebrows and expose no more than a centimeter of forehead, as demonstrated by Der Kaiser and Il Priata. A forwards-facing cycling cap should have the lowest point of the brim intersect with the horizontal line connecting both eyebrows, as demonstrated by the late Franco Ballerini.

Point 2: The Ears. Consider the ears the pivot point of your head wear. Keep your shit level and close to the ears; helmets and caps are to be worn just above the ear, winter hats should cover just the tips of your ear.

Point 3: The Nape of the Neck.  Under no circumstances – ever, no matter what – is any part of your head wear to wander down below this threshold. EVER.  With modern helmets, the cranial locking mechanism should secure around this part of your melon; a cycling cap or ski hat should flirt with the upper reaches of this area.

As if you needed any further convincing, I leave you with some examples of the proper execution of the Three-Point system, along with some tragic failures.


*Obviously, this is only applicable within the parameters as laid out by Rule #22.

// Accessories and Gear // Look Pro // Nostalgia // The Hardmen // Tradition

  1. @Ron
    It’s just your standard, run-of-the-mill cycling cap. Cotton—from Australia. I wear it under my helmet (small pic, but I’m wearing it in my avatar at left). I recently came across a very nice Mercier cap on ebay, but refrained from pulling the trigger (now, much to my regret).

  2. I had to look up what 30F is – I understand its just below 0C. The Seal Skins will work down to there but that’s getting to the limit, you will have to do the occasional mid ride hand squeeze to get blood back into your fingers. They are excellent in wet.

  3. @Ron, @Kiwicyclist
    As a Nordic racer, Brikos were always the shiznit. It started with the Briko Shot which always looked incredibly cool and you could toss on your hat so easily because of the badass looking strap.

    Which of Pantani’s Brikos do you want? In the main shot, he’s got the Sprinter.3 – in the other shot, he’s got the Zens. Those Zens looked great on Nordic skiers, but never so much on cyclist. The other ones, I think I still have a pair laying around somewhere. I still have tons of Brikos; I was obsessed with them for ages.

  4. @frank @Ron
    Ron – I think it was me that mentioned the Icebreaker beanies. Frank – feel free to give Ron my email address.

  5. Speaking of looking Pro…

    so I had a pretty cool experience today. I was out riding rolling along Lake Washington in Seattle and here comes T-Bone riding the other way. He’s in town for some shit that McSqueek mentioned previously, and so I fucking u-turned and laid down loads of the V to try and catch up. There’s all these little hills, and the guy is about 50 meters in front of me and I don’t know if he could smell me or what, but he just sits there on the tops pedaling away and it makes no difference if he’s going uphill or flat – SAME SPEED. His position and magnificent stroke doesn’t change, nothing. He just fucking flies over the hills. I get up to this section where there’s a climb with some switchbacks and by this time he’s pulled away and I see him heading up the hill like he’s a fucking motorcycle. Nothing changes. He just keeps pedaling EXACTLY THE SAME as before. I finally catch him after he dodges a light and I just flat out fucking run it to get to him. So now he’s drafting a Land Rover at 55kph, about a half meter of it’s bumper, with some kind of telepathic thing going with the driver like in Breaking Away. I was scared shitless and sitting in the worst possible place, right in the turbulence, about 10 meters behind. We go up over a rise and again, he just follows the car as though the road was still flat and pulls away again. All this effort, and I’ve not had a single chance to say anything to him yet. So he hangs a right and shoots across a bridge and I follow him, knowing that bit of road is tricky with dead ends and he’ll likely slow down or make a mistake. I follow him down a dead end and I’m sure I’ve got him.

    I come around the bend and he was no where to be seen. He must have jumped the curb that’s about a half meter square to get into the correct bit of road. Either that or he saw me chasing him and was hiding somewhere, terrified that I was a nutter.

    Fuck that was fun, nothing like a little stalking to bring a shine to an otherwise abismal day.

  6. Just jumping in here mid-topic with a bit of a cross-over post between this topic and the “Rouleur” topic. Returned from Iraq 24 hours ago and cleaned my Merckx today and will get an outside ride in tomorrow for the first time where I do not need to have my loaded 9mm in my jersey pocket (no saddle bags for that one!). I just received all of my back ordered Rouleur magazines (a topic for another thread, but they are SO amazing, I am in heaven from those alone!) but I saw the article in Issue Three from Johhny Green and his paragraph where he says, “It took the genius of Pantini to wake me up to the brillance of the sport. Wheels whirrin’ up the Galibier in’98. The Pirate King never cheated me, whatever was coursing through his veins…” just totally hit home. Brilliant remark that captures everything I feel about our sport. Once I have settled back in wth the family, I’ll be back to peruse the site some more!

  7. @Buck Rogers
    Welcome home, mate! Can’t imagine how good that feels! If you have the issue Thirteen on the Polkadot Jersey, give the article by Robert Millar a read. Its legend.

  8. @frank

    I hate to say it, but I think he was trying to lose you unless you are slow like me, then he was just riding normally. This time of year, unless he was in a hurry, I don’t think he would be riding hard.

  9. @Ron
    Yep those solo possum hats are designed to be worn under a helmet – I wore mine quite a lot after I picked it up at the tail end of the recent Melbourne winter – good for those really cold days when you want to rug up – it seems to retain less in the way of moisture than wool and is perfect for keeping my (pantani-like) noggin warm.

    re the Brikos I’ve been keeping an eye out for the odd pair of stingers that have come up on ebog from time to time – best pair yet is an nos set up at the moment being sold out of Poland into the US only – clear grey frames, two sets of lenses, cleaning cloth etc – perfect and i would grab them if I could get them – raiders are my second favorite.

    Off topic but Marcus and I indulged in a bit of Rule #5 rain riding this morning – we are coming into Melbourne’s summer and the forecast for the next 5 days is for rain/thunderstorms – if you want to ride outside you are going to get wet – I rigged up the rain bike – my nos SL motta 2001 personal singlespeed with the mudguards – its the perfect bike for this – white industries sealed ss hubs laced to open pros, campy strada cranks, cinelli stem & bar, record aero seatpost, campy monoplanar brakes – minimal maintenance to worry about post-ride – we headed off at 5.30am for a 2 and half hour roll around the hills on the outskirts of the city down to the bay and back to the neigbourhood for a coffee and danish – all in fitfully falling summer rain.
    Rain riding has its place and has got to be underrated imho (at least if you have the right kit for the job as above) – drips falling off the brim of your cap, the almost imperceptible sound of a well oiled chain spinning over a single speed crankset in observation of the Principle of Silence – no-one else crazy enough to be out riding apart from a couple of old beardos who didn’t look at the weather forecast and hardly any traffic about.


  10. @frank
    Turns out it wasn’t T-Bone I was behind, but one of his team mates; did the group ride with him this morning which was totally rad. More to come.

  11. frank:
    I’m with you, man. I don’t deploy the ear-covering gear until it’s below 20F at least. My ears just don’t get cold, and the offset of how much less comfortable the full winter cap is makes it worthwhile for me to stick with the cotton cap until it’s really too cold.
    That said, my VMH gets bad headaches from having cold ears, so she’s rockin’ the ear coverage pretty early on, maybe around 40F or so.

    Yeah: I suffer from those headaches, too. But there’s a pretty simple remedy. See Rule V.

  12. Speaking of Pantani: Somebody stole one of his yellow jerseys.

  13. Wow, the comment from his mother, about Marco being not even being able to rest in peace…that really has to hurt her to feel this way. That’s tough.

  14. Anyone got any tips for keeping the helmet on straight? My hair grows to the right and I keep it short. It acts like a ratchet on the helmet letting it tilt right but not come back. Cancellara seems to have a crooked helmet issue too, but never looks bad in it. I’m not so sure I can pull it off.

  15. @michael

    Does a cap under the helmet help?

    My problem is that I never seem to have it on perfectly centered; the very front of my helmet always seems to be just off from center, either left or right. I never notice while wearing it, but in photos you can tell…

  16. Mine’s centered and it’s been a problem since the 80s except when I had long hair. I don’t ever wear a cap under the helmet but I have a cap which I can try today if it stays cool. I have the SBI Prevail now and it fits pretty securely on the forehead but I don’t notice it creeping over, perhaps I should put it on an hour before I ride and let it press into my forehead long enough that I know where it goes when I ride with it.

    I’m gonna try really wiggling it on forcing my hair into the vents like Vino’s photo above, see if that works.

  17. @sgtSpeaking of matching kit….

  18. My wife and I are budding velominati, and this article has helped her greatly as she has had several ‘appearance crises’. The three-point- rule has been digested, and will be applied religeously. Am I allowed to make reference to this rule when wearing my non-cycling trilby?

  19. Dear Velominati,

    I wanted to express my gratitude for this article.  I have always looked like a knob wearing a helmet largely, I believe, due to having a really big head.  The helmet sits up quite high, exposing a good few cm of forehead, and up until now I thought I would have to forever suffer with looking less than cool.  Having now read this article and understood the 3-point system, I have cut a strip from my stretchy neckwarmer to act as a sweatband under my helmet, thereby covering said offending forehead area.  I am also wearing the arms of my sunnies over the helmet straps.  Result: I now look like the hot chick cyclist that I am, and am ready for all the paparazzi that will no doubt be covering my first race in 2 weeks time.

    Thank you for helping me get race-ready!

  20. Even in my early cycling career I abused the 3-point system. But otherwise I showed early style promise.

    Me on right with two sisters. Note natty gloves.

  21. @Gianni Nice knee-over-toptube pedal stroke.  Why are you wearing a horsey helmet?

  22. @Gianni

    Even in my early cycling career I abused the 3-point system. But otherwise I showed early style promise.

    Me on right with two sisters. Note natty gloves.

    Is that your chateau in the background? Nice!

  23. @Nate The old man was into horses.  He was so into horses he took his college tuition for Brown and blew it at the race track! Ha!  Pretty much gave me carte blanche and I couldn’t fuck up that badly. Needless to say. He never went back to Brown.


    Neighbor’s house. Looks more impressive here than real life.

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