Look Pro, Part I: Three-Point System

Innovating with bandannas, Pantani proves the system supports even this unorthodox headpiece.

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.

[dmalbum path=”/velominati.com/content/Photo Galleries/[email protected]/Three Point System/”/]

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

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88 Replies to “Look Pro, Part I: Three-Point System”

  1. 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.

    A worthy corollary of the old and true adage: the clothes make the man.

  2. I have a gigantic skull. Comically large, like the twenty-eight years expired remainder of a cruel joke played on my (permanently tentative to sit) mother.

    This has helped immensely.

  3. Thankfully I already adhere to the Three Point System. Still, I appreciate the nice essay and (mostly) bad ass photos.

    A few comments:
    – I know it sounds crazy, but I kind of like those jerseys that Fignon is wearing. Ugly? Yes. But there is something great about a jersey made to look like overall bibs. “I’ve got work to do on this here bike!” Was this jersey the original tuxedo t-shirt? Hmm…

    – For those of us in places that get colder than the Pacific NW, what about riding in 25*F temps. How do we follow the rules while wearing a skull cap that covers are ears? Ears exposed at these temps test the brass of even the heartiest hardmen.

    – And finally, if you are so passionate about this three point system, what are your feelings on the current trend of d-bags who wear oversized, fitted baseball hats, don’t bend the brim and, worst of all, tuck their ears in? I always do a double take when I see these people, at first assuming they just got off the short bus, but no, they are walking around proud, sporting this look.

  4. Pantani was born with a condition that rendered him only able to meet one of the contact point rules in summer caps but unable to meet it with winter hats – namely his ears were so fucking enormous (first nickname Elephantino) that no cap or beanie could fit over them. Summer compliance/ winter non-compliance.

    So in an admirable effort to avoid this uncomfortable paradox, Marco surgically altered himself to make rule compliance attainable at all times.

    Oh how I loved him.

  5. +++++
    I don’t even try to BS people when they ask why I shave my legs. I say it’s psychological. It makes me look, feel, and race, like a racer. The same goes for the kit – I pretty much won’t wear anything but a complete matching kit anymore. The only exception is the Assos bibs with my Pink Floyd Wish Your Were Here jersey. But I even went all anal on that – one sleeve is white and one is black so I took a white Under Armour long sleeve shirt and dyed one sleeve black so when I wear the PF jersey in cool weather it looks completely pimp. Also, seeing as I spent a stint in an organization whose members are known for being the most squared away mother fuckers in the world – the United States Marine Corps – I obviously know how to wear head gear properly.

  6. Great article. Perfectly timed, after that ugly excursion (for which I feel in no small part responsible) into the realms of (alleged) physics at the expense of aesthetics. A compelling case for Rule Holism.

    But, I have to ask, what ON EARTH is Basso wearing? While I want to believe that the blue fluffy thing behind him is not a pom-pom attached to his “hat”, the “hat” alone is so grotesque that I cannot be sure. Presumably he donned this at the conclusion of the season, when it was no longer necessary for him to perform and he wanted his body to go into recovery mode as soon as possible. (Or was the photo taken pre-ban, when other performance-enhancing methods rendered immaterial the adverse effects of the “hat”?)

  7. @Cyclops
    Hey, Happy Birthday to the USMC.

    Not one myself, but I lived in Oceanside, CA for many years, know many jarheads, respect the shit out of the Corps.

    Semper Fi!

    +1 one on the legs and matching kit. I have some bitchin’ jerseys that I only wear on the mtb cause I don’t have matching bibs. I even try to match gloves and socks to kit whenever possible.

  8. Ron:
    – And finally, if you are so passionate about this three point system, what are your feelings on the current trend of d-bags who wear oversized, fitted baseball hats, don’t bend the brim and, worst of all, tuck their ears in? I always do a double take when I see these people, at first assuming they just got off the short bus, but no, they are walking around proud, sporting this look.

    It FREAKIN’ drives me crazy. Getting the proper curve on the bill of your fitted St. Louis Cardinals cap (all other caps are blemishes on humanity) is an art that seperates the men from the boys.

  9. @Cyclops
    A++1. I have utilised three different explanations for my leg-shaving:
    Initially – “to make road rash easier to deal with”. Possibly untrue generally, definitely untrue in my case.
    And then – “did it once to see what it was like, and am now stuck with it as I hate the feeling of stubble”. Partially true, but not really the primary motivation.
    Finally – “tribal affiliation”. Largely true – and it is liberating to admit it. If you feel it, you are more likely to be it (or, at least, get as close to it as a middle aged chap with other demands on his time can manage). [Not much assistance with the “But you look like a dick, Mate” riposte. But that’s what tribal affiliation is for …]

  10. @Ron
    Le Professeur was quite proud of the overalls design (a nod to the sponsor), which he had a significant hand in. A unique chap…

  11. G’phant:
    @Cyclops
    Not much assistance with the “But you look like a dick, Mate” riposte.

    Do Kiwis shave their dicks, too? Nevermind, don’t answer that.

  12. @Ron

    And finally, if you are so passionate about this three point system, what are your feelings on the current trend of d-bags who wear oversized, fitted baseball hats, don’t bend the brim and, worst of all, tuck their ears in? I always do a double take when I see these people, at first assuming they just got off the short bus, but no, they are walking around proud, sporting this look.

    Three-Point system notwithstanding, that shit is deplorable on a number of aesthetic levels. They can fuck off.

    @Marcus
    That may seem to be the case, but as this photo demonstrates, he was able to tuck his ears in. While this is still not a winter hat, aside from the slightly too big gap on the forehead, this demonstrates good Three-Point System format for wearing a winter ski hat.

  13. @sgt

    I even try to match gloves and socks to kit whenever possible.

    Um…YEAH. It’s, like, kind of required. No red socks with the V-Kit. No red helmets. I bought new socks and a new helmet when it first arrived.

  14. @G’phant

    Le Professeur was quite proud of the overalls design (a nod to the sponsor), which he had a significant hand in. A unique chap…

    Finished the book, eh? His account made me rethink it, but as it turns out it’s still just ball ugly.

  15. @frank
    Take a look at the pressure his ears are under – this was only an attempt at a temporary solution. As soon as he slipped the Brikos under the bandana, the ears would have been released like a dog off a chain!

    I recall that in the book, the Death of Marco Pantani, it mentions that he went through a number of different options to try to reduce the look of his ears in caps, etc. He really was rule aware.

  16. @frank “No red helmets.” Say what?!! Why was I not informed of this when I ordered my new RED helmet from BRETT?! (Will hunt elsewhere for a red-framed helmet mirror to match it, as Brett will presumably try to sell me a lime green one.)

    Yes, finished the book. COuldn’t put it down. Not great literature, but a great read.

    @sgt Chapeau. I asked for that. And in case you are genuinely curious, not to my knowledge. But my sample size is only 1.

  17. @Ron

    @Cyclops

    Also, when did the trend start that you leave that weird hologram sticker on the bill to prove you’re wearing an “authentic” cap? I don’t understand it, as I don’t wear ballcaps of any sort.

    In regards to a personal pet-peeve with cycling headwear, those stupid helmets that are large and round, and usually have dumb graphics on them (such as a water melon or an 8-ball) drive me crazy. Seriously, those should only be for children and people who are otherwise not capable of making such decisions for themselves. I can’t imagine how hot those must be in the summer, too.

  18. Leg shaving, it’s all about vanity and conformity.

    Looking pro, same.

    Following the rules, same.

    The need for conformity in cycling has always bugged me as I was a punk rocker but still conformed to the Rules and understood their importance even before they were written down here.

    I believe it all stems from OCPD – a personality disorder which involves an obsession with perfection, rules, and organization. People with OCPD may feel anxious when they perceive that things are not right. This can lead to routines and rules for ways of doing things, whether for themselves or their families.

  19. @michael
    Got to take issue with that. I think it has much, much more to do with ritual. It is easy, in a largely secular world, to assume that ritual is of the past. But it’s a wrong assumption. Though I don’t want to sound like a proselytising evolutionary psychologist (there’s a whole methodologtical / epistemological debate there which doesn’t belong here), I think we are hard-wired to be drawn to ritual, as a part of our make-up as social animals. Like I say, tribal affiliation. The content of the rules which define and sustain the ritual is less important than the fact of them. (With the exception, of course, of The Rules, which are a sacred canon …)

  20. @Ron

    For those of us in places that get colder than the Pacific NW, what about riding in 25*F temps. How do we follow the rules while wearing a skull cap that covers are ears? Ears exposed at these temps test the brass of even the heartiest hardmen.

    So long as you take it off the instant you remove your helmet, you’re gold. My VMH wears one of those, although I opt for a winter cycling cap under my lid when the weather warrants it’s use.

  21. @michael

    I believe it all stems from OCPD – a personality disorder which involves an obsession with perfection, rules, and organization. People with OCPD may feel anxious when they perceive that things are not right. This can lead to routines and rules for ways of doing things, whether for themselves or their families.

    I have actually been diagnosed with OCD. Not to the point that I have to turn the lights on 7 times when I walk in a room, but to the point that I become physically uncomfortable when things are not “right”. I like to think it’s “just the right amount” to make me good at my craft and my work, but it’s hard to be objective about yourself. On the other hand, my VMH, upon reading your comment, asked in all seriousness, “Oh, do you and Michael know eachother?”

  22. @G’phant
    Oh I was just talking, seeing who would take the bait.

    I’ve not been diagnosed with much but general anxiety disorder, but I’m sure I’ve got one part OCPD, one part autism, one part oppositional defiant disorder, one part addictive personality. It’s a wonder I can get out of the house to ride at all.

    @frank
    I think many people attracted to cycling fit within a general personality type, I would guess in general we are smarter than average, creative, prone to depression and anxiety, sometimes socially inept, don’t make great subordinates, etc. This explains why there are so many tools in the shed as well as people we get along perfectly well with.

  23. @G’phant @frank @michael

    Have to agree with G’phant on this one: a very articulate comment about the enduring role of ritual in what otherwise appears to be a post-ritual world. At the end of the day, I just like to ride.

    And I really don’t buy the general personality type; type-casting is problematic on a bunch of levels. Jean Bobet described thinking as a disadvantage for the cyclist (cogito ergo sunk, as he put it). Or, better yet: drop by the next chess tournament in your area. You could be describing the room full of hygiene-challenged, belt-loop-missing, folks playing the royal game.

  24. You don’t have to buy the personality type thing, you just have to be in the business and industry long enough and you will simply come to understand.

  25. Cool, thanks for the reply.

    What type of winter cap are you utilizing?

    In the summer I don’t wear anything under my helmet. In the fall I wear a regular ol’ cycling cap. In the winter (sub 35* or so) I wear a Castelli cap that has a…nape cover…the horror!) I know, I know.

    Some I’m asking, is there another option that can keep me warm enough to ride in cold temps AND look fucking awesome doing it?

    I’ve seen the caps that are heavier and have fold-down ear flaps, but I doubt these would fit under a snug, well-fitting helmet.

    What are you using, Rule Maker?

  26. @frank
    Not to worry, Frank, I’ve got some sweet Castelli socks all teed up, and a pair of black Giro Zeros already ear-marked for the SG. And I actually own two of the same model of helmet, one red/white, one black/white so I can match different kits. V-Socks would be cool, but I know the minimums on socks.

    @G’phant
    Couldn’t resist, buddy. Glad you appreciated.

    @All
    I’m a pretty recent convert to shaving, for me it ended up being (as G’phant says) about tribal identity. If I’m out in a group, or solo, I want fellow tribe members to distinguish me as a committed cyclist. Plus the “look good, feel good, go good” applies as well.

  27. G’phant:
    @Steampunk
    “Cogito ergo sunk”. Brilliant. Refer Frank’s piece on “the perfect amount of dumb”.

    I was thinking the same thing. I’m a bit guilty of this on the bike myself and find I ride best when I’ve cleared my mind.

  28. @sgt

    I discovered today that hairy legs really itch under thermal lycra if you get just a bit warm. I’m still waiting until I’m two months from racing weight to shave but I did shave for 15 years, that’s why I never knew about that itching under thermal lycra thing.

  29. Good post, and discussion.
    I like the analogy to Nordic Ski headgear, where the rule in my tribe in Vermont was always that the edge of your hat must be perfectly horizontal, making a line from the top of your eyebrows, over your ear to the nape of your neck. No forehead exposure at all, and the back of your neck totally exposed. This gives a sort of winter version of Indurain with his cap at the front of his head. In very cold temperatures, the ears were to be covered by thin black felt earmuffs, but under no circumstances do you pull your hat down in the back. I have tried the earmuffs when cycling, but they really don’t work under a helmet.

    As far as shaving goes, there is also the ‘it helps my soigneur give me better massages’ reason, but for those of us who don’t get massages every day, it’s really about recognition by the tribe.

  30. @Ron
    Sorry to shout out for Icebreaker again, but they make a thin merino beanie which goes just fine under a helmet but keeps your head warm without overheating. Have been perfectly happy riding with it in zero Celsius. Dunno about lower than that though – Wellington doesn’t freeze.

  31. @Ron
    Regret to invoke Rule #5, but I’m still in a cycling cap under the helmet in those kinds of temperatures here at the moment. This has the added advantage of chilling the tips of your lobes sufficiently that you can just break them off and sew them back on at the end of the ride, thereby eliminating the aesthetic distress of this less than ideal body part. But I guess that type-casts me.

    Am waiting on a V LS jersey before jumping on a new pair of winter gloves. Any recommendations?

  32. Nate:
    @sgt
    Brilliant work. It begs a follow up question to our recent exchange: Do you shave your Wilier?

    But of course! Shaving makes the Wilier look bigger…

  33. @Ron
    I use the woolen winter cap that you’re describing here, with the ear flaps (it’s really not ear flaps but a whole section that folds down on the back half of the cap.

    It used to be really hard to get them to fit under a helmet, but now since they’ve been making helmets with the adjustable cranial locking mechanisms, it’s been way mo’ bettah and easy to make it work – but it definitely is less comfortable and secure than no caps at all.

    That particular cap is a very challenging beast to make look good when the helmet comes off. The key is to make sure the flap is only down when under the helmet, and make sure it’s not pulled down tight over the skull.

    BTW, that’s really the core to the Three-Point system; you don’t want the hat to be tightly pulled down, ever. The only hats/caps that should ever be tightly pulled down over the skull are swim caps and the nordic racing cap, but even then, they largely follow the protocol laid out here.

  34. @Fredrik
    Thanks mate; this whole system was originally devised for Nordic skiing; I kept watching videos of my heros in Norway and Sweden and noticing that they looked cool, while we all looked like tools. And – YES – the earmuffs are not permitted to alter the line of the hat at all. I would argue that the reason for employing the earmuff is to avoid altering the line.

    @Steampunk
    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.

  35. @all
    Regarding the leg shaving (I love how sidetracked the topics get here), aren’t you all doing it to shave 0.0001 seconds off your time? That’s the reason I do it.

    Actually, I’ve shaved my legs for so long, at this point, I can’t climb on a bike with even stubble showing. It’s uncomfortable, as Michael points out, under knickers and leggings, and it’s even uncomfortable under the leg grippers of the bibs. It’s uncomfortable flapping in the wind.

    But, I started because it looks fucking PRO.

  36. I started shaving when I became a part-time expat bachelor a few years ago. My wife doesn’t like it but as I spend more time on my bike than with her we had to get the priorities straight.

    Now I am definitely not a hairy man – I don’t even have a snail trail. So when I mentioned I had started shaving my friends said they thought I already did.

    Which was good that they thought I was already part of the tribe (it’s definitely an allegiance thing) but at the same time slightly injurious to my sense of virility.

  37. Wow, you guys are wearing just a regular cap at around freezing and below? Maybe the rest of my body isn’t protected enough. I ride in cold temps, but usually need to put on a skull cap of some sort.

    I actually hadn’t heard of the Icebreaker stuff but have tracked down a merino wool beanie they make. Are you pulling it over your ears or leaving them out?

    Steampunk – seems as if you go ears out all the time. I guess it is time for me to repeat my Hardman training course, eh?

    Any of you using the “winter” cycling caps, the insulated ones with ear flaps? Those look nice, but I can’t imagine they’ll fit under a helmet.

  38. As a nude nut, I have always worn something under my helmet. When I started out mtn biking it was a bandanna, for some years now its been a cotton cap. This is even when its hot – otherwise the sweat tends to pur straight down into my eyes. When it gets a bit colder, I’ve a Sugoi Wallaroo 290 Cycling Cap which is so much more awesome than the microfleece beanie it replaced, including because it has a brim. Best winter glove: SealSkinz ultra gip.

  39. frank:
    @all
    Regarding the leg shaving (I love how sidetracked the topics get here), aren’t you all doing it to shave 0.0001 seconds off your time?

    Um, no. I shave to highlight the musculature of the BFGs, which is usually enough to break the will of other cyclists. That’s worth way more than the 0.0001 second savings you’re talking about.

  40. @Ron
    While it’s fun to cite Rule V, I’m sure this is also a physiological thing; I have a much higher comfort threshold for cold temperatures than I do for hot temperatures.

  41. @Ron
    I have 3 of the beanies. 2 can cover most of the ears if I want them to. The other can’t, and that’s the one I prefer. They also make some thicker ones, which are too bulky. The ones I have are quite thin.

  42. Steampunk :
    Um, no. I shave to highlight the musculature of the BFGs, which is usually enough to break the will of other cyclists. That’s worth way more than the 0.0001 second savings you’re talking about.

    What S’punk said.

  43. Couple of things. I’ve read the Pantani book and I’m pretty sure he had surgery to pin back the ears. The pics on the book prove it – hard core adherence to the rules, I’d say.

    Also, I live in WI and ride in 20 + degree weather (not factoring in wind chill.) Damn right I cover my ears and wear a gator on my neck. If someone has a problem with this (while no doubt riding in their warm car) I’d suggest reading Rule #5 which by riding outside I believe I’m in full compliance with. 10,000 km seasons don’t come easy in WI if you just ride when the temperate is above 60 degrees.

  44. Nicely said, nicely done. My variant includes copious amounts of sunscreen over the head pantani style. The forest is a little thin, and hours dishing the V gives me special precancerous coloring in places I’d prefer to protect.

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