The Tour de France has finally begun, kicking off with a 13.2km time trial around the city streets of Copenhagen, and while Yves Lampart’s shock victory, the weather’s premature arrival, and Geraint Thomas’ gilet gaffe will be the big storylines of the day, it was something altogether different that caught our attention: weird helmets.
Like a scene out of a Mel Gibson parody movie, there were some pretty wild ones on show, and we’ve rounded up our favourites.
The first, primarily due to its early position in the start gate, was the pink POC Tempor, complete with the face of a cartoon dragon painted on the front, ridden by Swiss time trialling powerhouse, Stefan Bissegger (EF Education EasyPost). The dragon, as we’ve all probably seen by now, is the leading character of EF’s collaboration with Palace Skateboards that has also seen their kit and bikes redesigned, and saw the team wear Crocs to Wednesday’s teams’ presentation.
In any other bike race, if EF were to rock up wearing this, it would be all that anyone would talk about, but not today. Sorry POC, your position at the top of the weird helmet hierarchy has come to an end.
Don’t get us wrong, the POC Tempor is a mad-looking beast, that much is true, and it’s regularly compared to that of a Star Wars Stormtrooper because of its size and shape. It was actually first unveiled a decade ago at the London Olympics, but quickly fell out of favor because of how ridiculous it looked. However, just like how the ugly duckling grew up to be a beautiful swan, as the wider cycling community’s understanding of aerodynamics grew, the POC Tempor became the cult-favourite helmet for anyone serious about time trialling. For riders able to keep their heads locked into an aero position, it was the fastest out there by a long shot, as it could smooth the airflow around the head and above the shoulders.
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Cask leg large
Thanks to POC, and perhaps thanks to our collective understanding of the importance of aerodynamics, cyclists no longer care about looking weird. So much so that Ineos Grenadiers’ latest recruit and long-time aerodynamics nerd, Dan Bigham, previously said this to Cycling Weekly: “I’ve always joked that I’d happily wear a giant penis outfit if it was fast.”
We’re not at that stage yet, thankfully, but we reckon Bigham has something to do with our next weird helmet, the Kask Bambino Pro ridden by Tom Pidcock and Adam Yates. To be honest, it’s not the model of helmet that matters here, it’s the sheer size of the thing. Neither of the Brits are large riders – Yates is especially diminutive, as expected for a GC contender – but the size of these helmets looked almost wider than their shoulders. The aero performance of this is quite clear. The larger the helmet, the more air can be smoothly displaced around the less-than-optimally-aero shoulders, and theoretically reduce the overall drag.
What’s more, these oversized helmets looked to also be fitted with what we can only describe as a spoiler; a centimeter-deep ridge of material that protrudes from the lower edges of the lens.
But rather than a ploy to increase downforce to aid with cornering traction (that might’ve helped some riders), it’s expected that this catches the air and flows it upwards and over the shoulder, rather than letting it flow off the helmet and straight into the rider’s body.
It gave the appearance of wearing a large pair of ski goggles, and reminded us of Peter Sagan’s podium antics in years gone by.
Specialized takes the prize
Ironically, Peter Sagan provides a nice segue onto our final weird helmet of the day, and in connection, a rare marketing faux pas for Specialized. Sagan was one of a dozen-or-so riders to take to the start ramp wearing the new Specialized TT5. This helmet was launched only yesterday, and it’s pretty wild in its design.
It’s vastly bigger than the one it replaces, its flattened back is something akin to the down tube of an aero frame, and its elongated sides come down around the ears and then just keep going, but at approximately an inch away from the face. In the day since its launch, it’s been compared to everything from Daft Punk to Darth Vader, and we’ve not even mentioned the head sock yet.
Inside the helmet is an inbuilt piece of cloth. Specialized would like that we call it a head sock, but to put it simply, it’s a balaclava. This is built into the helmet – it cannot be removed, even for washing – and its design is there to smooth the airflow over the wearer’s face, ears and hair, while also helping the helmet remain stable, and offer a degree of rotational protection. Given it claims to save 26 seconds over a 40km time trial, cyclists won’t care. We don’t mind looking weird if it makes us faster, remember?
Specialized had a huge team of engineers and marketers in Copenhagen presenting its new helmets to the world’s media, and it very nearly had a slam dunk perfect Friday when their sponsored rider, Yves Lampaert, stunned the world to beat the likes of Wout van Aert, Filippo Ganna and Tadej Pogačar. The problem is, he was wearing the old one.
Still, here we are talking about it, and here you are reading about it. Maybe it’s true when they say there’s no such thing as bad press.