At any triathlon, you’ll see a wide range of helmets, from simple bike helmets, alien-like aero triathlon helmets all the way to mountaineering and full-face motorbike helmets, but which one is right for the triathlon beginner?
A proper cycling helmet which clips securely under the chin is a must for triathlons, and most organisers won’t even let you get into transition without one. Full face, skateboard or mountaineering helmets won’t cut it, so you will need to make sure that you have one before you race ( to be honest, before you even get on your bike for your first training run! Cycling without a helmet is just about the stupidest thing you can do on a bike!)
There are two main types of helmet available and, as usual, it very much depends on what sort of cycling you are going to do.
Triathlon specific helmets are designed for riders who are able to sustain a full aero position for an extended period of time and their function is to minimise the drag caused by lifting your head enough to be able to see forward.
There are two key features of the aero helmet which make them suitable for triathlons.
They are smooth, full shell helmets which minimise the drag caused by the cutouts in traditional helmets that are designed to cool your head and they have a long tail which removes the low-pressure zone behind the head, which reduces drag and relieves the pressure on the neck muscles this can cause.
They are definitely more aero, but can be heavier, hotter and are not the most attractive! Moreover, they are not effective if your head is offline which can reduce peripheral visibility
Standard helmets are designed to be very lightweight and provide adequate cooling to the head at all times. They will provide more drag than triathlon helmets, but obviously, are a more practical option as they can be used on training rides and commutes safely. They are available in much larger numbers, hence deals are more readily available so are going to be a much cheaper option.
One option is to have a standard cycling helmet and add an aero cover which is a thin neoprene cover that goes over the helmet and provides some level of aerodynamic improvement, although obviously not to the extent you would get from an aero helmet.
Some recommended brands