Road Helmet Testing

Which road helmet should I buy? A question often asked, but not always straight forward to answer.

Last week at SSEH we conducted some internal testing of road helmets, via the use of our Equipment Room in order to highlight the typical differences in power required (to ride at a certain speed) you can expect to find when testing in the Sports Performance Wind Tunnel.

Testing protocol

The tests were performed with 6 different helmets in a size medium, by two riders, to demonstrate how the rider’s physiology, or position on the bike may affect the results.

The speeds selected for the test were 35kph and 45kph, across two yaw angles of 0 and 5 degrees, representative of what a rider may typically encounter when riding or racing in real-world conditions.

To ensure the data was both accurate and repeatable, the riders’ edges were captured during the baseline test, which were then projected in front of them for each subsequent run as a reference point in order to maintain the same position on the bike. A pedalling tare was also completed prior to each run to account for any relative changes in mass of the riders set up.

Results

The full results of each test can be found in the graphs below; however, we have summarised some of the key points below:

Differential (watts required) between slowest and fastest helmet:

  • Rider 1 at 35kph – 5w.
  • Rider 1 at 45kph – 10w.
  • Rider 2 at 35kph – 5w.
  • Rider 2 at 45kph – 12w.

Fastest helmet:

  • Rider 1 at 35kph – Helmet 1.
  • Rider 1 at 45kph – Helmet 2.
  • Rider 2 at 35kph – Helmet 1 & 2.
  • Rider 2 at 45kph – Helmet 2.

Slowest helmet:

  • Rider 1 at 35kph – Helmet 5 & 6.
  • Rider 1 at 45kph – Helmet 6.
  • Rider 2 at 35kph – Helmet 3.
  • Rider 2 at 45kph – Helmet 5.

*The graphs below are in order of Rider 1’s results (from fastest to slowest)

Conclusion

The results indicate that whilst there were some similarities between the two riders (both finding helmet 1 to be one of the fastest), the results do differ dependant on the rider’s physiology, position and speed at which they are travelling (the slowest helmet was different for each rider and also different for the same rider, dependant on speed).

At the lower speed of 35kph there was potential to save up to 5w for each of the riders, rising to 10w and 12w at the higher speed of 45kph.

This clearly highlights 2 key takeaways from the test; one, that there are significant aerodynamic gains to be made by testing a variety of helmets and two, that a “one size fits all” approach cannot be assumed when trying to determine which helmet will be fastest for a rider.

The helmets used for this test, along with a wide variety of other equipment such as Timetrial/ Triathlon helmets, skinsuits, aero shoe covers/ socks, handlebars and wheels are all available to try in our Equipment Room.

If you would be interested in arranging a session in the Sports Performance Wind Tunnel to optimise your own equipment choices, please refer to the Performance Consultants section of our website for further information – https://silverstonesportshub.co.uk/consultants/