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Take me to your leader. Promise he won’t laugh?

I have been doing some research. (Yeah, you already know where this is going; money will be spent.)

My friend, Jim Van Iwaarden, once said that there were only two things that prevented me from becoming a great cyclist: My left leg and my right leg. At the time he said it, years ago, he had a point. But that was before I had taken up Ironman and ridden more than 30,000 miles in training. It was before I got a coach, before I did any substantial strength training. Now that years have passed, now that I have put in the training, he still has a point.

So, when good nutrition, strength training and riding seem not to do the trick, what to do? Turn to technology. My research has shown that an aero helmet adds approximately one-half mile per hour to a triathlon cyclist’s speed. How could Jim have known that my head was holding me back, in cycling, that is?

For the (modest?) price of only $200, I now place my noggin in a Louis Garneau aero helmet. While I can’t be sure that I have gained one-half mile per hour (I have no access to a low-speed wind tunnel for controlled testing), I do know several things. First, my head now diverts attention from my scrawny legs. (Brilliant!) Here’s why: The helmet has a white, dimpled front that would probably make my helmet-shrouded head travel in a straight trajectory if a golfer chose to hit me in the forehead with his club. (It’s white, dimpled and a “can’t miss” for a golfer thwarted in trying to hit considerably smaller objects. Teed up high, too.) Second, the helmet features an additional aerodynamic trick: The dimples give way to little beveled fins angled to direct air left and right. This completely baffles me but I am sure that the Garneau engineers have their reasons. (Maybe just two reasons, actually: They wanted my $200 and a good laugh.) The pickup truck crowd at the Fuel & Food in Watertown have not yet taken notice, but I have chosen not to linger there to draw my new hat to their attention. I prefer not to need it if they decide to beat me up or run me over. It’s bad enough that I show up there in lycra shorts. They don’t.

There’s more: The bulbous frontal aspect of the helmet would otherwise make me look like Megamind if it did not make me look so addled. (Swing and a miss in the style department.)

Even so, one-half mile per hour equates to three miles in Kona, almost ten minutes. In Ironman, training your way to a ten minute faster bike is very hard. You need to spend a lot of time in the saddle to earn that ten minutes. Ten fewer minutes on a rock hard, narrow strip of leather is something that, at the end of an Ironman bike, I would pay much, much more than $200 to enjoy. Also, it is unbelievably hard to give chase to a runner ahead of you and reel in ten minutes. Ten minutes can mean several age group places. It’s a meaningful amount of time.

Blinded by science? Sure.

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One Comment

  1. Just be careful. A friend of mine from the Y, who is much faster than I am, did the same research and came to the same conclusion. However, he overheated in his first race with his new aero helmet and ended up in the hospital for two days. On the other hand, I don’t think his had that big radiator vent in the front!


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