Tour de France time trial helmets, ranked by how little I would like to be in them

Enough. This is enough.

Arnaud De Lie reaches hand to head, experiencing a moment of existential dismay.

Iain Treloar
by Iain Treloar 05.07.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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The time trial is a pure and honest thing. It is cycling at its essence – one rider, one bicycle, trying to go as quickly as possible between A and B. At its best, the discipline throws up performances that define entire races – Jonas Vingegaard’s raid on yellow last year, for instance, or Greg Lemond’s famed 1989 coup. These rides have something transcendental to them: pleasure, pain, perfection, wrapped up in a skinsuit.

Now, here’s the other thing about time trials: in the pursuit of the slightest aerodynamic advantage, riders wear very silly helmets. Sure, it’s all about function over form. That’s fine! We can simultaneously admire the years of steady refinement in wind tunnels to produce the most slippery form, the careful optimisation of airflow between helmet and eyepiece and cheekbone. There is a purity, an honesty, in that too. But does it mean that I would, personally, like to wear one of these helmets? I would not – too hot, too stuffy, too silly. After watching dozens of speedy bicyclists today wearing one silly helmet after another, I feel we have crossed the line from subjective opinion to objective fact. These things are daft, and there’s really no arguing about it.

And so: after close study of the various options on display in today’s time trial stage, this is Escape Collective’s ranking of which time trial helmets we would least like to be in and around.

Let’s kick off with this Abus number, expertly modelled by a newly-resurgent Fernando Gaviria of Movistar. It looks fine, if that’s the kind of thing you’re into (which I’m not, but I can see that there is a universe in which someone would be). There is a bit of ventilation in the form of a smiley swoop at the front, the visor is reflective which is kinda cool if you’re hiding your pain-face which Gaviria is, and there’s a little somethin’-somethin’ around the edge of it to differentiate face from cheek. Sure, I would not like to wear it, but it is less conspicuously horrible than some others we will shortly encounter. Congrats, Movistar! You have won something!
Silvan Dillier (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is wearing a Canyon-branded Abus helmet and the team’s new grey denim delight. His visor is not reflective, and therefore less cool than Gaviria’s. I would also say that – from a branding perspective – putting a Canyon logo on someone else’s helmet is pretty needy. Still, compact enough headform. It is, as Gaviria’s helmet was, fine, albeit slightly less so.
Hey, look, it’s Julian Alaphilippe Mathieu Burgaudeau doing his thing! This helmet occupies a similar space, ideologically, to the Canyon/Abus numbers above: close to the head, vaguely spermy, visor. Does the trick, by which I mean that I don’t want to ever wear one but simultaneously don’t yet feel a visceral desire to throw the bad helmet as far away from me as I possibly can, whether it’s attached to Mathieu Burgaudeau’s head or not. With where we’re going, that’s not bad.
Dorian Godon – a man whose name sounds like it should belong to a 15th century noble – wears a Van Rysel thing that he’s paired with some normal sunglasses like an absolute lunatic. We have, for the first time but absolutely not the last, dipped our toe in the territory of “no thank you, not for me, not ever.”
The thing about the Jayco-Alula time trial helmet is – well, actually, there are a few things. One: it looks like the wearer has a fishbowl covering their face. Two: There is a concave skate-ramp thing on the divot so that you can do some sick tricks with your TechDeck if you get bored in the team bus afterwards. Three: the vents are kinda sinister in a way I can’t quite put my finger on. It makes me feel how Chris Juul-Jensen looks like he feels, which is to say, a deep and growing sense of dread and concern.
Here’s a fun fact about Groupama-FDJ: their helmet sponsor doesn’t have a TT helmet (or if they do, they’re so shit that everyone on the team is going rogue – I counted four different brands). Here’s the peloton’s number one smoocher David Gaudu toiling his way to what is probably, for him, a terrific 59th place. As a bespectacled gentleman, you’ll note he has his prescription sunglasses on beneath his helmet visor, meaning that he’s doubly protected from sunglare. Even that little bit of vibeyness from one of the peloton’s more conspicuously sexual beings doesn’t restore the negative vibes of this particular helmet.
A big yellow helmet for a yellow jersey. Huge. Yellow. Clearly pretty fast, but also, Pogačar was pretty keen to rip it off as soon as he crossed the line. Coincidence? You tell me.
POC were early innovators in the weird helmet stakes and were mercilessly mocked for this number when it was first released. Now? While this is still clearly a pretty outrageous thing to wear on one’s head – in terms of desirability I’d put it somewhere below, oh, almost anything apart from a MAGA hat – there are some other worse TT helmet offenders that have since joined them in the genre. Which means that this very funny looking helmet is, in the year of our lord 2024, merely middle of the road. Good grief. Imagine that.
This, meanwhile, is a picture of Daft Punk (courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment, don’t sue me). Why am I including it? No reason. Just a picture I thought might fit in here.
Back to the bike race, Rudy Project enter the party with this shocker, modelled by Matej Mohorič. It’s the way it flares out to the bottom that really does it for me. That and the oil-slick colouring of the visor through which the Slovenian’s eyes glower, barely visible, just capturing the fierce intelligence of one of the peloton’s greatest thinkers wondering what he’s got on his head and whether any of it’s worth it.
Fellow Italian brand Limar fills a similar niche, shapewise, to the Rudy Project helmet above. I think it narrowly has the edge as a grosser helmet – it’s something about the nose divot and the way that the ferocious downdraft is blowing Mark Cavendish’s lips around like a jowelly dog dangling its head out the window on a highway.
(Courtesy of LucasFilm, also don’t sue me [but if you do, Darth Maul me with a double light-sabre thing and give me the death I deserve])
Another maligned helmet on eventual stage-winner Remco Evenepoel. This remains one of the more ridiculous-looking TT helmets out there, although it’s marginally improved since the UCI mandated the removal of its built-in head-sock which was about 40% of what made it so funny in the first place.

Anyway, it’s important sometimes to remember that even winners can sometimes be losers.
Jonathan Castroviejo has this big bulky number from Kask, which is notable mostly for its vast dimensions and millimetre-wide concessions to ventilation. But could it get worse? Don’t worry, it’s about to!
I don’t know if we spend enough time talking about how silly the Uno-X Mobility helmets are, but would you just look at this thing. The way the sides swoop down coquettishly like a pretty little bob of hair! The contrasting black strip! The raised triangle looming through it like a just-uncovered Mayan pyramid! All of it, accented immaculately by the bristly blonde moustache of deeply Danish man Magnus Cort. A feast for the eyes.
Like Jonathan Castroviejo, Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) has also opted for this monstrosity from Kask – but has added the outrageous optional cheek flaps that probably save three watts at some degrees of yaw, but also prompt the important question – at what cost to the soul? Look at Lenny Martinez, 20 years old but the youthful vitality seeping out of him which each second that it is on his head, cheek flaps cutting through the breeze and lacerating his sense of self-worth.
The marker of a good TT helmet is when it looks like it’s been clumsily photoshopped on Jarrad Drizners’ head 1.5x bigger than it actually is. Look, it’s a fast helmet, no-one is denying that – heck, fifth-placed Victor Campanaerts spent ages in the hot seat and gave a lengthy sponsor-correct interview where he was repeatedly bragging in French about Ekoi being so great – but if I was to offer an alternative perspective to the Ekoi-pilled Campanaerts, I would simply say, look at Jarrad Drizners’ big rude head. Just look at it.
Was the winner of worst-on-field ever going to go to anyone else? Look at Jonas Vingegaard, flushed and weary, chugging down a big bottle of tart cherry juice wearing this thing.

Do you think that they ever look in the mirror and wonder what they’re doing this for? Whether their boyish dreams of being a professional bicycle-cyclist would’ve ever led them down this slippery slope where they’re unironically wearing this helmet, as big at the front as it is at the back, an enormous head-encompassing crumple zone? Is there space in a cycling team as rigid as Visma-Lease a Bike to allow its riders the personal autonomy and self-will to opt out of looking more silly than anyone has ever previously looked for a time trial? Is there a point at which we must throw up our hands in dismay and say, in the same haunted tone as that guy in Love Actually who stalks Keira Knightley, “enough; this is enough”? How can this possibly not be that point? And if it is not, what horrors do the future hold?

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