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Yanto Barker: How to wear helmets

Cyclist magazine
21 Apr 2017

Ex-pro and occasional style consultant Yanto Barker gives his view on the item of kit that tops them all. Literally

It’s funny to think that an item so vital to looking good on the bike was something no one used to wear.

For 15 years of the 20 I was a professional I never wore a helmet out training. They were for protection in races – any other time the freedom of the wind in my hair was much more important (a six-hour ride artfully tousled my hair just the right amount).

Then I met my wife. She demanded I wear one on every ride, and as usual she was right – now it’s the norm and I would feel naked without one.

However if safe is to be sexy, naturally there is etiquette to observe. Most importantly, the arms of your sunglasses should sit over a helmet’s straps. This is crucial.

The venerable Frank Strack has already eloquently explained the reason behind this, so I will not repeat it here.

I once told a professional triathlete to adjust her glasses because her helmet’s straps were ill-fitting and over the arms of her glasses.

She took offense and snootily informed me that in triathlons it’s done the other way around so helmets can be taken off quickly in transition without having to adjust glasses. Typical triathletes, always thinking logically.

Keeping neutral

Ideally a helmet would echo the accents on the rest of your kit. A neutral lid – black or white – is acceptable and goes with anything, but that is the kind of rational thinking that would make me worry you were a closet triathlete.

I’m still a champion of the whole Euro-fluoro thing, so a helmet is a good opportunity to work in some day-glo yellow or orange into your ensemble, although I’d refer you back to my column in issue 59: helmets must match shoes.

Note I said yellow or orange. Under no circumstances should these colours appear together – you’re not pedalling to a rave.

The trend for semi-aero helmets opens some interesting doors. Their advantage is twofold – not only do they reduce your drag but you can say you only bought one to better protect yourself from the weather.

No shame in being aero

There’s no shame in being aero, and helmets make a difference in a signpost sprint without making you look like you’re trying too hard. It’s not like you’ve turned up to a club run in a skinsuit.

I’ve seen that done before – it’s like having a note on your back that says, ‘I’d like a kicking today please.’

Last of all, you need to make sure the straps fit your face correctly – clasps sitting neatly under your ears so that the main buckle tucks under your chin, with any excess strap cut off.

Tony Martin does his helmet straps up super-tight to make sure they don’t flap at all, not just in time-trials but in road races too.

Pros have won and lost by tenths of a second over 100-150km breakaways – just look at Jack Bauer in Stage 15 of the 2014 Tour. Alexander Kristoff overhauled him with metres to the finish.

Come to think of it, Bauer’s helmet straps did look a little loose…

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