The best time trial helmets have come a long way from the mile-long teardrop lids of yesteryear. As we’ve learned more about aerodynamics and the way airflow reacts to different shapes, time trial helmets in general have become shorter and rounder.
A time trial helmet is one of the most cost-effective aero upgrades you can make, and the market is saturated with all shapes and sizes, some with magnetic visors, carbon shells and variable venting. Read on for a list of our favourite TT-specific lids or head for the bottom for a rundown of things you should know when shopping for a time trial helmet.
Please note that time trial helmets are not suitable for mass participation events or group rides; if you’re looking for aero gains in your next group ride or criterium, check our guide on the best aero road helmets.
Giro Aerohead MIPS
Aero, airy and fast
Visor attachment: Magnets | MIPS: Yes | Tail type: Short
Giro’s Aerohead sees an integrated wrap-around visor that uses ultra-strong magnets to keep the shield in place, or hold it flipped up and out of the way if you need some extra airflow. It also makes install and removal from your head a breeze. The visor is made by Zeiss, so you can be sure there will be no visual distortion, and you won’t need to break your aero tuck to push your sunnies up the bridge of your nose.
In our experience, the Aerohead proved to be one of the coolest (temperature-wise) TT helmets we’ve had atop our heads. The short tail and shape also seem to mesh well with a wide range of riders and positions on the bike, and it has a MIPS liner to keep your noggin safe, should disaster strike. There is an Ultimate version that trades the polycarbonate shell for Textreme carbon fibre, a slightly smaller profile and ditches the front vents in the name of less drag; but unless you're spending time in the wind tunnel tuning your position, this is a marginal gain you’re probably best to not to invest in.
Koroyd-enhanced TT lid
Visor attachment: Magnets | MIPS: Yes | Tail type: Short
Based around the bobtail shape, the Smith Podium TT is quick and sees the brand's Aerocore construction, which incorporates Koroyd, a honeycomb material that is supremely good and absorbing energy. This means Smith can use less EPS foam, which saves grams without sacrificing safety. The Podium TT also has a MIPS liner to help absorb the energy from rotational impacts.
As with its sunglasses, Smith includes two lenses, a clear and ChromaPop tint to ensure you can see in all conditions. Like the Giro, the visor uses magnets to hold the visor in place, meaning it can be done one-handed, and flipped up mid-race should you need to cool down a bit. The two small vents at the front carry a surprising amount of air through the shell, pushing heat out through the oversized exhaust vents; that said, it does tend to whistle at certain head angles.
A lightweight, round and fast TT helmet
Visor attachment: Magnet | MIPS: No | Tail type: Bobtail
POC’s first TT helmet, the Tempor, was reminiscent of the villain's helmet in Mel Brook’s 1987 Starwars spoof, Spaceballs. Even though it looked goofy, it was pretty darn fast in the bars with your head tucked; but only in that position, which is supremely hard to maintain for the entirety of a TT.
The Cerebel is a more traditional looking aero lid, with a magnetic visor, complete with Zeiss optics. Despite the only forward-facing vents being in the visor, it allows for a surprising wave of airflow to find its wave over your head, ears and neck. With its short profile, it will still be fast when your head is not tucked perfectly in your ideal aero position.
Wide profile designed to push wind past the shoulders
Visor attachment: Magnets | MIPS: No | Tail type: Medium
The latest and greatest TT lid to come out of Belgian helmet brand Lazer is the Volante. Of the current crop of helmets, it's one of the more pointy tailed aero lids and would be an ideal choice for those who can keep a steady head over longer efforts.
The enormous visor and wide profile might look a bit odd, but Lazer tells us it helps with pushing airflow beyond the shoulders, and its size means that it won’t obstruct your vision. The visor covers the front vents, but there is a compartment in the back where you could potentially stash an ice sock for some degree of cooling. Using the dial on the back of the retention system, you can also change the tail angle so mid-race as you fatigue and your position deteriorates, you can optimize its position on the fly.
Best for the TT specialist on a budget
Visor attachment: Clip-on | MIPS: No | Tail type: Medium
The Louis Garneau has been a popular choice among time trialists and triathletes for its performance per dollar ratio. Based around a mid-tail design, it should mesh with a lot of positions, but is tilted more towards those who can tuck their head. The front portion is dimpled, which the brand says improves airflow. The end of the teardrop is used as an exhaust vent, which with the front plug removed, allows a substantial amount of air to flow through the shell.
The visor flips up like those sunnies Chris Farley wore on SNL in the 90s, and replacements are available for about $30. But, the best part is the price; retailing for $119.95, you can almost buy two P-09’s for what some of these other helmets cost.
S-Works TT MIPS helmet
Made in the WinTunnel
Visor attachment: Clip-on | MIPS: Yes | Tail type: Medium
Based around the helmet Specialized designed with McLaren, the big red took its TT lid back into the wind tunnel to make it even more slippery. The S-Works TT helmet has a longer tail than most, so it's best for riders who have their position dialled, and can tuck their head. Airflow is inside the shell is courtesy of the patented side 'gill' vents that move a surprising amount of air through the lid — not the breeziest helmet on the market, but it's not sweltering either.
The visor is removable, but it's not a nifty system like the POC, Smith or Giro, with Specialized opting for clips instead of magnets. That said, Specialized includes two visors, one for bright conditions and the other for flat light, both are distortion-free. With the helmet, you get a high-quality carry case that will protect it and the visor from dings and scratches in transit and storage. The helmet can also be used without the visor, though this might add some drag.
Best optics of any TT lid
Visor attachment: Magnets | MIPS: Yes | Tail type: Bobtail
Oakley was a latecomer to cycling helmets, and the ARO7 is the American brand's best TT helmet. With virtually no tail, it would almost pass as a road helmet if it didn't cover your ears and should suit a variety of positions on the bike. Inside it sees a BOA fit system, a MIPS liner and a Fidlock buckle.
Upfront, Oakley has flexed its optical muscles and uses its Prizm Road technology on the visor which is attached using magnets. Oakley also includes a clear visor that is sharp and distortion-free.
Unrestricted peripherals and multi-position friendly
Visor attachment: Magnetic | MIPS: No | Tail type: Short
One of the best short-tail time trial helmets we've tested is the Met Codatronca - literally translated as 'truncated tail'. It gained plaudits among our testers for its comfort, providing a snug fit without any concerning pinch or prod points, no matter the position of your head.
And it's on the subject of head position where this helmet stakes its claim among the best. With its shortened tail, the Codatronca will remain aero, no matter if you're locked into the perfect position or you're tired and letting your head drop.
The front comes with a magnetic clip-on visor, which is available in three colours and can be flipped if you want to keep them out of the way. However, this will cover the vents, which themselves are surprisingly useful given their diminutive size. Inside there's a gel pad to aid grip and comfort, and Met's Safe-T Orbital retention system provides a wraparound adjustment, four vertical positions and positions of occipital adjustment too.
How to choose the best time trial helmet
Choosing the best time trial helmet for you will be determined primarily by your head positions and how long you're capable of 'turtling' over the course of an event. For those who are incredibly disciplined and their head stays perfectly still for the entirety of the TT, a helmet with a slightly longer tail should create less wind resistance — 'should' being the key word, as there is a myriad of other variables in a TT position that can affect drag.
For those who are a bit less statuesque or prefer a more head-up position, something with a snub tail or bobtail shape will likely yield the best results.
Ventilation is a tough one when it comes to time trials because the more closed off helmets are usually faster in the wind tunnel; however, if you overheat during your event, your body will hit the brakes on your max output.
Some helmets have removable plugs, while others allow for the visor to be removed, and some others have a hidey-hole for ice bags or ports for water poured over your head to filter through. Don't expect gale-force winds to pass through the shell though, even with the best-vented TT lids.
When shopping for a TT helmet, a key consideration is the climate of the events you’re targeting and how you handle heat. If you overheat quickly, magnetic visors that can be stashed on the brow might save your race.
Pretty much every TT helmet on the market comes with some definition of an integrated visor — they are faster and eliminate eyewear incompatibility. Magnets attach some, others use clips, while others still are fixed in place.
With that, it's worth considering not only the tint but also the quality of the optics and if spares are readily available for when you drop one.
The other key consideration with these integrated visors is, of course, how much you can see. Some of the more radical designs see the visor wrap all the way around past your ears which makes for a genuinely unobstructed view, while others only go as far as your temples and can infringe on your peripheral vision and road awareness.
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