scarcely a week goes by without some section of the cycling press, both print and virtual, bringing news of the latest in technological advancement by the white-coated boffins kept in secluded isolation in a locked back room. nowadays most of these seem to revolve around fluid dynamics and finite element analysis, subsequently refined using both 3d printers and expensive wind-tunnel testing. such is the dependence on the latter, that one or two of the larger manufacturers are now bringing this portion of practical testing in-house, having built their own wind tunnels. aerodynamics are the new black.
yet little, if any, of these advancements have considered associated factors. it's not always the case that what makes aerodynamic sense is aesthetically pleasing, and no matter how fast it goes, if it's pig-ugly, it'll probably stay on the shop floor for longer than commercially viable. no amount of painting a brick all the colours of the rainbow will entice someone other than a builder to buy it. and that too is an area of research that suffers from ignorance and relegation despite our knowing the substantial difference that a decent colour can make to the perceived speed of your average velocipedinist.
take endura's second generation airshell helmet. to all intents and purposes, the untrained eye will see little visual difference between the scottish firm's initial offering and the latest in shiny headwear. however, what livingston seems to have discovered in the period between versions one and two is just how much of a difference colour can make.
it's not so many years past since many a motoring manufacturer offered sports versions of their bog standard fare, augmenting it with brighter colours and go-faster stripes along each side. if you were lucky, there might even be a pair of bucket seats similarly striped. if the standard version was offered in tasteful blue or burgundy, the sport version could be had in orange, white or lime green. which brings us smoothly into the helmet that i have been wearing on my head for the last few days. it's not only lime green, but a massively forceful lime green; if i had to ditch in the sea at any point during the sunday ride, the helicopters would find me first. and it's surely no secret amongst the cognoscenti that lime green is worth at least an extra 5kph (a factor on which endura's jim mcfarlane and i are in total agreement).
though the professionals may be willing to put up with all manner of inconvenience with the promise of extra speed, few of us are similarly constituted. when we hand over our hard-earned £89.99 we're far more interested not just in the pantone shade of green, but whether it will protect our intelligence centre and cosset it with luxurious comfort. in this latter respect, the airshell is like a new helmet compared to its retired elder brother, and it was no slouch in the head protection stakes in the first place. i'd be kidding if i said i knew how they'd achieved this for the price, but in version two, the subtle but highly effective changes seem to be mostly confined to the internal roll cage.
the webbing strap is now connected to the cage rather than directly, to the helmet itself. this can still be adjusted via an easily operated dial tensioner at the back of the head, creating a snug fit either with a cycle cap in place or not. the comfort seems to have been immeasurably improved by connecting all of the internal padding into a single unit, rather than the two brow pads being separate entities.
while some folks might admit to having a favourite bicycle, pair of shoes or socks, or perhaps even a jersey or shorts, i now have a favourite helmet that voids any thoughts of "sorry mate, i didn't see you." and makes me 5kph faster even when i'm standing still. imagine the trouble that gave when trying to take the accompanying photographs. for the less ostentatious, or those who have little need of free additional speed, the airshell is also available in more sombre shades of white, black, red or silver for the same £89.99 in three different sizes. i'm convinced that at some time in the near future, the accounts department in livingston is going to realise that one of the buttons on their corporate calculator isn't working, so if you're in the market for a new helmet, get in there quick.
added to the promise of all the safety a cycle helmet can provide, it even has go-faster stripes.
tuesday 16 september 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................