How Not to Wear a Helmet

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Okay, during the first part of the Masters Worlds on Saturday, I had a complete helmet fashion disaster. I changed my headband last minute on the line and obviously didn’t get my helmet situated correctly. (The helmet is pretty new and has a funky strapping system.) I didn’t feel the helmet riding back for a couple laps, but by then, the photos had been recorded.

I’m usually pretty good at getting my helmet right over the years. So good, I’m pretty sure I’ve never had a photo like this taken.

Helmet wearing technique started way back before the official wearing of helmets. It started with wearing cycling hats. It was always a challenge getting a hat situated correctly on your head. Having the hat look like it is just barely sitting on your head, while being far enough down in the front is not an easy feat. This hat technique transitioned to the hairnet helmet and the hairnet covered with a hat technique.

I used to wear a cycling hat over my hairnet most of the time. Michael Fatka, director of the Levis team, was a stickler at having the proper hat to wear over your hairnet. He ordered hats from England to fit perfectly. This eventually was the reason behind Levis sponsoring a cycling team.

When the hard helmet first became norm, it was nearly impossible to wear one properly Our first sponsorship was by Bell and the helmet was a V1 Pro. Giro was coming out with their Styrofoam helmet covered with Lycra at the same time. Neither could be worn with any style.

But helmets now can. The proper style mainly involves the tilt, as it has always. But, no tilt to the side, of course. The helmet should only be tilted slightly forward, enough to nearly cover most of your forehead, nearly sitting on top of your glasses. Having it ride back, as in my photo below, is just wrong.

I’ll try to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. Below are some photo of proper cycling head wear style.

This is one of the worst photos I've ever had taken of me during a bicycle race.

At least I got the helmet repositioned later in the race before the finish.

The elastic strapping system in this Giro ProLight has to take some of the blame.

Hat over my helmet in the British Milk race. It is a little too far back. Russian riders ( 2nd rider to my right on the Colnago), historically, wore their hairnet helmets badly.

Indurain always wore cycling hats with style.

Dale Stetina never got the hairnet helmet down. Historically he always wore it badly.

Vino never wears a hardshell helmet very well. His two team mates have theirs right.

28 thoughts on “How Not to Wear a Helmet

  1. Me

    Don’t blame the helmet, take responsibility for your own actions, You, yourself, chose that Bjorn Borg sweatband … Pretending you haven’t wanted to, since the 80s, is just “side-stepping” the issue. It’s obviously time for an “intervention!” (Possibly too late!)

  2. BL

    When I saw the first photo of the helmet that far back I thought maybe you had went down, because I’ve never seen ya with it in that position. A closer look and I didn’t see much mud on ya and the other photos were good, so I assumed it was a malfunction. I think I generally wear mine well, but had a photo similar to yours that ended up in the newspaper. It’s still hard for me to think about such a public fashon faux pa 🙂

  3. e-RICHIE

    yes – funny.

    when i first saw that pic in real time i wondered why gunner was racing against john elgart, a 65+ cat. so i looked through the series of images it was pulled from and the same two guys appeared, and one image had a caption. man – you do not look elegant in that first picture atmo. and you look at least 20 years older.

  4. Calvin Jones

    Was this not “a rakish angle selected to emphasize one’s cavalier and carefree attitude”?

  5. Jon

    I’ll be 49 this year. I’ve always thought you were one the coolest guys out there as well as an inspiration to keep on racing but after seeing that pict I was ready to retire. If that’s what the coolest guy in my age group looks like I’d have to just to save my children from the embarrasment of having to say that’s my dad. Too funny! Thanks for acknowledging the fasion faux pas….now I can continue racing.

  6. Gary Ziegler

    You sure look happier in the second picture. Must be because of proper helmet placement. Ha!

  7. channel_zero

    Wait a second…..

    The guy behind you in the most awfullest photo of Tilford evar is rocking bar end shifters.

    He appears to be missing the best part of using bar-end shifters, Tektro linear pull brake levers and linear pull brakes.

    At least now when people wonder why in the world I’m still using the bar end shifters, I can now reference a “higher source” than “I like it more.”

  8. Veloloser

    Sorry, it’s my last visit here. I will never read a blog by a guy who wears a helmet like that even by mistake. Bye.

  9. Spice

    “The guy behind you in the most awfullest photo of Tilford evar is rocking bar end shifters. ”

    That’s Gunner Shogren, he runs the bar end shifters on his road bikes too.

  10. Ken

    Dang, I just spent the last day and a half reconfiguring my helmet straps so that I could be “just like Tilford”. And the glasses! I was just about to throw out every pair of sunglasses I owned.

  11. channel_zero

    What does the style committee sayeth about Gunnar’s hat/helmet? This judge gives him ‘thumbs up.’ It will be up to Chuck Norris to break a tie. (obscure Dodgeball movie reference)

    I think the rainbow stripes should be enough of a reason to let your helmet position go though. If that’s the worst you can come up with, then that’s a damn good day.

  12. Jim

    Wait, you are wearing real glasses a la Fignon – were they taken off at a bike change and you were blind for the photo op?

  13. old and slow

    I’m more disturbed about bar ends routing to a rear derrailleur cable along the top tube myself?

    And I say this with bar ends or grip shifts on all but one of my geared road bikes too.

    Back to the matter at hand, I was always mystified at how the 1980s Euro Pros could toot along the road at 28 MPH with the cycling hats sitting up there so lighly on the top of their heads. I think that Claude Criqelion was the absolute master of this wardrobe touch?

    They ALL had the hats positioned perfectly for the individual and team photos but only a handful of them could replicate that position out in in the wind. I was always convinced that they had a special kind of elastic band or something, just like they got aged tires and special frame tubing mixes that us mere mortals could never have access too.

  14. Franz

    Michael found some of the hats he ordered from England on eBay a few months ago. He had ordered them 30-40 years ago. I think he thought I was reproducing them for profit. I contacted the seller. He had bought the excess inventory from the factory

  15. Rod Lake

    At first I thought you were Fignon and you photoshopped a Cat 5 helmet on him. Sorry, it’s not one of the worst. It is the worst.

  16. John

    That pic gave me a great laugh! The national champ jersey even makes it better. We’ve all done silly stuff, and it’s great to see a cycling hero and legend get caught once. Congratulations on two great racing weekends!

  17. Jed Schneider

    You know Steve, in Belgium it was sort of a badge of honor to wear a helmet all sloppy. It sort of said, I’m only wearing this because you are making me and I never wear a helmet, so I don’t know how. The toughest dudes in the kermesses had the worst helmet style.

  18. Jed Schneider

    Oh yah, and I thought that was Gunnar in the photo, I’m still kinda convinced its Gunnar riding your bike.

  19. Noel

    The V1 Pro was a salad bowl with a chin strap. The Vetta Corsa with the optional smoke gray visor was cool.(Not really.)

  20. T Howe

    We always enjoyed looking at the H.O.B.s. Helmet On Backwards. At least you were never that obvious. At least when there was a camera around.


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