Triathletes are keen to utilize the ultimate in aero equipment on the bike to shave off precious seconds, but sometimes those aero benefits come at the cost of comfort. All too often we covet the helmets we see the pro cyclists use at the Giro d’Italia or the Tour de France, but realize that while your head can handle a bit of heat over a prologue or a time trial, enduring a 180-km bike in the Hawaii heat and humidity requires something with a bit more ventilation.
Training here in Kona over the last five days, though, we’ve been fascinated to see just how many athletes have been training with TT helmets and visors. It is a sure sign that the athletes competing here in Kona have come to realize just how much speed can be gained through an aero lid, and that companies are catering to triathletes who can’t afford to overheat on the bike by creating helmets with more ventilation.
Swedish company POC launched a new helmet on the pro tour this year that is now available to triathletes – the Procen, which retails for US$400. The Procen is designed to guide air through the front of the helmet, which improves aerodynamics while also providing enhanced ventilation and cooling. Using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and 3D body scans of riders, POC’s engineers fine-tuned the design to come up with the perfect shape to cut through the wind and push air from the shoulders to improve overall aero performance.
“We already knew that with the Tempor and Cerebel we have some of the fastest time-trial helmets in cycling,” says POC’s Magnus Gustavsson. “With the team, we brought our combined experience together and dug into our wealth of CFD data and evidence to analyze the precise needs of performance and elite cyclists, especially how to manage heat. Our objective with the Procen was to maintain the speed and aerodynamic advantage of the Tempor and Cerebel and add a layer of performance through enhanced heat management, allowing riders to be optimized aerodynamically, use their speed for cooling, and be able to hold peak efforts for longer.”
The Procen features a two-position lens system so you can have it sitting close to your face or about 10 mm from the helmet to enhance air flow. The visor can be detached, too. There’s also a “whole-head adjustment system” to ensure you’ll be able to come up with the perfect, secure and comfortable fit.
While we didn’t have a chance to put the Procen to the test here in Kona, we did manage some rides in the heat of the Canadian summer, and can report that there is actually some decent airflow through the helmet. Yes, it’s definitely warmer than a highly ventilated road helmet, but in terms of ventilation, it felt very similar to another aero helmet we’ve seen at lots of Ironman events, the Ekoi aero16.
While the Procen is certainly an aero option for triathletes, its road roots are evident. It’s a bit of a chore to pull on in a hurry, but if you do want to ride with the visor, you can use the “breakaway” feature to give yourself some room to pull the helmet on and prevent things from fogging up early in the bike. You can keep the visor out for some extra airflow, but you’ll probably find that you don’t really need that unless you’re in really steamy conditions.
The Procen comes in one size – a very wide-fitting medium that fits between 54 and 60 cm thanks to the lightweight adjustable fit system and extra pads that come with the helmet.
Considering that there were a number of pro and elite athletes wearing POC helmets in Kona last year, we’re guessing we’ll see a few wearing the Procen in Kona on the weekend. For those looking to pull out all the stops on the Big Island, POC’s latest aero option provides the best of both worlds – a helmet aero enough for the top pro cyclists, but with enough ventilation to get through even a hot Kona ride.