Athletes involved in racing time trials and triathlons are always looking for that aerodynamic advantage to gain valuable seconds and to save some energy throughout their racing. However, a lot of this aerodynamic equipment can be very pricey. Wheels will probably cost a bare minimum of one thousand dollars, a time trial specific bike could cost a couple thousand or more. However, you can find aerodynamic helmets starting at around one hundred dollars. So, if you are looking for the best bang for your buck the aero helmet is pretty much it.
A human head is not the most aerodynamic thing in a bike race, however since racing without your head is not an option, we look for a cover that will make the head as aerodynamic as possible. Using an aerodynamic helmet will give you a bit of free speed and may shave a few seconds off of your time. I personally have won a time trial by just one single second, so if you think a second or two might not matter, guess again.
A helmet is less expensive, but is it really giving you a greater advantage than those pricey wheels?
The answer to that question is yes. Studies have shown that your body creates 70% of the drag in a time trial which means your bike only accounts for 30% of the drag. Therefore, having a piece of equipment that reduces the amount of drag generated by your body should give you a greater advantage over something like wheels which only help to eliminate some of that 30% generated by the bike (Chabroux 2008 Study).
It is important to note that if your body is not positioned correctly on your bike than even the best aero helmet will not be giving you a great advantage.
Now that the time trial and triathlon season are starting up, if you are considering one piece of new equipment this year, invest in a helmet. It will save you the most time for the lowest cost and also make you look like more of a badass on the bike.