Part 8: WTF you doing with lead weights on your helmet?!

I promise there’s a good reason for all this…

First, a quick pitch for the charity I’m supporting:

It’s a great cause: Genie’s Wish make a huge difference to the lives of young people with terminal or life-limiting conditions. They aim “to bring respite and joy, by providing a life-changing wish, experience, or ongoing opportunity”. 

And it’s a proper tough challenge: I’ve entered the UK National 24-Hour Time Trial Championships.  Sure, I ride a lot for fun anyway, but I promise this will be difficult: 24 hours, non-stop, on a time-trial bike, on open roads in Cheshire.  

If everything goes perfectly, I might just manage 750km (463 miles) – the distance from Portsmouth to Edinburgh.  If we could raise £10 per km, that £7,500 could make a huge difference to other people’s lives.

I’m covering all the costs of the event, so 100% of your donations go to help others.

justgiving.com/fundraising/fullgas

Thank you, Nick x

Lead weights on a helmet?! I know it seems strange but hear me out…

With 8 weeks to go, I’m thinking what I can still do to squeeze out a bit more distance on the day.  That’s sent me down a rabbit-hole of calculations to figure out what it would take to do just one extra mile.

Fellow geeks – click here for full details!

With data from my own 12-hour on the same roads in 2020, plus Andy Rivett’s amazing 480 mile ride on Strava, then a bit of tinkering in the MyWindsock app, I figured out:

To ride 1 mile further over 24 hours, I would need to:

Reduce stopped time by 8 seconds per hour

or

Reduce total weight by 1kg

or

Pedal 1 watt harder

or

Reduce drag by 1 watt

So which of these can I address?

Stopped Time: This is a big one. 8 seconds per hour sounds tiny but the calculations show how it all adds up. I’ll be doing everything I can to plan and practice my pit-stops with my helpers.

Weight: At 78kg and 10-ish percent body fat, I could probably lose about 1-2kg and still be healthy, but not in the next 8 weeks without seriously messing up my training.

Power: I’m already doing what I can to train hard and recover as well as possible. My pacing and nutrition plans are tested and I can’t really refine these further without actually riding a 24-hour TT.

Drag: I know from tests last year that my setup is pretty well optimised. But finding a setup that works in testing is only the first step – being able to sustain that position for the full 24 hours is where it gets tricky.  

The hardest thing for me is keeping my head in the right place. Wind tunnel tests showed that keeping my head low with my eyes up saves a huge amount of drag (around 10w at 30kph). That’s great to know, but it’s really hard on the neck muscles.

It’s the best I could get in the tunnel…
…while still looking up the road ahead…
…but it does get hard on the poor old neck

It’s made more difficult still by the weight of my TT helmet (460g), almost double that of my usual road helmet.  And, after a few hours, that difference feels like a lot more than 200g. 

I’ve been wearing my TT helmet as much as possible on training rides, but that’s still for only 4 hours at a time. To get the muscles ready for another 20 hours in that position, I need more training stimulus.

Thankfully, my needs are a bit different from Anthony Joshua’s:

…so that’s where the lead weights come in!  £10 bought me a pack of ten 60g fishing weights from Amazon, which I’ve taped to my spare road helmet. For now, I have it weighing 600g, which feels a good bit heavier than my TT helmet.  A 90 minute ride is bearable, but definitely taxes the neck muscles. Hopefully, I’ll be able to build this up over the next 8 weeks so that, by race day, my TT helmet might even feel light. 

I doubt I’ll convince anyone this is a sensible thing to do – but have I at least shown it’s rational?

PS. I know it’s not very safe riding around with lead weights on a bike helmet – but I have to balance this with the risk of not being able to see properly on the 24-hr if my neck muscles are too tired to hold a good head position. On balance, I think it’s safer to do the training.

4 thoughts on “Part 8: WTF you doing with lead weights on your helmet?!

    1. Thanks for the reply – my TT helmet actually feel OK for the typical 4-hr training rides I am doing. The problem is that it gets difficult beyond this. To try and simulate that sort of stress, I have weighted a road helmet to weigh more than my TT helmet.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Another informative read, Nick and yes, holding the head position on TT is definitely a big challenge. I see people who can’t hold the TT position for one hour and up pops the head and they lose up to 30 watts ! For many riders, fascial tension is also a factor, their positions being far too aggressive. If you’ve not heard of it, try googling Shermer’s neck — it’s a common problem in ultra-endurance riding and we actually do exercises to prevent it, no fishing weights required. The problem with weighting a helmet is if you get hit from behind (I have been, twice), a heavier helmet could mean greater whiplash on the neck.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Patrick. I had heard of Shermer’s neck but I struggled to find exercises recommended to prevent it – is there anything you would point me towards? I totally agree about the risk of a weighted helmet increasing the risk of acceleration/deceleration, so an alternative would be welcome. At least it is still only half the weight of a typical motorcycle helmet.

      Like

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