Rudy Project’s ‘The Wing’ TT helmet was, up until recently, reserved exclusively for professional athletes but the Italian company has finally made it available to cyclists of all abilities. As far as the best time trial helmets are concerned it truly is an amazing piece of aerodynamic trickery and the result of a collaborative effort between Rudy Project and Swiss Side – a company that cut its teeth in Formula 1.
The helmet has been used extensively at WorldTour level and will continue to be the go-faster helmet of Bahrain Victorious who kick of their Giro d’Italia campaign on a pan-flat 9km individual time trial tomorrow in Torino.
It certainly looks slippery and while it’s always difficult to validate aero claims, I’ve been using it for the past few months in a variety of real-world time trial events, and, dare I say, I’ve gotten faster…
Design and aesthetics
The Wing is on the smaller side of the sizing spectrum. This helps bestow it with a somewhat stubby appearance without hindering aerodynamic proficiency. Unlike some of its rivals that are more elongated, almost alien-head-shaped in profile owing to their one-position riding philosophy, Rudy Project’s The Wing was designed to cut through the air regardless of whether you’re head down in the typical time trial position or riding in the heads-up position. This has allowed the designers to essentially ‘dock the tail’ and create something that looks more traditional.
Rudy Project has validated the aero credentials of the helmet with wind tunnel data and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) testing together with the aerodynamic wizards at Swiss Side. According to the studies, Rudy Project claims The Wing will save riders 12.6 watts when riding at 45km/h with the vents closed.
The helmet is available in the choice of two colourways, ‘black matte’ or ‘white shiny’, both of which are finished off with a red-tipped rear exhaust port. We prefer the stealthier black matte version as it matches most colour/kit options and is easier to keep clean. The textural play between the matte and gloss surfaces (removable visor included) also adds more dynamism to the package compared to its gloss-white sibling.
In terms of graphics and logo placement, the maker’s name takes pride of place on the brow area and helmet flanks. While this can sometimes ruin a product, the Rudy Project branding has resulted in a sophisticated-yet-refined visage.
Object of Desire series
Specifications and user experience
The Wing is constructed from traditional helmet materials and built around an EPS foam core. The matte-black shell is bonded tightly to the EPS core and carries over to the wing section that covers the ears. These wings, however, are soft and flexible, and provide some form of comfort during racing and when fitting/removing the helmet. It must be said that a helmet of this nature is designed for outright performance and the fit reflects this purpose. That said, I’ve used the helmet in time trials ranging from 8- to 10-miles and am yet to feel any discomfort over this particular duration. It’s only on rides of two hours or more that the helmet can become quite restrictive – especially around the brow and cranium area owing to swelling caused by heat build-up – but the retention dial can be turned back to relieve said pressure which brings me onto my next point: sizing.
The helmet is available in three sizes: small, medium and large, and how it performs hinges largely on you choosing the correct size. As a tip, the helmet should fit snugly around your ears but still offer fairly significant fore-aft play along the head once positioned. Only then should you start fiddling with the retention system to secure and tailor the fit. It should be reiterated that as far as fit and comfort go, The Wing is one of the better fitting time trial/aero helmets on the market and, like with any piece of kit, will need to be ‘worn in’ to establish what retention and settings work best for you.
In terms of rotational safety, there’s nothing on offer here. While some of its rivals from Giro and Specialized use MIPS slip-plane liners, these measures can inhibit airflow and impact comfort given the no-frills, short-burst nature of time trial events. For what it’s worth, long-time proponent of MIPS technology, POC, doesn’t offer any slip-plane functionality on its Cerebel TT lid. In terms of weight, The Wing tips the scales at 365g (actual) which is in line with its rivals.
As expected, the visor provides a commanding and crisp field of view – after all, Rudy Project is one of the major players when it comes to eye protection and the best cycling sunglasses. The visor is available in three colours: smoke-laser-black is standard fare but a transparent and multilaser-orange visor are available as optional extras – extras that we highly recommend, given the notoriously unpredictable British weather. The visor offers protection against UVA and UVB rays and is held securely in place by magnetic points. It can also be stored at the rear using the same system.
The front central vent cover operates in the same way – via magnets – and can be ditched entirely to provide increased airflow on hotter days. While I haven’t tested the ventilation properties as of yet (it’s just not hot enough at the moment) Rudy Project claims front and rear exhaust ports have been scientifically designed to accelerate internal ventilation.
Time trial helmets have a propensity to look too bulky and ungainly but Rudy Project has nailed the design brief and created something that’s not just visually rousing but functional, too. The wind tunnel data suggests it does provide the rider with an aerodynamic benefit and I’m inclined to agree with this having recorded a slew of 10-mile personal bests while using it.
What has impressed me most is the fit. While it’s on the snug side it never feels restrictive – not even around the ears – but it’s not without fault. As a dedicated time trial helmet, The Wing is best suited for events of up to 25 miles. Anything more and you may start to fiddle with the retention system to dial in more comfort and nullify any pressure points that may arise.
Nit-picking aside, the Rudy Project The Wing is the best time trial helmet I’ve sampled. It’s relatively light, possesses one of the best visor setups in the game and the strap system is tidy and easy to manage.
So what’s the catch? Well, it’s expensive. At £352 / $399, it’s on the pricier end of the spectrum, but unlike some of its adversaries, Rudy Project has the aero data to back the claims. It’s a superb piece of engineering and an undisputed object of desire.
Tech Specs: Rudy Project The Wing TT helmet
- Price: £352 / $399
- Weight: 365g (actual)
- Rotational safety: No
- Sizes: S, M, L
- Colours: Black, white