UCI bans Specialized head sock and fires warning to Visma's new TT helmet

Head sock worn with Specialized TT5 to be banned from 2 April, as governing body announces review of its regulations in light of bold new Giro and Rudy Project TT helmets

Clock15:50, Tuesday 5th March 2024
Soudal Quick-Step are among the teams who used the Specialized helmet, whilst Visma-Lease a Bike stole headlines on Monday with their new model

© Getty Images

Soudal Quick-Step are among the teams who used the Specialized helmet, whilst Visma-Lease a Bike stole headlines on Monday with their new model

Just a little over 24 hours after the new Giro time trial helmet was debuted at Tirreno-Adriatico by Visma-Lease a Bike, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has announced an 'in-depth analysis' of its regulations on the design and use of time trial helmets.

Read more: Visma-Lease a Bike and Jonas Vingegaard debut spectacular new time trial helmet

As part of this announcement published on Tuesday afternoon, the sport's governing body banned the use of Specialized's head sock as of 2 April 2024, which will impact the likes of Bora-Hansgrohe and Soudal Quick-Step ahead of the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France.

Although a verdict on Visma-Lease a Bike's new time trial helmet was kicked down the road somewhat, with an international review of the current rules set in motion, Specialized was not so lucky and has been deemed to fall foul of article 1.3.033 of the UCI regulations.

This particular rule prohibits the use of "non-essential" components which are not designed for clothing or safety purposes. Although the head sock may be ideal for a rider on a cold afternoon, its adoption alongside the TT5 helmet was clearly an attempt to aid a rider's aerodynamic profile.

After consultation with Specialized, the UCI has banned the head sock integration from UCI events as of 2 April, 2024.

"After conducting a thorough process, which included consultation with Specialized, as well as examination of documentation linked to the helmet’s certification, safety instructions, and information from public sources, it was concluded that the head sock is a “non-essential” component (article 1.3.033 of the UCI Regulations)," read the statement.

Giro and Rudy Project designs force UCI into review

Referencing "the constant quest for improved performance," the UCI also turned its eye to the two new models of TT helmet which were debuted on Monday in the opening stage of Tirreno-Adriatico.

Visma-Lease a Bike were the first team to break cover with their eye-catching lids on Monday morning, with photographs from the team's social media setting the internet ablaze with praise, astonishment and condemnation in equal measure.

However, the riders in yellow and black were not the only ones sporting a bulbous design in Italy, with Bahrain Victorious rolling down the start ramp in their new Rudy Project Wingdream HL85 helmets, which are set to be publicly launched by the company in May.

Read more: Another radical TT helmet: Bahrain Victorious debut unreleased Rudy Project ‘Wingdream’

The fate of its design, though, may be decided before Rudy Project can even put the helmet to market.

"Regarding the helmet manufactured by Giro Sport Design, which was used by Team Visma-Lease a Bike at the Tirreno-Adriatico prologue, as well as the Rudy Project Wingdeam HL 85 helmet (used by Bahrain Victorious) and Poc Tempor helmet (used by several teams), the UCI acknowledges that while this may not directly contravene existing UCI Regulations, it raises a significant issue concerning the current and wider trend in time trial helmet design, which focuses more on performance than the primary function of a helmet, namely to ensure the safety of the wearer in the event of a fall," continued the statement.

Read more: Former Team Sky aerodynamicist on Giro's whacky TT helmet: 'It’s a great design and makes complete sense'

After the initial shock at the Visma-Lease a Bike revelation, talk turned not only to the potential aerodynamic benefits of Giro's new design, but also the safety considerations which might be at play.

Given the helmet's wider field of view, it is possible that riders will have improved awareness whilst hunched over on the skis of their time trial bikes, but this, of course, does not account for the safety of the helmet in a crash.

Groupama-FDJ's Stefan Küng provided a case in point of the dangers of crashes during last year's European Championships Time Trial, in which the Swiss specialist barrelled into a set of metal barriers and later crossed the line a bloodied mess. It is with incidents like this in mind, perhaps, that the UCI is beginning an internal review into its current regulations.

Read more:

"In view of the evolution of these situations as well as other problems encountered in recent years, in relation to the requirement for commercial availability, the ban on non-essential components and the shape and size of time trial helmets, the UCI will undertake a review of its rules on the design and use of helmets in competition.

"By doing so, it wishes to ensure that they set a clear framework that is consistent with the objectives targeted. Any modification to these rules will be communicated rapidly after its adoption by the competent UCI bodies."

To keep up to date with all the latest tech news in the professional peloton, including an update in due course on the UCI's helmet regulations, make sure to check out our dedicated page for tech news on the GCN website.

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