Flashback Friday – Hairnets to EPS: Cycling Helmets from the ’80s

Ah, the ’80s, an era that gave us hairstyles as varied as teased bangs, the rocker mullet, the side ponytail, and the always classic Flock of Seagulls.  But all this reminiscing about hair brings us around to our subject of helmets, and, as you can read in this Bicycling magazine article,the bicycle helmet saw its fair share of changes in the decade of the ’80s as well.  Looking back through the pages of our catalog archives, you can trace that evolution as it progressed from the humble leather “hairnet” to the high-tech (for it’s day) original Giro Prolight.  Sadly no mullets made an appearance on our models.

Featuring the iconic Bell Biker

Here in one of our earliest catalogs, from 1983, you can see the full assortment of hard shell bike helmets available.  The Bell Biker, top left, was the very first bicycle helmet made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam bonded to a hard plastic shell.  One major drawback with the Bell Biker, other than the size and weight, was that the overhang from the shell was so big that you could barely see when you were down in the drops.  Our personal favorite from this era was the Brancale Sport helmet, top right, but only because it looks like the one worn by Belov in American Flyers!

“Breakaway Bob” in action

But for the racing enthusiast of the day, hard shell helmets were still too heavy and poorly ventilated.  The leather “hairnet” style helmet still ruled the peloton, as ably demonstrated in this vintage photo of “Breakaway” Bob, one of the distributors in our bike division.  Basically thin strips of foam wrapped in leather, these lightweight helmets provided relatively little impact protection.

From leather hairnets to hardshells, all on one page

Here in a 1985 catalog you can see our assortment of padded leather helmets, including the Kucharik Super Leather Racing helmet that it looks like Bob may have been sporting in his vintage photo!  But alongside these models, in the top right corner, is the innovative Bell V-1 Pro helmet, the first plastic helmet designed specifically for bicycle racing (although it still weighed in at nearly 400g, or the better part of a pound).  Also on this page we make a reference to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), as they had just introduced the ANSI Z80.4 standard, the first widely adopted bike helmet standard in the United States.  Finally there was real testing and standardization in helmet design; all of the hard-shell helmets we sold back then met these standards, and of course every helmet we sell today does too (although the standards have been updated over the years)!

Early aero models

Moving on the helmet spread from 1987, we see a  few big steps forward in helmet design.  Not only did we start to see aerodynamic design with the Bell Stratos, at the top of the page (which is undeniably cool in a Star Wars/Tron sort of way), but there was also innovation from an unlikely source, the humble Lil Bell Shell (in the middle of the page).  This children’s helmet featured an innovative no-shell design; the entirety of the helmet was lightweight EPS foam, eschewing the heavy plastic shell of earlier helmet designs.

The original Giro Prolight

Which leads directly into the next big step in helmet evolution, the Giro Prolight.  First designed in 1986, this very first Giro helmet mated up the lightweight EPS shell of the Lil Bell Shell with a vented design, all covered in breatheable lycra fabric (to help protect the helmet, and hold all the parts together if you crashed).  Immediately popular, even with the racing set, the Prolight ushered in a new era of lighter weight, more comfortable helmet designs.

Interchangeable covers to suit your style on our Aero helmets

In this 2 page spread from 1988, we featured our very own lightweight EPS helmet with interchangeable covers, the Performance Aero helmet (at our trademark value-pricing, of course).  This helmet had large directional air vents and a weight of only 215g (comparable to modern helmets), but the big drawback with this style of helmet was that the EPS foam was still vulnerable to dings and cracks from less than catastrophic impacts.

The Bell Ovation was the first microshell style helmet (top right)

We also featured the innovative Bell Ovation helmet (top right), the first helmet to feature the “Microshell” design that we see in modern helmets, wherein a thin composite shell was bonded to the foam liner. This shell provided a balance between light weight, durability and comfort, and has been the basis of modern helmet design ever since.  Also much like modern helmets, the Ovation featured an aerodynamic design and an adjustable retention system (just not nearly as refined as what we’ve come to expect today).  But if you look closely at this page, you’ll see that we noted that the venerable Bell V-1 helmet was still the most popular cycling helmet around.  As the ’80s were drawing to a close, old designs were still going strong, but the tide was turning towards helmet features and design that we would recognize today.


A modern lightweight racing helmet – our Scattante Razzo

Looking back to the ’80s, it’s clear that modern helmets have come a long way since then.  But there’s only one way to take advantage of all of these advances. . . by wearing one!  It certainly seems obvious, but there’s no more important piece of safety equipment that you can wear, every time you go for a ride, than your helmet.  There are plenty of styles and prices available, so there’s no excuse not to wear one every single time you go for a ride.  Take it from someone who recently smashed his helmet in a bad crash but came out relatively unscathed – you never choose when you crash, so never neglect this most basic safety precaution!  Trust us, your head (and your hair) will thank you.

Burn 24 Buildup

Another year has gone by and another Burn 24 Hour Challenge is upon us.  What’s a Burn 24, you ask?  Only a super fun and well-organized 24 hour mountain bike race held on the Dark Mountain trails in Wilkesboro, NC (only 2 hours from our headquarters), presented by the good folks at Bikerumor. The goal of Burn 24 is simple (as with any 24 hour mountain bike race): ride more laps than anyone else in 24 hours!  Sounds so simple, right?

We at the Performance Social Media team are going to be in attendance once again this year, as we line up to torture test our new Access 29er carbon hardtail frame (set to be released next year).  The testing phase for these frames is intense and one of the main ways we like to stress test them is by racing them!

In addition to documenting the race experience, we will also be working on a video post highlighting some great pre-race food you can cook up using only what you can bring to a race.  Look for this video sometime in the next week or two (once we get it edited down to a bite-size length).

In 2009, David and Chris raced Burn 24 as a two person team, pulling down 4th place in the Duo Male category.  This year, David is only going to be the pit crew due to an injury sustained in training (not on board the new Access frame), so Chris will put his epic commuting miles to the test by racing solo (his longest race ever).  Here’s the team last year, debating whether to continue racing or not:

Chris is the one about to be punched

Wish us luck and if you’re going to be out there, stop by and say hello!  We’ll have Performance banners proudly hanging from our tent and, if you’re around Friday, there may even be an extra drumstick in it for you if you stop by (a limited supply though, so don’t wait around).

Good luck to everyone racing, and we hope to see you out there!


Performance Bicycle Racing Profile – Gina Voci

Meet Elite Rider Gina Voci

Age: 35
USCF: Category 1
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Current: Atlanta, Ga
Profession: Emergency Medicine Physician

Gina’s successful cycling career started after after a friend dragged her to a mountain bike race.  White-knuckled and determined, she rode away with the win and a new passion for racing.  Eight years later, she’s racked up results in some of the hardest races in North America.  She’s tough. Beside just shaking off the normal race catastrophes, she once chased down and stopped a car trying to steal another team’s bikes — and that was after a race.  When she’s not racing, she’s an ER doc and enjoys the finer things in life:  ATL Hip Hop and finding bargains at boutiques.

Meet the Manager – NE Raleigh, NC

Our brand new Raleigh, NC store is set to open up its doors on Friday, May 28, so for today’s Employee Profile we are highlighting the new Raleigh store manager, Hugo.  Featuring our brand new layout and design, this store will be easy to shop but, of course, will still be full of all the great brands and value that you expect from Performance.  Our Grand Opening celebration will start the weekend of Friday, June 4th, but come on by to check out the store starting this Friday and say hello to Hugo and his team.

NE Raleigh, NC

Store Manager name:

Hugo Blackwood

Store Location:

6325 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Sutton Square Shopping Center
Located between The Fresh Market and Rite-Aid
Raleigh, NC 27615

(919) 878-7912 Read more of this post

40 at 20 #6 – Sartorial Perks

It’s time once again for a recap of our weekly Wednesday night group ride, as recounted by Randy, our storytelling maestro.  As always, the goal for the ride is the same: ride the 40 mile circuit at an average pace of 20 miles per hour, with a few county line sprints thrown in for bragging rights.

With the sartorial swagger of the rat pack, and perhaps a little bit of the prissiness of Miss J, eleven perfectly perky pedalers rolled out under a soundtrack of mariachi and the vapor of tequila shots. Pace was surprisingly listless but welcomed, as several of the regulars had ridden 106 miles in the heat at the Raven Rock Ramble on Sunday and didn’t quite have the pep in the legs to bolt out of the gates at go-kart speed. Also thankful for the cruiser pace was O’Reilly, who despite getting blown out the back in less than a mile last week, was hanging in just off the back—not exactly working for the group, but taking credit for the coremetric optimization analytics sure to increase impression attribution and cross sell opportunity with the country kinfolk.

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Happy Bike to Work Day!

Hope you’re having a great Bike to Work Day out there.   Here at Performance headquarters we had another great turnout, as you can see in our big group photo of the folks that rode in to work this week:

There were folks from jobs as varied as accounting to the warehouse, from first-timers to hard-core daily bike commuters, hitting the roads  for Bike to Work Week and everyone had a great time:

So we hope you had a safe and fun commute, no matter if it was your first time or if it was just another Friday, and that commuting this week has inspired you to make Bike to Work Week every week!

We’ll leave you with a little salute to just a few of the bikes that Performance employees rode in to work this week:

Performance Bicycle Racing Profile – Kate Mahoney

Age: 29
USCF: Category 2
Hometown: Colby, WI
Current: Roswell, GA
Profession: Human Resources Consultant

2009 was Kate’s first full season of racing. Starting the year as a Cat 4 beginner, Kate successfully raced her way to a Category 2 upgrade. Having competed in volleyball and track and field at the collegiate level (while at the same time balancing an addiction to rock climbing), Kate has found racing to be a fantastic outlet for her competitive spirit. With this inaugural season under her belt, Kate is excited to be joining the Performance Biycle Racing Team & SpokesWomen Syndicate for the 2010 season and to take her cycling to a new level of performance.

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40 at 20 #5 – Short of Breath

OK, so maybe it’s not the Giro d’Italia or the Tour of California, but we humbly present #5 in our series of Wednesday night ride recaps, wherein an ever-changing band of riders from HQ aim for 40 miles at an average pace of 20 miles per hour (or more).  Commentary, as always, is provided by the ever-youthful Randy (who never misses a chance for a musical reference):

Like jellybeans of every imaginable color and flavor, 16 riders spilled out from the world of proofs, powerpoints, and production into the cool sanctuary of sanity that is the 40@20.  New to the mix were O’Reilly and Danz, both of whom looked eager to prove their mettle and their chops to the motley crue. Danz fired the start gun early–needing to get back in time for The Love Language and St. Vincent show–and was off the front into the strong NW winds before Tony D could even put his Huey Lewis and the News cassette tape into his stem-mounted Walkman.  The temperature was as brisk as the pace, and the variety of fashion accessories on our heads, arms and legs gave pause to commuters, who must have thought we were either a month late for Mardi Gras or eager participants in the new video collabo from Marc Jacobs and Sigur Ros.  Eichvalds, clearly hailing from the equatorial climes of Kiribati, was more bundled than Randy getting ready for school in A Christmas Story, and he could barely turn the pedals for the bulk of his goose down leg warmers and 12mm neoprene socks.

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Flashback Friday 1987 – Pedals 2.0

In 1987, the world of technology and innovation was marching on. Nike released their first Air Max sneakers to change the way we looked at shoe cushioning, the very earliest version of Photoshop was developed by a PhD student at the University of Michigan, and Windows 2.0 was rolled out by Microsoft (much to the dismay of Apple). Of course the world of cycling was no different, and some of the greatest advances of this time period were made in the realm of what is now the most ubiquitous of cycling parts, the clipless pedal.

As you can see on the catalog cover above, here at Performance we were not afraid to embrace new technology.  At the top of the page you can see a La Vie Claire model LOOK shoe, Aerolite pedals (more on this later), and a “Darth Vader” style Bell Stratos helmet.

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Performance Bicycle Racing Profile – Nicole Vincent Jordan

Meet Elite Rider Nicole Vincent Jordan

Age: 27
USCF: Category 1
Hometown: Little 500 cycling track
Current: Chapel Hill, NC
Profession: PhD Pharmacology 2012

USA Cycling Certified Coach—Level III Coaching
University Collegiate Cycling and Little 500 Athletes

2005-Present; Women’s Collegiate Cycling Coach – Indiana

Nicole has one of the brightest smiles in the peloton.  As a collegiate cyclist, she was twice National Champion on the track.  Currently she is pursing her PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Pharmacy.

Recently upgrading to a category 1 cyclist, Nicole brings fast legs and great finishing smiles to Performance Bicycle Racing’s elite squad.  Look for her in the results of upcoming races- particularly Dilworth, Wilmington Grand Prix, Kelly Cup, Fitchburg, and French Broad Cycling Classic.

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