Italian-based Rudy Project is the premier helmet brand in the world of triathlon. In addition to donning the heads of age groupers at thousands of events worldwide, they’ve dominated the prestigious “Kona Count” at the Ironman World Championships the past four years. Rudy Project sunglasses are known for their unique combination of innovation, sex appeal, and practical benefits to training and racing.
In this investigative report, we tapped elite athletes from a handful of US-based national teams to peel back the onion, getting to the core of what people in this crazy sport of ours love about Rudy.
Karin Langer: Wattie Ink
Stomping Grounds: Los Angeles, CA
What’s your history with Rudy Project?
Rudy became affiliated with the Wattie Ink team in 2013, one season after the team was started. I had ridden and run with Rudy helmets and sunglasses in previous seasons while living in Chicago, so I was pretty happy that Wattie and Rudy teamed up. In 2012 I made a small contribution to Rudy winning the Kona Count for the 2nd straight year!
It was super windy, they were saying it was the windiest of the prior 10 years, so I was pretty intimidated. There were giant swells on the swim and horrific wind on the bike, but all the wind was gone by time I got on the run.
Kona-caliber athletes take any edge they can with their gear. Why do you think Rudy Project has won the Kona Count the last 4 years?
They’re really fast, comfortably fit a wide range of athletes, and have a wide variety of colors to choose from to match bikes and kits. The gigantic vents in Rudy helmets also dissuades a lot of fear about it being too hot. Many people have the idea that aero helmets cannot be well ventilated, but from my experience Rudy is an exception to that rule. They fit really well, are light weight, and whereas many aero helmets make you look like a Super Mario character, Rudy’s are actually flattering!
What are your favorite Rudy shades?
I love my Abilitys because I have a small face. They’re really great for womens’ faces. They also have just the single lens, which is great for the aero position because your vision isn’t blocked.
Andrew Kalley: Full Throttle Endurance
Stomping Grounds: New York City
What’s your experience with Rudy Project?
I started out my triathlon career with another brand, but for the last several years I’ve only raced and trained with Rudy Project. I’m so loyal to them. I recently bought the Wing57, and it gives a little edge on the bike without a doubt. I have nothing but good things to say about the company…I like all their products that I’ve used.
What’s been your impression of the Wing57?
It’s a very cool look and the enclosure of the lens seems to create an aero effect. I don’t have any wind tunnel data or anything like that, but to me it definitely feels like a faster helmet. At Nationals (Olympic distance) I went sub 60 min with it, at Worlds had a breakthrough bike split as well, and won the Montauk sprint in September. It’s hard to quantify, but I do feel that the enclosure creates less drag.
Do you rock Rudy Project shades as well?
Rudy is all I wear. I just bought a new pair… I definitely didn’t “need” them, but I wanted them. The shades I use most are the ones that change from light to dark. Those are great. It’s nice not needing to carry two pairs on you or committing to the dark or clear ones, especially training early in the morning as the sun comes up. Those are awesome and the clarity of the lens is really sharp.
Patricia Walsh: Challenged Athlete Foundation (CAF)
Stomping Grounds: Austin, TX
As a blind athlete who relies solely on feel, in my opinion your reviews carry a lot of weight! What do you feel, for example, that makes you wear a certain wetsuit, helmet, running shoe, etc?
Well, weight is exactly what I care about. I want a wetsuit to be as flexible as possible. I want any other gear to be light weight and breathable enough to not contribute to overheating.
What do you feel with Rudy Project products and what do you like most?
I love my Rudy Project TT helmets. They are perfectly aerodynamic and never overheat. The Rudy Project TT helmets have a clean feel and improved weight and breathability over other helmets I’ve worn in the past.
I love their glasses for both athletics and for casual wear. Their sunglasses are so light weight; I often forget I’m wearing them. Actually, I wonder if I’m wearing them now! I love how often my friends and family compliment me on their sleek design. I historically never used sunglasses… I didn’t think they made a difference because I have just a pin hole of light. But I love my Rudy Project glasses. They are so comfortable; I wear them all the time. They keep bits of dust out of my eyes, and excuse me if I don’t say myself but I feel glamorous. I think I must look good too!
David Fernandez: Triple Threat Triathlon – National Team
Stomping Grounds: Miami, FL
After your old helmet was destroyed in a crash at Ironman Barcelona, what have you noticed with your new Wing57 vs. old ones?
The Wing57 is simply the most complete and fastest helmet I’ve ever raced in. The first thing I noticed is it is incredibly comfortable. Racing long distance races, aerodynamics are important, but comfort is a close second for me. I haven’t been in a wind tunnel testing the aerodynamics of the Wing57 vs. my previous helmet, but I can appreciate quickly the differences between the two. The Wing57 offers me a wider range of options to adapt the helmet to my body position and race conditions, while fitting my head perfectly. I feel zero turbulence, and the padding used is awesome.
There are several options to configure the helmet to adapt to your body, riding position, and weather conditions. For example, depending on your back and shoulder position, you may choose to add or remove the jetstream tail to the Air Director. Also, you can decide to use two different types of vents (or no vent at all) to customize the cooling system and speed features to be more comfortable in both hotter or cooler races and race distances. Finally, you can ride with the optical shield or take it out and wear your helmet with your favorite sunglasses. Oh! And on top of all that, it is an incredibly lightweight, comfortable, and fast helmet!!
As a Kona-aspiring athlete yourself, why do you think Rudy does so well on triathlon’s biggest stage?
People that go to Kona are the best in the sport. They are disciplined, consistent, and know what they are doing both training and racing. Most of them also wear the best gear available to make sure they have their best performance possible; therefore, I am not surprised that Rudy Project won the Kona Count the last 4 years. You know you are getting a reliable, comfortable, and fast piece of equipment.
Tom Trauger: Every Man Jack
Stomping Grounds: Bay Area, CA
What’s your experience with Rudy Project?
I knew of Rudy Project in the past, but working for a sports retailer (Sports Basement) I got a generous discount and we carried other brands. I used to ride with Giro, Bell, & Specialized… not to criticize other companies, but I will tell you, the first time I rode with Rudy Project I said to myself “my gosh, what have I been wearing all these years??”
The “bug net” is simple, but I love that thing, as well as the way the helmet sits on your head. When I put on an old helmet, which I don’t do often, it’s just not comfortable. I’m not sure if the dial on the back of Rudy helmets is proprietary or not, but it’s awesome. I shouldn’t bad mouth others too badly, but one specific thing is the flaps covering my ears on my old helmets were way too flimsy… they cracked easily, and the strap always got stuck on them. Basically I’d often have to waste time in T1 taking the helmet off and starting over again. Rudy’s are just made better. Rudy sunglasses are indestructible… whether you drop them, they fall off your head, etc, you can dish a lot of punishment but they still look brand new.
You’re a regular by now at Kona. Why do you think Rudy Project has crushed the Kona count for helmets the last 4 years?
Of course they put some marketing effort into Kona, like all companies in the industry do, but you can only do so much cheerleading if your product(s) don’t perform on race day. Four years in a row says a lot. The helmets work, they’re comfortable, and have great ventilation. I love that I can pour water through it to keep my head cool.
What did you ride with at Kona last year?
This past year at Kona I went with the new one with the visor (Wing57) for the first time. I was somewhat undecided, as everyone knows the saying “don’t try something new at a race.” I got it a few days before Kona and decided to go for it. My only concern was that it would steam up, but it worked like a dream. I’m a convert… from now on, I’ll be wearing that thing on race day.
Samantha Morrison: pro triathlete affiliated with USMES
Stomping Grounds: Colorado Springs, CO
I bought my first Wingspan with my own money as an AG athlete. After some good performances at Kona I got lucky and they picked me up as a sponsor. So from my beginnings as a triathlete I’ve never worn anything else!
Do you still ride with the Wingspan or have you upgraded to the Wing57?
I’ve always raced with the Wingspan but I just got a Wing57 for this season. I’m excited! I’ve heard a lot of good things. The ventilation of the Wingspan is good, especially in Kona. I was wearing the black Wingspan one year and I was fine out there. My first impression of the Wing57 is it’s comfy, not that the Wingspan wasn’t, but the Wing57 fits my head better. I also like the smaller tail in the back. The only downfall with Rudy Project is that my fellow triathlete roommates often try to steal my helmets on their race days. I need to have a chat with them about that.
What Rudy Project sunglasses do you like the most?
I just got the Ergomask race glasses for this season and I think they’re my new favorite. Now that I finally have Rudy race specific glasses I can’t go without them… they’re comfy and I don’t notice they’re there anymore. I’m also wearing some Spinhawk (casuals) right now. They’re so sweet.
Anything else to add?
I’m not too much of a gear junkie, but I can’t imagine anything else… I’m not just saying that. Rudy gives me one less thing to worry about.
About Triple Threat Triathlon
TripleThreatTriathlon.com is a rapidly growing triathlon site centered around the Triple Threat Triathlon – National Team (US). Age group triathletes are selected as representatives of their individual states and local ambassadors of the sport, while contributing to the team’s collective, national goals.
About Rudy Project
Rudy Project designs and manufactures performance-oriented helmets, sunglasses, goggles and Rx/prescription eyewear solutions by applying advanced science, cutting-edge technology and innovative aesthetics. Designed and crafted in Italy since 1985, Rudy Project has grown quickly as a premier brand throughout North America. Rudy helmets were recognized as the #1 most worn aero / time-trial brand at the IRONMAN® World Championships Presented by GoPro™ in Kona, Hawaii for the last four consecutive years, and have been designated the Official Helmet of IRONMAN® for North America. Rudy Project offers unparalleled customer service backed by a Lifetime Replacement Lens Guarantee and an industry-leading three-year frame warranty. Learn more about Rudy Project at www.e-rudy.com.