pro cycling

The London 2012 Olympic Legacy: Facial Hair

The 2012 London Olympics seems like a long time ago; it was a time when Britain was in the grip the kind of all-in-it-together spirit not seen since the blitz. In fact, the only members of society not allowed to join in seemed to be the politicians, as demonstrated by the raucous booing of our very much less than beloved Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne, when his face appeared on the big screen at the Olympic Stadium.

There’s a certain irony to this, of course, in that throughout the current economic hard-times, politicians like Osbourne have made of point of telling us that we’re all-in-it-together, which is an easy things for a cabinet full of millionaires to say.

We’re all in it together”, the people say, “and you’re not George”.

Anyway, I digress. The reason I raised the subject of the 2012 Olympics had nothing to do with mere politics; it’s because I’ve been musing on the fact that it was the high water mark for Bradley Wiggins sideburns. While he was busy annihilating the cream of the worlds time-triallers to take gold in those games, a certain tabloid newspaper was providing cut-out-and-stick-on Wiggo sideburns; fun for all the family.

Bradley Wiggins (Photo: Josh Hallett - Flickr CC)
Bradley Wiggins
(Photo: Josh Hallett – Flickr CC)

That’s the level of exposure we’re talking about; for a time, the sideburns were even more famous than the man.

In fact, looking back from here in 2014, where around 95% of the adult male population of the UK seem to be sporting beards, could it be that the true legacy of the 2012 Olympics had nothing to do with grass roots sporting development, cutting edge community sporting facilities, and affordable housing developments, and everything to do with a renaissance in facial hair.

Thanks to Bradley Wiggins, in the UK it is flourishing.

But one aspect of this has always left me puzzled; how on earth does David Brailsford, boss of Team Sky, master of marginal gains, and no great proponent of hair in any form, tolerate Wiggo’s sideburns?

Surely they create a tiny fraction of a percentage of additional drag, or cause Sir Bradley to retain a miniscule amount of extra and unwanted body heat, or quite simply, look a bit too scruffy to fit in with the sleek, well buffed corporate image of mighty Team Sky?

This has baffled me ever since those joyous late summer days of 2012…until now.

Fellow blogger and cycling truth-teller bgddyjim has, at last, shone a light on this puzzling issue and apparently come up with an answer.

If we believe what we are reading, the humble sideburn is nature’s solution to the perennial cyclists problem of wind rushing past the ears; by channelling the airflow with precision, wind noise in the ear is reduced, which we can only assume has a significant positive impact on our Olympic champion’s form.

Perhaps the amplifying effect Wiggo’s sideburns had on the noise of the cheering crowds as he rattled down Pall Mall on that August afternoon, was just enough to produce an extra shot of adrenalin through the veins of our man and help propel him to gold.

I’m speculating of course, but the truth about the correlation between bushy sideburns and cycling quickly is surely not far off.

10 comments on “The London 2012 Olympic Legacy: Facial Hair

  1. Brilliant post brother. Alas, they don’t help one ride faster… Well, my wife might have a different take, but I digress… That said, there is no doubt they allow one to hear better. Believe it or not, women love the cat ears for just that reason and I can tell the difference when I trim them. It’s just one of those cool, nutty things in life. Long live long sideburns!

    Fantastic post, again man. You are an exceptional writer.


    • Thanks very much, and thanks for putting me on to this. I guess riding faster means different things to different people – that might be a whole separate blog post!

      I’ve been an intermittent sideburn grower over the years but it might be time now to test out this little theory for myself.


  2. In America facial hair has been cool for the past 10 years or so. Glad to see the country has finally caught up with me! I don’t even need to shave for work anymore. Way cool, and saves a lot on razor blades.
    I’d grow my sideburns out again, but they are so freakin grey!
    When I’m out running I often have a hard time hearing fellow runners due to the wind noise in my ears. Maybe it’s time to let the sideburns grow out again.


    • Indeed, maybe its time you committed to a full set of sideburns!

      Fashions change quickly over here in the UK; according to the media we have now reached maximum beard and the trend for facial hair will soon be on the wane – pity.


  3. I never quite reconciled the cycling fraternity’s conflicting attitudes to facial hair on the one hand (good) and leg hair on the other (bad). There must be a phd thesis waiting to be written on that.


  4. There does seem to be some correlation between Wiggo’s performance and his facial hair. Shaved off the ‘burns for the Giro last year and had a shocker… Replaces them with a beard and storms Flanders, Roubaix and wins in California. cf Samson & Delilah


    • I think you’ve stumbled on the crux of the matter here – it’s a clear Samson and Delilah situation. Would that make Chris Froome Delilah?


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