Bradley Wiggins probably has the most famous sideburns of any modern cyclist, he’s a ginger version of a 1970’s Elvis. In fact, I actually read a report that he’d shaved off his prized ham hocks so he could be a little less recognizable.
That said, I have some pretty mean sideburns as well, though I was sporting them before I ever shopped for my first bike. My wife likes them. So for two years I cycled with sideburns before I learned they give me a distinct advantage over other cyclists. Seriously. The All Seasons Cyclist wrote a review for a very odd looking product that made everything make sense.
Sideburns disrupt the air that flows over the ear so I don’t experience quite the same wind noise as a clean shaven fellow. In other words, I can hear traffic better, even in high winds. In fact, the science is sound – Cat Ears came up with a faux sideburn that the facial hair challenged can Velcro onto your helmet’s strap in front of your ear. So how well do sideburns work? I can hear a car behind me before my wife can see it in her bar-end rearview mirror. And she can see it in the mirror before she hears it. This isn’t without its flaws in the new hybrid/electric car era but I can still hear a Chevy Volt coming up behind me.
Now, the question will arise, “how bushy do they have to be”? Well, I may have long sideburns (ear length) but when I get my hair cut, I don’t mess around. I’m not quite high and tight but clippers are involved. When I’m sporting a new cut, and my sideburns get cut the same length as my dome, I can definitely tell the difference, I lose a few hundred yards. On the other hand, they don’t have to be Elvis bushy either, not by a long shot. I’d say that when the hair is 1/2″ to 3/4″ long, that’s just long enough to work well.
So that’s why some cyclists have sideburns: They can hear better. Seriously.
Elisariva added that she’s got Cat Ears, and they work… And it’s a small world – she won the pair that the All Seasons Cyclist gave away in the review I linked above.