Pop question: From a cycling standpoint, what kind of hairstyle will make you a faster rider?
The answer may surprise you, and it certainly caught some Italian researchers off-guard when they performed a unique experiment on a legendary cyclist in the 1990s.
According to an article posted this week on Outside magazine's website, researchers at Romes Università degli Biondi set out to discover the most aerodynamic cut in 1999. Their subject: Mario Cipollini, aka the "Lion King," who has been called the strongest sprinter of all time.
Cipollini didn't have to get his locks lopped off to participate, but had to don a series of wigs that approximated several hair (and no-hair) styles: bald, mohawk, fauxhawk, mullet, fade, and Coolio. His real hair was the control condition.
Researchers expected bald to prevail. Makes sense, right? Giving air a nice, smooth surface to flow over with no pesky hair in the way.
The unlikely mullet prevailed, and it wasn't even close.
Outside magazine quoted lead aerodynamicist Mario Benini as saying: We calculated that over a 40K time trial course, the mullet would be almost 10 seconds faster than the bald condition, which is huge.
So, how could this be? Researchers supposed the mullet provided an effect similar to modern aero helmets, and their work even helped lead to the development of the widely known Wingspan helmet by Rudy Project.