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Bicycle helmet impact protection has changed little since Bell introduced the ‘Biker’ helmet in 1975; incorporating expanded Polystyrene foam and a hardened Lexan shell for the first time to absorb impacts. Over the past 40 years, aerodynamics, cooling, and weight have remained at the fore of development with focuses on improvements in impact protection through material selection remaining on the back seat. Until now. Over 3 years of design, test, and development led to the launch of a revolutionary new helmet, the HeadKayse HK01.
We started with a simple brief to design a collapsible helmet to increase adoption of urban cycling through removing a key barrier, space. The end product would be capable of being carried in a messenger bag or backpack by simply folding in half; the result of new processes, materials, and designs forming a new approach to head protection.
Very early in the project the team wondered what if more flexible materials could provide protection without the sacrificial degradation – a multi-hit helmet; however this posed a challenge. Current helmet regulations such as EN1078 are written around benchmarks; these benchmarks are usually the emerging and best technology of the time, and once established in regulatory procedure often remain uniquely tied to its performance requirements as the standard evolves and is up-issued with more stringent tests.
In this particular case cycle helmet standards were originally written around the capabilities of EPS and required impact tests at extremes of -20°C and +50°C. Whilst remaining a safe and sensible requirement; with the team establishing flexible, energy absorbing foams or elastomer’s as the answer to most of the challenges faced, it created something of a predicament, as most elastomer and foams change their mechanical properties as temperatures move away from ambient.
We realised fairly early on that current cycle products had some significant drawbacks. If the product was to convince at least some of the 70% of urban riders who don’t regularly wear helmets that protection was a good thing, we were going to have to solve some pretty fundamental issues:
- Much more robust – Helmets are used daily by commuters and subject to some pretty serious storage abuse; thrown into bags, knocked against frames and dropped on the floor you really need to be able to chuck it around without worrying whether you need to replace it.
- Provides multiple impact protection – No one wants to think about having a major crash. If you do, hopefully your trusty helmet will be there to suck up the punishment. But what about the smaller knocks and bumps which come more often; mountain biking or children learning to ride.
- Is more comfortable – Helmets should fit like a glove,and not need insertes of padding to make them fit yoru personal, individual head shape.
- Looks better – Unless your in the pro tour, or a BMX’r at the skate park, most helmets aren’t exactly flattering. Although some helmets look amazing on their own, shouldn’t a helmet be designed to look good on you, not just on the shelf?
Through rapid, hand on model making, CAD development, and developing our own in-house test methods which replicated the official test houses; the team were able to rapidly test available materials. This led to a deep understanding of the mechanics of impact protection and resulted in the development of a new material formulation targeted specifically towards.
After three years of developing forms and materials together, we arrived at ‘Enkayse’, a propitiatory material which outperforms EPS throughout the temperature range, whilst remaining pliable, soft and which conforms to your head when worn!
Best yet, the product can withstand all the abuse thrown at it without affecting its abilities to suck up the punishment of a crash – saving your head. To put it another way, the same helmet passes the requirements of the EN1078 impact test time after time, not just once.
All this whilst being able to fold in half and slip in your bag.
The key to the success of this product is the materials, allowing for a robust and fold-able helmet without complicated or delicate hinges. from the innovative instillation method. Along the way we have secured patents for the sizing and fastening mechanisms, and made a more comfortable, better performing product.
HeadKayse is on track to be a game changer in the industry, already receiving praise from the industry test professionals and cycling media.
Its an exciting time for Realise Design as well, as we undertake our first joint crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo. Going on the journey with our client through launch for the first time, helping to establish and run the campaign.