Is this the future of bicycle helmets?

Bicycle helmets as we know them today may soon become a thing of the past. Deep inside the brain of design student and all-round genius Anirudha Surabhi is an idea that is set to soon revolutionise bike helmets near you. His design is four times stronger than convention helmets whilst at the same same time pulling off the trick of being lighter. The strangeness continues, when you realise the main material used, is corrugated cardboard.

kranium-helmet

He first presented his new design in London, back in October 2010. On a recent visit to Bike Republic I was shown the helmets. The design, called Kranium, has already been licenced to many of the major manufacturers and should be available to buy soon.

My first response was: What happens when it rains?

Of course, I wasn’t expecting a “oh, we didn’t think of that” response. Although, that would have been highly comical. Instead, they told me the cardboard is combined with a waterproof acrylic compound. Which makes it rain and sweat proof.

The magic doesn’t stop there. The plan with the helmets is to size your head to be able to get the perfect fit. The helmet is then assembled and you pick an outer shell depending on the look you want.

Kranium2

Bike Republic were also kind enough to send me a video of the helmet in a crash test. The video shows how well it absorbs impact compared to a conventional helmet.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

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44 Responses to Is this the future of bicycle helmets?

  1. Jonny Stutters 06/06/2011 at 5:59 pm #

    Clever engineering but it seems like this is solving a somewhat non-existent problem. I have a hard time believing that the number of accidents where a stronger helmet would have a been a decisive factor in preventing harm is all that high. The problems people have with helmets, that I’m sure we’re all well aware of (sweaty, ruin your hair, don’t help if you get hit by a truck and so on), all remain. The reduced weight is of no importance to anyone outside the carbon bottle-cage crowd (talk of – probably expensive – custom fitting, suggests that that’s who they’re going for).

    • Andreas 06/06/2011 at 6:21 pm #

      From what I’ve read the RRP would be £80

    • HB 10/06/2011 at 5:24 am #

      Sweaty — get a well ventilated helmet, a good one makes very little difference to how hot your head gets

      Ruin your hair — seriously? Harden up, your name suggests you are a guy, you shouldn’t be worrying about your hair. Also, my artsy, well groomed girlfriend wears a helmet with no detremental effects to her hair, which is quite long and nice. Maybe girls should adopt a more practical hairstyle if it’s a problem for them?

      Don’t help if you get hit by a truck — Car seatbelts don’t help if you get hit my a meteorite either, but that doesn’t mean they are any less effective at decreasing your risk or injury/death in an average crash.

      Really, the crap that anti-helmet people can spout is just amazing….

      • Mark 10/06/2011 at 1:07 pm #

        the point is the cardboard helmets “solving a somewhat non-existent problem.”

      • Downfader 10/06/2011 at 4:19 pm #

        @HB

        The thing is it isnt crap though is it. Theres lot of counter argument from some very highly respected people like Erke and Elvik. They’ve peer reviewed a lot of research and found a lot of errors. They’ve also looked more closely at the Australia equation than anyone else and found cyclists to be 14% more at risk since the law came in than before. Thats pretty shocking reading.

        I think you’re being a little disrespectful of those who have been hit by a truck on the comment here. Those 20 or so cyclists that have died in the UK from HGV and large vehicle collisions mostly died from massive internal body injury. A helmet wont save you here, but knowing the risks and avoiding them very well might.

        You’ve clearly understood little of the situation around seatbelts and why that became law. Most people arent anti-helmet, they’re like me anti-compulsion and pro-choice.

      • Chrisa 24/08/2011 at 11:41 am #

        Yeah. They are all Dutch and French.
        Let’s put helmets on motorists and pedestrians as they are more at risk in fact.

  2. James 06/06/2011 at 7:20 pm #

    The problem I see is that I would want a lot more airflow than this design would provide. I get warm enough in my current ‘flow-through vented’ style helmet. This design won’t help that. Interesting approach, though.
    Also, £80? Really? It’s cardboard…

  3. Tony Parrack 06/06/2011 at 7:40 pm #

    hmmm…. love innovation, but whatever they say it can’t be as long lasting as plasticky type of material – still could be recycled (no pun intended); so much of the price of any product is not actually the raw materials, why not make it from something that might last? Would want better airflow too?

  4. Downfader 06/06/2011 at 9:12 pm #

    I get bl**dy hot wearing mine! This looks like it will be quite hot.

    In an ideal world we would just accept that helmets are a means to an end. We need to erradicate the danger, not deal with the result.All cyclists would be far better if they joined the big campaign groups and wrote to their MPs to push for change imo.

  5. Alice 06/06/2011 at 10:38 pm #

    How many cyclist fall directory onto the top of their head when they fall off their bike….?

    • Jules lost in london 06/06/2011 at 10:49 pm #

      me! straight over handlebars onto my head – i may be unusual but was very grateful for my lid at the time.
      my question about this is does it transmit the impact or absorb it? you want the lid to take the force and stop it getting to your brain – i can’t watch the video at the moment so can’t tell if that’s covered by the test. the thing you don’t want is super hard lid, that just transmits the force to your brain – they don’t like being shaken up!

      • Alice 06/06/2011 at 10:50 pm #

        Ah I didn’t think of that!

        • Andreas 07/06/2011 at 8:28 am #

          Jules that’s the key to this helmet. The way it absorbs the impact. The video shows the impact received “to the head” on a normal helmet vs this new style

      • Woody 30/06/2011 at 10:56 am #

        Exactly what I was thinking. Expanded polystyrene helmets are designed to absorb shock and break in the process -this looks like it just transfers the shock directly to your head. Will wait to see whether it passes any safety tests.

        It’s also twice the size of the Giro, and helmets certainly don’t need to be MORE mushroomy.

        I’m all for helmet innovation, but this doesn’t look like it.

    • Downfader 06/06/2011 at 11:34 pm #

      Most appear to be impacts to the back or side of the head iirc, from hitting the road after.

      • Andreas 07/06/2011 at 8:29 am #

        Have recently seen a couple of cyclists wearing motorbike helmets!

        • Adrian from Oz 10/06/2011 at 6:39 pm #

          I’ve considered it, but thought:
          a) would be too heavy
          b) would be too hot
          c) would be too expensive

  6. Tony Parrack 07/06/2011 at 9:54 am #

    Picture this: 21-seater executive minibus coming out of Give Way junction at some speed. 15 stone me flying across the road. Big windscreen smashed in from point of my head contact. Slight headache for a few hours, bent bike, no broken bones but 3 months of physio all over my body. I always always wear a helmet now – I’d be dead if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet that day. Imagine trying to headbutt a toughened windscreen to make that much damage – you couldn’t do it.

    • Filippo Negroni 07/06/2011 at 11:10 am #

      I am glad you survived the crash. In truth though, nobody can tell if not wearing a helmet would have caused you to die or worse injuries.

      After the crash that took place at the Giro d’Italia this year, I ran some stats and discovered a fatal crash took place every 6 to 8 years for the past 50 years in major tours, and every 1 to 2 years in minor events.

      Since helmets were made compulsory, the stats haven’t changed.

      What next, full downhill body armour?

      My 4yo son was cycling with me at the weekend, went straight into a tree at about 6 mph and wasn’t wearing a helmet: he hit the tree head on and I watched completely unable to do anything. He bruised his chin…

      If I must accept your proof, you must accept mine. Let’s agree that helmets can be useful but let’s not start a helmet war.

      There are instances where a helmet can be helpful, and some where it can’t.

      For most people, in most circumstances, it is not *that* important.

      I’d rather we focused on proper training of drivers *and* cyclists rather than sweep the problem under the carpet and put a big fat helmet on top!

      • tOM Trottier 24/06/2011 at 2:08 am #

        Helmets should be worn in races for two reasons: there’s more risk, and racers should set an example. You mentioned death statistics – what about concussions and brain damage in the living? A helmet won’t save you if you fall off a cliff.

        As for ventilation, a good helmet will give you better cooling than going bareheaded. As well as some shade, the helmet can direct more air all over your scalp, including the back of your neck.

        tOM

        • Downfader 25/06/2011 at 2:26 pm #

          Not true, tOM! The pro racing riders are more experienced than most urban cyclists at dealing with gaps, speed and cornering. In the TdF there were only a handful of deaths and injuries before the UCI brought the helmets in. The situation hasnt changed, Wouter’s death has sadly shown that riders can still die from head injuries with helmets on, as have many unpublicised urban cyclist deaths.

          Is sports racing REALLY an appropriate “example” for most normal cyclists? Risk taking, speed, gung-ho attitude of the winner has no place in normal cycling and most cyclists appreciate this.

          A helmet with vents is limited in air flow if one has longer hair. If a rider has curly hair or afro-carribean then this will most likely block the vents too unless shaved short.

        • tOM Trottier 25/06/2011 at 11:55 pm #

          @downfader – yes, the riders are far more experienced, and skilled, but as you say, there is “Risk taking, speed, gung-ho attitude”. There is more speed and more crowding.

          As for cooling, swimmers shave ALL their hair off to gain a few tenths of a second. I would expect that pro cyclists would get very short hair if cooling were important to them and hair got in the way. I imagine short hair would be better than no hair because there would be more surface area for evaporation.

      • Woody 30/06/2011 at 11:00 am #

        I hope you cycle at more than 6mph, and I know that cars drive faster than that.

        I’ve cracked a helmet in a fall – I can only assume that it would have been my head without one. So I wear one, almost always, because they definitely reduce your risk of head injury. by 100%? No. Measurably? yes.

    • Phil Russell 10/06/2011 at 8:04 pm #

      Tony P.,
      Spot on, squire.

  7. Nico 07/06/2011 at 12:47 pm #

    These look interesting, but I’ll put on my scientist hat (or helmet, your pick) and say I’m not sure they are comparing quite the finished product. The “shell” they show added to the helmet could add weight and rigidity, resulting in higher acceleration (g). One way they could avoid that is with a thin fabric covering.

  8. thereverent 07/06/2011 at 3:43 pm #

    Looks interesting, but I’d want one with some more vents in the cover.
    If the material is stronger, than it would be good to see the thickness of the helmet reduced (like more expensive helmets).

  9. Not So Sure 07/06/2011 at 7:40 pm #

    This video is pretty suspect and misleading. That completely destroyed foam innard you show of the first helmet dropped (:42 seconds in) does not even appear to be of the same helmet (the Giro). The entire front of the thing is broken off and there’s no way all that cracking is a result of a single drop on that apparatus…which itself bears little resemblance to any legitimate helmet testing apparatus or safety standard protocol. Test it at a real facility to a real standard and show THAT video.

  10. James 08/06/2011 at 5:42 pm #

    This design is a copy of earlier work by a student at Brunel university.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/joesnowdon/4548958466/in/photostream

    24th April 2010

    • tOM Trottier 24/06/2011 at 2:11 am #

      I think the ideal helmet would consist of a honeycomb of channels sending air to the scalp.

  11. Colin 08/06/2011 at 10:00 pm #

    I wish cyclists would stop trying to reduce the effect of collisions and concentrate on avoiding them, regardless of what those around them do. Cycle helmets are the wrong solution to the wrong problem, and we’d all be better off if they’d never been invented.

    • HB 10/06/2011 at 5:38 am #

      I wish motorists would stop trying to reduce the effect of collisions and concentrate on avoiding them, regardless of what those around them do. Seatbelts are the wrong solution to the wrong problem, and we’d all be better off if they’d never been invented.

      Exactly equivalent to what you said. Sure, avoiding collisions is the best option, but accidents are always going to happen. It does no harm to take measures to protect yourself from this eventuality. Do you really think that anyone thinks “Oh, I have a helmet on now, I won’t worry about crashing into stuff now”? Of course they don’t, accidents HURT, regardless of whether you have a helmet on or not.

      I, for one, would never ride on the road or off the road without a helmet. A very small impact to the right (or wrong…) part of your head can kill you — in these situations a helmet will almost certainly save your life.

      • PZ 10/06/2011 at 3:58 pm #

        That statement is even more applicable to motorists & seat belts, than to cyclists & helmets. Although safety features such as airbags & seat belts may have contributed to some aspects of driver safety, it has had the opposite effect for other road users & pedestrians, giving drivers a false sense of security & encouraging reckless behaviour.
        The most effective safety feature on a car would be a metal spike coming out of the steering wheel pointing at the drivers chest.
        No one consciously thinks “Oh I have a helmet on now, I wont worry about crashing into stuff”, however were talking about slight subconscious changes in behaviour which can have profound effects on outcome. This also applies to the amount of room motorists give to cyclists wearing helmets which has been shown to be substantially less.
        I’m unimpressed by the “I wouldn’t be here talking to you if it wasn’t for this polystyrene” type anecdotes that ignore all other factors influencing the outcome their “accidents”.

        • tOM Trottier 25/06/2011 at 11:59 pm #

          I suppose that spike would also stop repeat offenders…

          But actually, what it would mean is less braking for cyclists, pedestrians, and dogs as drivers avoid their own pain.

      • Phil Russell 16/06/2011 at 3:57 pm #

        H.B.
        Spot-on, squire.
        P.R.

    • Woody 30/06/2011 at 11:04 am #

      Any reason why we shouldn’t do both? I can’t see why they’re mutually exclusive.

  12. juddy 09/06/2011 at 5:23 pm #

    All helmet issues are about dissipating energy and a stronger lid is not necessarily a good thing. They are designed to break apart on impact, rather than your head breaking. You almost need the outer skin of a lid to glance off the energy, a sliding shell if you like. This looks a good solution? and although its now a fullface, hopefully the tech can filter down to potties and normal commuters : http://www.pinkbike.com/news/Kali-Protectives-Carbon-Prana-Helmet-Sea-Otter.html

    • Downfader 09/06/2011 at 8:04 pm #

      No, they are not designed to break apart. Thats a myth. They’re designed to squash down and compact (removal of the constituent gasses held inside). When they break they have essentially failed and have been placed under a tensile force they could not withstand.

      http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1209.html

  13. diirt jumper 10/06/2011 at 5:36 am #

    what happens if it gets dirty surely you couldn’t wash it it would simply disintegrate

  14. Bruce 10/06/2011 at 5:48 am #

    So a normal helmet cracked and the cardboard one didn’t, neither would a steel helmet – but it wouldn’t protect your head either. Surely the only measurement that matters is the g forces that the head is subjected to which is not shown. The Cardboard helmet doesn’t show any deformation which could indicate that all the impact is transferred very efficiently through into your head?

    • Phil Russell 16/06/2011 at 4:03 pm #

      Bruce,
      Look again……the cardboard eggboxy thingy DOES show impact damage
      P.R…

    • Woody 30/06/2011 at 11:06 am #

      Exactly. Helmets are designed to deform and crack as they absorb energy – the cardboard one is slightly squished, but hits the ground dead; it looks like much more of the energy is passed into the ‘head’, which is NOT a good idea.

      Until we have proper (ANSI/SNELL/DOT) tests on this thing, it’s an interesting concept, not a threat to traditional helmet designs.

  15. Louise 14/06/2011 at 9:44 am #

    I read about this in cycling active and I thought it was to go inside a helmet perhaps I misunderstood. Apparently it is the design that makes it stronger taken I think from egg boxes. ;)

    • Andreas 14/06/2011 at 10:39 am #

      Yeah I heard this was covered in cycling active too. They beat me to the punch!

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