As a keen cyclist I’m always interested in new products and equipment, however futuristic or conceptual they may be, but this one caught my eye as it’s all about doing something now. Anirudha Rao has developed Kranium – a lightweight and bespoke solution for cycle helmets.
From the mid-range of the helmet market upwards they all become about styling towards aerodynamics and weight reduction. I mean mine’s not heavy, but let’s face it I’m not an Olympic sprinter where those few grams could make a difference. Aside from the odd stint of off-roading I use mine on the commute. Stats reckon that cycling through a busy city averages a speed of around 12mph, which I can indeed vouch for (my 9.5miles takes 42minutes), and so for me (and no doubt many others) safety is becoming more paramount than streamlining.
Your typical cycle helmet is an expanded polystyrene (EPS) core with a thin moulded microshell overlay and we just presume that this is the best material to protect us. I mean, you could spend £100s on a super elite helmet and it would still be mainly EPS (though with increasing amounts of carbon fibre). Recent research however, is beginning to suggest that cardboard assembled in the correct way could offer similar, if not improved, protection. This is largely because EPS tends to distribute impact energy in an attempt to dissipate it, whereas Rao’s design gives the cardboard a crumple zone to attempt to absorb the energy before it reaches your head.
When tested at Imperial College (against BS EN1078 since you asked) it was found that this cardboard arrangement absorbs four times the impact energy than that its traditional EPS counterpart, an impressive feat indeed. Kranium is also really promoting the fact that during testing it can withstand consecutive impacts, though should this reach market I believe that it will fall in line with current helmet guidelines of changing your helmet after a sinlge impact. Testing has very specific and fixed conditions, whereas out in the real world any number of factors can affect results, no doubt erring on the side of caution, as EPS helmets do, is something you simply must do when it comes to safety.
Comfort is a huge factor in people wearing cycle helmets. Head size and shape varies greatly throughout the population yet the majority of helmets merely come in standardised small, medium or large. Whilst Kranium could do this too, why not exploit one the advantages of its manufacturing method. A fairly simple (and nowadays none too expensive either) 3D head scan could pinpoint coordinates for the laser cut cardboard template giving you a perfect made to measure fit for your ride. The data could easily be stored on file allowing repeat helmets to be ordered for a fraction of the cost in the future. Investing in a bespoke product that you’ll use and use again, great idea.
Kranium finished in a blue and red shell option
and in the beautiful white vented option
Obviously a few developments will still be needed to get this product to market. Just looking out the window this evening a wet weather option is a definite must so the cardboard doesn’t degrade, perhaps laminating or wax coating the cardboard is an option. Should it make it I would really be tempted by the white version above.
One immediate application I can see for this is not necessarily in the bespoke market though, but alongside London’s recently introduced “Boris Bikes”. Following a recent call for helmets to be provided this could provide the mayor with an opportunity of a cost effective and eco-friendly solution.
And you can see how easily it goes together with a neat little clip on Vimeo here.
Images courtesy of Design Boom.