Helmet Designs for Tomorrow – Today

By Gerde Applethwaite

Bell recently announced that they are designing a helmet with an EPS liner that can be custom shaped to your individual head. I do not know whether or not this will be more comfortable on a long ride but intuitively I would think so. It also seems that in the event of a crash it would distribute and cushion the impact across your head better than a traditional unit. This got me to thinking about the future of helmet design and what we might have in store.

I like the idea of a custom molded helmet liner but more than that I would like to have an off the shelf helmet with a D3O or Sastech liner. The molecular armor would be more effective than the ubiquitous EPS foam in helping insulate your head bone against the shock of an impact, albeit a bit more expensive. D3O makes a helmet liner but I have never seen one in a helmet.

Reebok is making a small electronic device called the Checklight that installs into football helmets. It determines the shock force of an impact and reads it out. That’s clever. The notion of having some more objective way to evaluate the extent of an impact after your crash might be useful to the folks in the ER and it also might give you pause to think before you jumped back on your bike after what you thought was a small get-off.

Fighter jet style heads-up displays are already being designed for motorcycle helmet use. They are an interesting idea but they are not for me. I don’t want anything in my visual plain that will in any way distract me from scanning the road although I would consider one that displayed a visual warning if, say, the oil pressure dropped suddenly or the water temperature rose suddenly on my bike.

Photochromic face shields are available on some new Bell and Shoei helmets and I intend to test them out sometime this Summer. I like the idea of a shield that will change its shade in response to the light but I don’t believe that the current photochromic shields are polarized. I would like to see the polarized shields become more available across product lines.

The state of helmet communications systems improves with every season. Not that long ago they were scratchy and sounded like a bad walkie talkie but today the sound is markedly better and you can also hook up your phone and music devices. Things will rapidly change and become more even more innovative with these systems – and quickly at that.

Helmet shell plastics technology only gets better with every passing season.  Carbon fiber and Kevlar are still only available in the more expensive offerings but as the manufacturing techniques develop further we will see carbon and Kevlar migrating into lower priced helmets. New types of helmet shell materials are right around the corner and these new materials make my first helmet seem like a real antique bucket.

If you have an older helmet I recommend that you take a look at some of the newer helmet designs – whether it be comm. systems, drop down inner shields or pinlock setups the future is now… or at least soon.

Gerde Applethwaite

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