Here is why regular bicycle helmets, to some, make them feel look “dorky.”
The polystyrene EPS (expanded polystyrene) helmet was invented in the 70s and today more or less is still the same; a bulky, rock-hard, and rigid device that can protect your head in bike crashes.
However, today, convincing cyclists to ride with helmets is no small feat as we have become much more aware of how we look and appear to our friends and social circle.
To become looking like a dork from riding with a big and clunky polystyrene helmet is, to many, not an actable tradeoff for the sensible thing it simply is riding with a helmet.
So why is it polystyrene helmets always will make you look like you are wearing a too-big helmet.
First of all, polystyrene needs a certain thickness of approx 30 mm to be able to protect your head in the event of a crash.
Secondly, by nature, the EPS materials used in bicycle helmets are rock-hard and stiff. There is no flexibility or comfort in a naked bike helmet. This becomes a problem when various human skulls have to fit in. No two head shapes are the same, even if we look at only heads of the same size/circumference. This is simply the beauty of us humans; we are all unique and special.
The only way to solve this when different head shapes fit into a stiff helmet is to make the helmet larger and do all.
Third, because of the hard and stiff polystyrene, there needs to be some soft padding added here and there inside the helmet to ensure a minimum of comfort and to make up for the different head shapes that now have to fit in the rigid polystyrene shape.
All this is why a head of, say approx 57 cm circumference ends up with an outside circumference of some 77 cm when wearing an EPS helmet!
This is one of the reasons why Newton-Rider has reinvented the bicycle helmet as we know it.
We have developed the N1 helmet using new materials with the same protective abilities as EPS but ~40% thinner. The N1 is also semi-soft and adapts automatically to different head shapes and thus does not need extra padding.
The N1 helmet design creates a much sleeker profile on one's head with an outside circumference of only about 68 cm.
The above animation illustrates the considerable difference between the two concepts. The red presents an EPS helmet, and the green represents the N1 helmet and how it adapts to different head shapes because of its semi-soft pads and the flexible soft liner.
Last but not least, the N1 can fold to fit into a bag to further adapt to the lifestyle of modern urban commuters.
/the Newton-Rider team
A scientific study in 2020 made it evident that regular bicycle helmets, as we know them, do not help avoid concussions in less severe crashes.
In a scientific US research from 2020, with 906 patients evaluated of which 701 were riding with, and 205 were riding without a helmet; the leading injury was a concussion.
The research concludes that people involved in bicycle crashes wearing helmets are less likely to sustain severe head injuries than riders without helmets! – but helmets do not prevent concussions after bicycle rider crashes. Interestingly or more frightening, there was no significant difference in the number of people who suffered a concussion between riders with or without helmets.
The research does not state the protective material used in the helmets, but it is safe to conclude it’s polystyrene (EPS) since 99% of helmets today use this material.
On the positive side, however, it is evident from the research that it makes total sense to ride with a helmet, no matter what!
The science behind EPS bicycle helmets is well described and well-known —an outer shell of polycarbonate with an inner core of polystyrene. In the event of a severe crash, the polystyrene compresses and cracks, thereby absorbing most of the impact force. Polystyrene, needs a certain thickness of 30-35mm to help protect your brain effectively. This 40-year-old concept has proved its efficiency; thus, today polystyrene is the most common material used in bicycle helmets.
But given the problem described in the study, with concussions leading in most crashes, it may wonder why the EPS helmet has not undergone any serious development since the seventies to better protect against concussions, especially given the rising popularity of micromobility and thus the bike lanes getting crowded by ever more cyclists, e-bikes and e-scooters. The regular EPS bicycle helmet is still rigid, hard and a rather clumsy device.
A problem sensible to try to solve
Newton-Rider set out to try to solve this problem and began the development of the N1 helmet in 2020 with the specific objective of creating a helmet that better reflects the demands of modern bicyclists of today.
Riders today have more nuanced expectations of bicycle helmets besides protecting in severe crashes but also demand they shall look stylish and modern, be comfortable to wear and designed for multimodal transportation modes and obviously also provide a design that can help protect against concussions in minor accidents -a complex task, to be honest.
The pat.pend N1 we ended up with is a sleek, thin, semi-soft, and foldable helmet not yet seen in the cycling world.
Making the helmet thinner than any EPS helmet was a must as to make it more stylish and much less clumsy, especially a demand by younger consumers. This again forced us to develop a novel protective system, our semi-soft pads of only 16mm thickness compared to the regular helmets of 30-35mm.
The semi-soft nature of our pads made the helmet more comfortable to wear; still, we wanted it also to be foldable, and we invented a flexible liner to which the individual pads were bonded. Again, this also had the advantage that the helmet became flexible and does adapt to any head shape and form, resulting in a better fit.
Getting back to the problem with concussions –the side gain we had by developing our N1 semi-soft helmet is that it has a linear protection concept in that the semi-soft nature of our pads starts absorbing impact in also minor crashes — a linear mode of absorption.
Newton-Rider is convinced that the novel N1 helmet can help avoid concussions in the most common minor bicycle accidents.
Commuters flock to the bike lanes, and we risk more bike2bike accidents than bike2car.
It's getting crowded right now.
Initially caused by the topic we are all getting so tired of, the Covid19 pandemic, but now also and more lasting, fuelled by the climate crisis, the energy crisis, and the "too little space in cities" crisis.
This has caused bike lanes to understandably become crowded with riders and their various vehicles.
Naturally, different people and their micromobility vehicles accelerate and travel at various speeds. Analog bicycles and young kids are the slowest, then we have e-scooters and e-bikes accelerating and riding faster, and then we have the ever more popular cargo bikes taking up much more space on the narrow bike lanes.
To ensure people can enjoy their commuting with no traffic jams and risk of bikes crashing each other, there is a need to rethink how bike lanes are designed …namely, wider.
Twenty years ago, there were no electric bikes, no cargo bikes, and the handlebar of an MTB bike was still within reach of your two hands. And lately, we have started to see the real elephants of the bike lanes, the commercial cargo bikes, a two-meter high and one-meter wide box on bicycle wheels, slow-moving and impossible to overtake.
Adding to the uptake in cycling is of course also that more and more car drivers start to find it super silly transporting themselves and one tonne of batteries to the city centre in their "sustainable" electric car and then going around for an hour to find a parking space having to a hefty parking fee.
This is not and never will be the future of urban transportation. It's much more convenient to take their bicycle from their homes in the suburbs to the train or Metro station, bringing their bike with them on the train and again using it for the last mile ride to their workplace or destination. It simply makes sense.
However, one thing we should question right now is Speed pedelecs riding on the bike lanes.
We cannot have people riding at 45 km/h on Speed pedelecs, mixing up among all the slower bicycles and not to forget, the many kids enjoying riding their bright coloured bikes. These Speed pedelec "e-bikes", which are no more than lightweight mopeds, should not be allowed onto the bicycle lanes in cities with higher speed limits than 30km/h; they belong on the street, where they will find enough space as there anyway will be fewer cars in the future.
Yes, it's all different now on the bike lanes.
The bicycle helmet, as we all know it, is decades old. It was invented back in the 70s and has not changed in principle since then.
These EPS helmets are basically a Polystyrene half-sphere core of some 30-35 mm thickness with a thin outer shell of either Polycarbonate or ABS plastic.
They are by nature hard and rigid and thus need various foam paddings and adjustment arrangements inside to make the helmet fit individual head shapes and forms.
Polystyrene used for bicycle helmets is quite hard, and they collapse or break at a particular impact to absorb the impact force. The material needs a thickness of approx. 30-35mm to protect the head from serious injury.
This makes EPS helmets, in general, quite bulky and uncomfortable to wear, when at the same time, they are hard to stove away when not used.
However, EPS helmets are due to the use of Polystyrene, a very cheap way to manufacture a helmet that actually protects the head very efficiently.
Newton-Rider decided back in 2020 to try to put some much needed new design, engineering and invention into the classic bicycle helmet.
The rising popularity of sustainable transportation modes such as micro-mobility and multi-modal transportation, combined with a heightened awareness of look and comfort, ensured the team that a modern bicycle helmet should be much thinner, much more connected to style and fashion.
Then also, a modern helmet should be soft and comfortable to wear, and last but not least, it should be foldable in an easy way.
To bring down the thickness from 30-35mm to the 16mm of the N1 helmet, we needed to invent new proprietary Non-Newtonian materials that were more effective in absorbing impact and thus did not need the same thickness.
The other benefit of this material is that the material is soft and bendable; combined with our flexible liner principle, we were able to provide a much more comfortable fit to the wearer.
Then finally, we designed the helmet in a very stylish way while at the same time allowing for it to fold in a pretty clever way.
We think we have achieved to create a bicycle helmet that genuinely is a helmet like no other.
The N1 is sleek, thin and stylish
The N1 is semi-soft
The N1 is foldable.
We are excited as a team to keep developing the N1 principles in the direction of even more sophisticated design and engineering.