Concussions –the issue less talked about in bicycle helmet design
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.