Helmets Past and Future

April 25, 2014
Friday Helmet Fun

As we’ve reported, the first bicycle helmets were either padded leather (racing) or hard-shelled pith (touring).
HelmetsThomas Stevens, the first bicyclist to complete a round-the-world journey, on a high-wheeled bike from 1884 to 1886, depended on a hard helmet to shade him from grueling sun – small holes in his white pith helmet also helped cool his head.  (The illustration is Stevens’ own drawing of himself biking the Champs-Élysées in Paris.)

These days, helmets are much better at keeping heads cool, with ventilation channels strategically placed. Designers constantly balance helmet safety and strength with weight and ventilation.

Future helmets might take inspiration from the super tough shell of the mantis shrimp. The mantis has an appendage like a club that it uses to bludgeon its prey. The mantis’ club is composed of layers of mineralized fibers that together act like a powerful shock absorber.
HelmetsThe mantis shrimp is neither mantis nor shrimp but a relative of the lobster. It ‘wears’ powerful helmet-like protection all day long.

Using carbon fiber and the layered design, researchers at the University of California at Riverside have come up with a man-made mantis-like material 20% stronger than existing strong and light composites, and suitable for things like body armor and helmets.

From fiber to fur, here’s a great shot of a lovely furred set of wheels from the Nutcase Instagram feed. To see more, follow us @nutcasehelmets.

Happy weekend riding!