Biomimicry is an area of design where people look to the natural world for solutions to human problems. It was after getting car doored while riding his bike that Londoner Anirudha Surabhi decided there must be a better helmet solution – his expensive road helmet had cracked and he experienced a concussion, despite the crash being at low speed.
Each time a woodpecker pecks a tree it experiences forces equivalent to an 80km/h crash, and it does this up to ten times a second. Surabhi looked at how the cartilage structure that sits between the bird’s beak and skull absorbs the force by compressing upon impact. He applied this principle to helmet design and the result is probably the greatest revolution in bicycle helmet design since the advent of the stackhat.
The Kranium helmet is made from strips of honeycombed cardboard, arranged so as to absorb some force by flexing of the structure, and additional force via crumpling of the cardboard air pockets. Testing has shown the helmet to absorb three times as much force as a polystyrene helmet, and because the Kranium doesn’t crack in a crash (like polystyrene does) it has been tested to European standard up to five times in a row. It also weighs 15% less than your standard helmet.
During production the cardboard structure is submerged in a waterproofing agent and apparently the helmet has been tested to standard after being submerged in water for seven days, so a little rain or sweat shouldn’t be doing it any damage.
They are currently only available for sale in the UK (at Velorution), where they retail for £79.99. Postage to Australia will set you back a whole lot of money and they haven’t yet been tested to Australian Standard, which is one of the most stringent in the world. I will definitely be keeping my eye on how these helmets are received in the UK, and when they start making their way around the globe.