If you commute on a bike-share bike, you probably don’t wear a helmet—one recent study in Seattle found that only one in five riders using bike-share services wore helmets, versus more than 90% of riders with a bike of their own. It’s largely about convenience; most people don’t want to lug a bulky helmet around all day, particularly if they’ve left home on foot and might not necessarily ride later.
Several startups are working on more portable solutions, like a design for a baseball-cap-like helmet that folds down to the size of a large water bottle (as of now, that helmet is late to come to market). Another new design, from U.K.-based engineers who previously worked at Boeing and Aston Martin, takes a different approach: The shell, molded in a honeycomb shape, can be partially flipped over to quickly flatten the helmet.
The designers wanted to go beyond a foldable helmet to something that’s truly packable. “It needs to be about more than just volume reduction, because if it goes from 100% to 50%, but the shape of that 50% is inconvenient when putting it in alongside your laptop and your notebook and whatever else you put in your bag, it’s kind of immaterial how small it is,” says Dominic Cotton, one of the cofounders of Cyclo Technology. The startup is producing the helmet, called the Cyclo, as its first product. The helmet is currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo as the startup raises funds to go into manufacturing.
They chose a honeycomb shape because of its inherent strength. “That shape is extremely good at dissipating force, because if you have an impact, the force has a lot of directions in which to travel,” Cotton says. Without a solid shell, it also doesn’t get as hot when riders wear it. The design transforms easily—the rounded dome flips over to fit neatly inside the bottom part of the helmet, and then the straps clip inside.
The simple design has a little memory foam attached to the top for comfort but is mainly made from a single material—recycled plastic, including plastic rescued from oceans. Typical helmets use a combination of multiple plastics, which the startup says makes the helmets both harder to recycle when they’re eventually discarded and more expensive to make in the beginning. The simplicity of the design also reduces cost. The presale cost on Indiegogo is $52. “We wanted to do something that can be a mass-market product, so it can enable anyone to feel safe when they ride a bike,” says Cotton.