INDUSTRY OPINIONS: Helmet brands on the important tech developments

We speak to representatives of Leatt, One Industries, IXS, Overade, Bell, Giro, ABUS, Lazer and Met
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BikeBiz has asked some of the biggest cycle helmet brands in the world what they think are the most important tech developments in the cycle helmet sector – and on the biggest challenges for the market. We spoke to representatives of Leatt, One Industries, IXS, Overade, Bell, Giro, ABUS, Lazer and Met.

Here are their responses...

What’s the most important recent tech development in the world of cycle helmets?
“I don’t think there is a single stand out technology but the biggest change has been the investment that companies are making towards developing new and safer technologies. Consumers realise there is a difference and companies have taken notice.”
Shaun Ryan,
Director of Product,
One Industries, 661

“Over the last few years bikes have become more radical, speeds are higher, jumps are longer and drops are steeper so the need for MX-inspired helmets has been growing. When you look at head and face protection the use of helmet with chin-bars has been a big step forward. Looking at the Leatt DBX 5.0 and 6.0 helmets, the introduction of our 360° turbines is a very significant development for increasing protection. The 360° turbines offer up to 30 per cent reduction of head impact at concussion level, up to 40 per cent reduction of rotational acceleration to head and brain, which improve multiple-impact protection.”
Joern Steffens,
R&D, LEATT

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“The forefront of most industry technologies is happening on a molecular level and cycling is no exception. Viscous elastic foam isn’t necessarily a recent technology as it was originally developed in the ‘60s but advancements in its chemistry have made it much more applicable to multiple facets of cycling protection. In helmets, it has helped us address issues in rotational impacts, lower speed impacts and multiple impacts within the same region by incorporating our Xmatter foam compound for instance. Furthermore we believe that the use of recycled, recyclable and environmentally comfortable materials is going to be an important factor in the future if not today already.”
Pascal Haf,
IXS

“At the high end, the marriage of aero whilst keeping good looks and venting has been a big development. More research in the development from brands like Bontrager is welcome to advance product and keep key brands like Giro on their toes.”
Rory Hitchins,
Marketing and Senior Brand Manager,
Upgrade Bikes, Overade

“BRG Sports have spent years collaborating with the designers behind MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System). The technology was developed by scientists at the Karolinska Hospital and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, with a concept based on 19 years of academic research. Through their own extensive trials, Giro and Bell believe that helmets equipped with this technology may provide an additional measure of protection in some impacts. Though MIPS is not new to the Giro and Bell ranges, the opportunity to introduce this additional safety feature to a wider market is massive for 2016. Both helmet manufacturers have introduced this technology on kid’s helmets starting at £45 and adult helmets starting at £55. Full ranges of MIPS equipped helmets are available from Giro and Bell up to £200-plus.”
Paul Caswell,
Brand Manager,
Zyro,
Bell & Giro

“MIPS technology is proving more and more popular and its inclusion in the Youn-I helmet shows that it is now available across a broader range of helmets and not just the high end. For 2016 ABUS are launching the exciting new Youn-I MIPS youth helmet (£59.99).

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“ABUS also brings the innovative In-Vizz Ascent helmet (£129.99), with its full retractable shock polycarbonate lens that slides in and out of the shell easily.”
Neil Mountain,
Brand Manager,
Zyro, ABUS

“Being Aero is a conversation that has been had with helmets for several years now, so I’ll not cover that, instead point to some big moves this year with cycling helmets developing into ‘smart helmets’. This is moving the usual helmet discussion along from just how many vents a helmet has or how heavy it is, to what else it can do. Lazer is working on this with the addition of Pulse Rate Sensors (by LifeBEAM) and the Lazer Inclination sensor that notifies you if you move out of your ideal aero position. 

"We also have the emergence of the Enduro category with rules there that are requiring some unique products to address them. One of which being a DH certified chin guard which we have developed to work with our new Revolution open face helmet, meaning it can be detached, but when attached it offers the same coverage as a full face helmet and meets the same certification. For downhill racing the UCI have required racers who want to race with a camera attached to their helmet to prove the helmet will still meet the required certification also with the camera on. To my knowledge the Lazer Revolution is the first helmet to have reacted to this and Lazer is certifying their new Revolution helmet both with and without a camera attached to its SMS system (Safety Mounting System).”
Oliver Collins,
Brand Manager at Madison, Lazer

“The most profound and important tech development for helmets has happened years ago in the background, at the heart of our R&D process: Through progress in digital simulation and design tools we are able to find and integrate new technological solutions, which make each helmet model purpose-built for a specific kind of use and therefore superior in terms of safety, ventilation, comfort and weight.

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“For example the Ice Lite Exoskeleton in the Sine Thesis, which is now for the first time made from a luminescent material that makes it glow in the dark; Sine Thesis’ unique construction makes it the most ventilated helmet on the market. Furthermore we are the first bicycle helmet manufacturer integrating D3O inserts into the shell of the Bluegrass Brave to give a superior multi-impact protection. Another outstanding example is the MET Parachute: the lightest, most ventilated helmet with ASTM certification on the market. Its construction was only feasible by our advanced, fully digital R&D process.”
Christopher Muellenhof,
Marketing & PR, Met

What’s the biggest challenge for the helmet market?

“Developing safe and innovative product at a price that consumers find reasonable [is the biggest challenge]. If money was no object I can only imagine what sort of helmet options we’d be seeing.

“Additionally, as riders keep going faster and bigger, designing full-face helmets that meet their needs, while keeping weight down and providing adequate airflow is always a challenge. We work a ton with our riders to meet all their requirements and keep them in a helmet they feel safe and confident in.”
Shaun Ryan,
Director of Product,
One Industries, 661

“For all segments: Finding the right balance between low weight, compact dimensions, ventilation, comfort, maximum protection and of course aesthetics. The most challenging helmets are the ones which shall function uphill and downhill, a good design takes a lot more than just sticking a chin-bar on a cross country helmet.”
Joern Steffens,
R&D, LEATT

“Bringing innovation to the consumer and to the distribution network at reasonable cost. Analysing what’s needed, from the level of protection, using materials that are environmentally friendly and how to physically implement these ideas into a product at an affordable price tag is the key to our development process.”
Pascal Haf,
IXS

“Keeping brands profitable since there is so much competition [is the biggest challenge]. Keeping safety standards for consumers. Upgrade has kept out of the mainstream helmet business as we see it as a well fought battleground. However we work with Overade because their offering is more unique and well placed for the commuter cyclist. There are lots of players who are very much fighting for what is a limited market. The industry needs to push fashion and encourage regular purchases to keep sales I think.

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"There's opportunity for increased awareness in London alongside the Santander bike hire scheme – this is why we work with Overade with its more unique folding/storage approach.”
Rory Hitchins,
Marketing and Senior Brand Manager,
Upgrade Bikes, Overade

“In the sporty market, nearly all cyclists are wearing a helmet. I assume it’s mainly because they see every professional cyclists on TV wearing one. And as the sporty market (inside the cycling market) is not necessarily growing (at least in France), competition between helmet manufacturers of sporty helmets is very important.
When it comes to the commuting market the situation is different. So far, very few commuters were interested in wearing a helmet because sporty helmet or existing helmets were not answering their needs.

"Commuters use their bike as a way of transportation, so their needs and expectations in their bike accessories are different from sporty cyclists. This is why at Overade we made a folding helmet dedicated to commuters, answering their needs for more convenience. Because when we ask commuters why they are not wearing a helmet, 70 per cent of them say it is because wearing a helmet while commuting is not convenient: what do you do with your helmet arriving at work, at the restaurant, etc. “Inconvenience” is the first reason why commuters are not wearing a helmet.

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"In the cycle to work market, potential growth is interesting, with few people equipped so far and a growing market (more people commuting), partly driven by ecological ideas.”
Clément Cailleau,
Sales Manager, Overade

“Today helmets have to serve more than just a protective function. While weight and ventilation have always been important, today aerodynamics is a criterion a new helmet has to meet. As a sporting device a helmet has to help enhance an athlete’s performance, like our MET Manta, which saves you ten Watts at 50 km/h over the best competitor aero road helmet. Its featherweight of only 200 grams and the 360-degree retention system provide plenty of comfort, especially during long rides.”
Christopher Muellenhof,
Marketing & PR, Met

Want to add your opinion? Head to the comments below or email us at BikeBiz@nbmedia.com.

Whether you are a shop, brand, distributor, service provider or something else, BikeBiz is interested in your views. To join the discussion, get in touch at BikeBiz@nbmedia.com.

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