The Revolutionary Cycling Helmet Technology More Than 15 Years in the Making


Picture two egg yolks suspended in water, jostling slightly when shaken, but staying intact and relatively fixed in place to represent the closed, sealed system that is your brain and cerebrospinal fluid within a helmet-clad skull. Most linear impacts won’t disrupt the yolks, but an angled hit, which creates a spinning impact, will scramble the yolks, rendering you concussed (or worse).

“Helmets are fantastic at protecting the skull from breaking, but we found space to improve helmets to protect the brain from what it’s most vulnerable to: rotational forces,” says biomechanical engineer Michael Bottlang, Ph.D., directory of the Legacy Biomechanics Lab in Portland, OR. Since 2002, Bottlang’s been working to develop a better helmet, with the help of a research grant from the National Institutes of Health.

From slip liners to honeycomb-style inserts, Bottlang tested a multitude of materials and shapes to see what would move with the brain, as opposed to simply providing a cushion between the head and, say, asphalt. A better material, he thought, would shield brain tissue against damage during quick, twisting impacts, even if there’s no skull fracture.