Photokina 2014 highlights

Rockwell bike helmets protect your dome with bean bags

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February 12, 2014

The Vaco12 tech uses bead-filled pods to dissipate impact forces

The Vaco12 tech uses bead-filled pods to dissipate impact forces

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Hard plastic-coated foam is the traditional recipe for bicycle helmet design, but we've seen designers experimenting with new ways of protecting the rider's noggin. Inflatable and cardboard helmets are just two recent examples, but German company Rockwell has another idea: bean bags.

Although we've seen Vaco12 technology used in ski helmets in the past, Rockwell helmets are the first we've seen that bring it to bike helmets. You can read more about Vaco12 technology in our more detailed spotlight, but the short of it is that it uses pods of beads to spread impact energy in many directions. That's in contrast to foam, which absorbs energy up to a point, after which energy can find its way through to your head in a direct, linear path.

An illustration of how Vaco12 beads disperse impact energy

In addition to its absorption advantage claims, Vaco12 conforms more closely to the head than hard, stiff foam. The individual bean bags conform to the shape of the cyclist's head to provide a closer, more comfortable fit. Rockwell also says the Vaco12-based design uses less material than traditional bike helmets and offers more flexibility. Our quick look at the helmets confirmed that they seem sleeker than other bike helmets, but we didn't get to compare them "head to head" with competitor helmets.

In addition to the inner Vaco12 layer, Rockwell's helmet has a hard outer shell and a textile softshell sandwiched in the middle. Rockwell says the head is able to breathe comfortably through the softshell mid layer, even on hot days, thanks to the spaces between the bead pods inside. We'd be curious to know just how well the design breathes, as this is a common issue with bike helmets in general and seems like it could be a disadvantage of this design.

The outer shell secures over top the textile mid-layer

Rockwell told us its helmets are primarily aimed at urban cyclists but could also be used for mountain biking. It is currently working to begin production and plans to get the helmets to market in time for the Northern summer or fall. They will come in a variety of color combinations, with prices landing between €110 and €140 (US$150 to $190)

Source: Rockwell

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work.   All articles by C.C. Weiss
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3 Comments

Nothing new there - we used small bean bags as kids as body/head protection when playing rough games. For example as knee protectors when doing silly (read painful if it goes wrong) things with our bikes!

Brian M
13th February, 2014 @ 03:21 am PST

Sooner those old polystyrene buckets are taken off the circulation the better! But many poor cyclists ride with unsafe helmets!

I have seen many cyclist here in New Zealand and Australia wearing dangerous helmets which may cause broken neck!

I mean those helmets which used to have a thin plastic layer on top of the polystyrene.

Since the plastic cover has come off this means that, on impact with any surface, the helmet sticks instead of sliding away with the head and rest of the body!

That can cause neck injury and quadriplegic paralysis!

If you do not believe me try sliding an old bare polystyrene helmet on road surface?

Kääriäinen Heikki Haykey
13th February, 2014 @ 12:40 pm PST

Haykey Kaariainen,

I've seen people like you promulgating this kind of FUD before. Please cite even one report from any reputable source of anyone suffering "neck injury and quadriplegic paralysis."

Gadgeteer
13th February, 2014 @ 04:37 pm PST
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