Kicking it Up a Notch with Next Gen Materials

Making helmets is similar to cooking a fine meal. The ingredients matter - a lot. For the KAV bike helmet, fabricating a more protective, more durable, and lighter helmet would require a material that didn't exist yet. We knew this because we had tested everything from traditional foams to impact nylons. They all fell short in weight, energy absorption or temperature stability. What we wanted was the resilience and energy absorbing qualities of a running shoe sole, yet the strength and rigidity of a carbon fiber frame. Turns out, those are good places to start.

Like our industry-leading hockey helmet, we started with thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). It's great for the realities of a multi-impact sport like hockey and worth every penny in expense (read more on our previous blog). For cycling, we needed to optimize for weight and singular high-velocity impacts against rocks and curbs (what's known as the hemi and curbstone tests respectively). So we looked for the running market for inspiration and saw that certain TPUs were used successfully in the Adidas Boost line of shoes. Light and resilient, it checked all the boxes. Unfortunately, while it absorbs energy well, it's a little too soft to use alone.

To resolve this we mix carbon fiber into our helmets that increases the modulus of the material to stiffen it further. But that's just the start, we mixed variations of the material, tested every one of them not only for their mechanical properties but in real-world impacts. A couple of tests include:
  • Standard ASTM impact tests used for CSPC certification
  • Impacts at -30C (ASTM stops at -15C, you can blame it on our hockey heritage)
  • Tensile tests
  • Conditioned tests
  • High-temperature tests

All and all hundreds of tests were conducted before we even started using the material in either our hockey or bike helmets.

After over a year of development, we've created a material that's:
  • 20% Lighter
  • Maintains its impact absorbing properties down to -30C
  • Resistant to common chemicals and solvents
  • Doesn't absorb sweat or odors
  • Formulated for 3D printing for use in custom-fit helmets

The only downside is that it costs 100x more than EPS foam, but we think it's worth using a one-of-a-kind material to fabricate your one-of-a-kind helmet. And for you hockey fans - yes you'll be seeing the benefits of this too! Seems only fair since the bike helmet borrowed so much from hockey.