PHOTOGRAPH BY JONATHON KAMBOURIS 16 FASTCOMPANY.COM MAY 2019
For decades, bike helmets have been primarily designed to prevent one thing: skull fractures.
Most products are made with EPS foam, the same material used in beer coolers, which simply cushions
the head upon impact. But with increasing attention being paid to concussions and other traumatic
brain injuries (due, in part, to pro football), finding ways to protect what’s within the skull is becoming top of mind. The new Wavecel Bontrager helmet from Trek Bikes, a leading cycling-gear company
based in Waterloo, Wisconsin, is composed of a hard plastic shell lined with a weblike layer of moldable plastic. In the event of a crash, the collapsible lining flexes and then crumples, in a similar way
to the crumple zone of a car, to absorb and redirect energy away from the rider’s head and theoretically prevent a concussion. “This is a drastic change in the way helmets are constructed,” says Trek
Bikes engineering supervisor Tony White. The technology was originally developed by an orthopedic
surgeon, Dr. Steve Madey, and a biomechanical engineer, Michael Bottlang, with funding from the
National Institutes of Health; they worked with Trek Bikes to bring it to market.
HELMET OFFERS A
NOVEL WAY TO
BY YASMIN GAGNE
A Closer Look
Here’s how the
helmet works to
prevent a concussion.
The cells, structured
flex to minimize the
force of the impact.
The cells buckle
The cells slide, moving
energy away from the
head and redirecting it.