Foldable Bike Helmets, the next big thing in bike travel?!

IMG_0432.JPGIn November, I had a meeting with Mary Catherine, Education and Volunteer Manager at Local Motion to discuss a bike safety program for Driver Education students. During our meeting, she also showed me a helmet that folds up, I was immediately interested so she gave me one to try out. When I told one of my co-works about it, she was suspicious. So as any good 21st century person with access to a computer does, she did some research and found out that the specific helmet Mary Catherine lent me is French so must conform to EU safety standards. Mary Catherine also mentioned to me in a subsequent conversation that all helmets sold in the United States must also meet American safety standards.

The Overade Plixi helmet looks cool, and that is helpful, because, people will use a helmet if it looks good, we are not particularly rational sort about this kind of thing.The helmet comes in black or white (I personally like the black one better). The raison d'être for this helmet is its foldability, hence its ease of storage. Most helmets are awkward to carry around in a backpack or store in a gym locker. This one fits easily in both places. It only takes a few seconds to fold and unfold, although it takes some practice to do it smoothly. 

For some reason, when I am parking my bike at City Market, people come up and talk to me about bicycles. Recently someone asked me about studded winter tires. Last week a man from Montreal came and asked me about my helmet. I was happy to take it off and show him how it folds up. He said he would think about getting one. Demonstrating how the helmet folds is a good way to lead into talking about the importance of wearing a helmet.

There are a number of things that I like about this helmet. The ability to fold it down to a smaller size, the chin strap padding and the fact that the straps don't get twisted. However, there are a couple of things that I think could be done better with this particular helmet design...

Visibility at night is a problem with a black helmet.  The company sells reflecting strips, but they should probably come on the helmet automatically. I put reflecting tape on the one I am trying out to get around this problem but it does seem like an overlooked design attribute. I usually ride with a light mounted to my helmet, however on the Plixi, my light mount doesn't work - I would have to take it off and put it back on every time I folded the helmet - so no light on this helmet for me for the time being.

Like my friend who did some research about the safety of this helmet, I hopped online to learn more about the design and the company who designed it...

Here is some text from the website. The English is correct but not quite right, I am sure it was not translated by a native speaker.

"We think the bicycle has a unique power: turning a long monotonous trip into a sum of splendid discoveries. It opens your eyes up to new horizons. It makes you happy. During these trips, the Plixi helmet protects you. And once you’ve arrived? It disappears! So you won’t have to choose any longer between liberty and safety, we have designed a foldable helmet. And you? Finally, you can take advantage of the city. Obviously, the Plixi protects you. But it is also designed to become your accessory, just like a watch or a handbag. With a resolutely urban design, this contemporary and unisex object matches your various looks, both professional and personal."

Overade is very much a Parisian company, and they sell their helmet as they would any high end accessory. On the website beautiful young women and men wearing elegant clothing, cruise around Paris' streets wearing the helmet. It's currently a little cold to be cruising around in elegant clothing, so until Spring returns, I'll be the guy riding around town with my Plixi helmet over a balaclava and winter hat, dreaming of sunnier days.

Want to learn more? Head on over to the website... (English site) (French site)