Originally designed as a collapsible helmet, the real appeal of the Hedkayse is that it can withstand multiple impacts and still be safe to use. At this point we feel obliged to make some sort of reference to Iain O’Brien’s ability to withstand multiple impacts during his previous career as an international cricketer.
O’Brien played 36 matches for New Zealand and bizarrely there is a link that at least partly explains how he came to be co-managing director of a firm that will officially launch its multi-impact helmet in the spring.
A pace bowler who admits to having been “pretty bad with bat in hand,” O’Brien developed an understandable enthusiasm for protective equipment that led him to fashion his own chest guard using a Swiss army knife “and some MacGyver skills.”
“If I got hit, I wouldn't be able to bowl, and if I couldn't bowl, I couldn't work,” he told road.cc. “So I took protection seriously.”
He also developed and marketed underwear that would hold a cricket box in place better than any other and so give better protection from that kind of impact. “Personal experience drove demand,” he explained (road.cc decided against pressing him for further details on that one).
And so, somewhat indirectly, to cycle helmets.
O’Brien lives in Matlock, where his wife is from, and often heads out for rides in the Peak District – these days on an e-mountain bike.
“Black Rocks and surrounds is where I get mocked for having an engine on my bike and being so slow down the downhills,” he said.
Not so slow that he avoids crashing though, it seems.
“A cycling helmet that I can crash in, and not have to go and buy a new one – let alone worry about the ride home and having an unsafe helmet – absolutely made sense,” he told us.
“This was a situation that I had been in a couple of times – once just past halfway on a road bike ride and early in a day outing on my MTB.
“The rest of the ride I had a helmet that had a crack in it. That was of some concern. Especially as I am prone to falling off. And then the ‘why hasn't this been done yet?’ question hit me.”
After a bit of googling, O’Brien found out that not only had this been done, but he already knew one of the people involved – George Fox – who used to make his thigh pads for cricket.
O’Brien was at the time working for a major helmet manufacturer and he tried and failed to persuade Hedkayse to shift production to a factory he was involved with in China. They weren’t keen, but when that particular job came to an end, they asked him to run their sales and distribution and he jumped at the chance.
We first covered Hedkayse in 2015 at a time when the firm was looking for funding via Indiegogo and were interested to know whether the helmet has changed much since then?
It’s the same, but different, according to O’Brien.“After some serious testing, we realised that due to the ‘hot drop test’ (where the helmet is heated to 50 degrees and then dropped on a kerb) we would have to make some material changes.
“To do this the helmet blew out to 750grms. It looked good – good colours, good options for personalising – but when we were doing our beta testing we quickly realised it was too heavy and, thus uncomfortable to too many. It also didn't fold anywhere near as much as we wanted it to, so it was back to the fabric drawing board.
“Since then we've shed 300grms, improved its outer friction (reduced it – it's more slippy versus the ground), made it fit better, and have a 450grm foldable helmet which is almost indestructible.”
To demonstrate the helmet’s resilience, the firm has produced videos of the helmet being squashed by a car, thrown off a cliff and jumped on.
O’Brien says that plans to reduce the weight further are in the pipe line, “but this helmet isn't about marginal gains, it's about commuting, it's about urban riding, it's about hitting the hills and knowing you've got a safe helmet.”
Production of the Hedkayse One is now underway and it'll be available from the spring – you can place an order via the website. We’ll have a review up soon.