Origami-like bike helmet folds flat enough to slide in laptop bag
The folding bicycle helmet certainly isn't a new concept, but it's one that seems desperate for a home run design, a helmet that truly combines solid protection with exceptionally convenient, transportable packaging and a style that doesn't look like something DIY-hacked together out of spare pieces of plastic. The Raba helmet from South Korean mobility company Nature Mobility looks like it could be just that design, using a series of pre-folds to pack flat and fit naturally in a backpack or handbag. It then dials into a three-dimensional helmet in a matter of seconds, protecting with a series of hardshell diamonds and triangles.
Like other bicycle helmets, the Raba helmet uses a combination of EPS foam and ABS thermoplastic to provide shock-absorbing protection. Quite unlike those other helmets, it skips the vented-dome shape in favor of a series of small diamond and triangle panels held together by a tarpaulin fabric.
The ribs of the single-piece, flat-folding Raba structure are held together by a BOA-style wire system from South Korean company Windwire. Twisting the Windwire dial tightens the pieces together into a helmet shape in a mere 10 seconds. The Raba helmet conforms to the head and adjusts to a custom fit with the same dial, relying on interior pads for comfort.
The Raba helmet breaks down even more quickly than it twists into shape. The rider simply pulls open the Windwire dial to loosen the cables and fold the entire helmet flat in a second or two. It can then be laid flat in a suitcase or larger shoulder bag, folded in half to fit in a smaller bag, or rolled into a thicker but shorter package for storage in a small pack or bicycle cargo basket. Raba designers say the helmet shrinks down to just over a third of its original volume when folded.
We're not sure we'd immediately call the Raba helmet "fashionable," the way Nature Mobility does, but it certainly has a distinctive, purposeful style that could be readily matched into a fashion statement. We prefer it over many of the clunkier collapsible helmet designs (like this weird half-orb) we've seen in the past.
Being mountain bikers at heart, we have trouble looking at a design like this one without thinking about the weakness of the tarpaulin joints between hard panels, something that could create dangerous exposure during a fall that results in an impact with pointy, jagged rocks or tree branches. But the Raba is designed for personal mobility and urban transport, where impacts are more likely to be with flatter, smoother surfaces. Nature Mobility says it tested 60 different prototypes to identify the best-performing materials for the helmet's specific combination of head protection and portability.
Similarly, the small ventilation holes wouldn't work as well for hot-weather road cycling or mountain biking, but for more casual urban commuting, quite likely to include some form of electric assistance, they should be ample.
The Raba helmet took home a 2022 Red Dot Award and was also a finalist for a 2022 IDEA Award, according to Nature Mobility. It's not clear if or when it might hit the market, but Nature Mobility says that it has been certified for various helmet safety standards. It appears a very viable, polished product.
Source: Nature Mobility