Bicycles

Shape-shifting bike helmet tunes its aerodynamics on the fly

Shape-shifting bike helmet tun...
Called Dynaero, a new smart bike helmet opens and closes its vents for a balance of ventilation and aerodynamics
Called Dynaero, a new smart bike helmet opens and closes its vents for a balance of ventilation and aerodynamics
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Called Dynaero, a new smart bike helmet opens and closes its vents for a balance of ventilation and aerodynamics
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Called Dynaero, a new smart bike helmet opens and closes its vents for a balance of ventilation and aerodynamics
Dynaero uses Bluetooth to hook up to computers and sensors embedded in a bike or a smartphone
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Dynaero uses Bluetooth to hook up to computers and sensors embedded in a bike or a smartphone
The Dynaero bike helmet is very much in the early stages, but the researcher has produced a 3D-printed prototype and tested it out in a wind tunnel alongside commercial helmets
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The Dynaero bike helmet is very much in the early stages, but the researcher has produced a 3D-printed prototype and tested it out in a wind tunnel alongside commercial helmets

At the top end of a sport like cycling, every tiny advantage can make all the difference, whether it’s saving a gram on an ultralight bottle cage or tweaking a pedal stroke for that little bit more power. Similarly, a helmet designed for maximum ventilation won’t be the best in terms of aerodynamics, but an Australian researcher is working on a dynamic version that could offer cyclists both, by changing shape at different stages of a race.

“Most helmets are static products and don’t change to suit the race conditions,” says Dr James Novak, a research fellow at Deakin University's School of Engineering. “Specialist time trial helmets are designed with almost no ventilation to minimize drag forces but, as a result, they can only be worn for short periods before the athlete risks overheating. In races like the Tour de France, where each stage lasts four to six hours, helmets have to strike a balance between aerodynamic performance and ventilation; they are not optimized for either extreme.”

In pursuit of a helmet that can offer cyclists both some ventilation when the heat is on and optimum aerodynamics when they’re making a breakaway, Novak has designed a 3D-printed helmet that opens its vents only when needed. Called Dynaero, it uses Bluetooth to hook up to computers and sensors embedded in the bike or a smartphone. From there, it can open or close the vents in response to changes in temperature, speed or other conditions.

Dynaero uses Bluetooth to hook up to computers and sensors embedded in a bike or a smartphone
Dynaero uses Bluetooth to hook up to computers and sensors embedded in a bike or a smartphone

“It features an Arduino Uno, Bluetooth sensor, micro servo and a custom-built mobile phone application that uses a built-in accelerometer to determine speed, controlling the opening of the vents,” explains Novak. “Future versions of the helmet will also be connected to a range of cycling and wearable sensors.”

Novak’s project is very much in the early stages, but he has produced a 3D-printed prototype and tested it out in a wind tunnel alongside commercial helmets. Such a helmet wouldn’t be allowed under current cycling regulations, but the engineer says the helmet is generating a bit of interest and hopes that further down the track it could get the green tick to find a home in the peloton.

The Dynaero bike helmet is very much in the early stages, but the researcher has produced a 3D-printed prototype and tested it out in a wind tunnel alongside commercial helmets
The Dynaero bike helmet is very much in the early stages, but the researcher has produced a 3D-printed prototype and tested it out in a wind tunnel alongside commercial helmets

“The Dynaero is a highly responsive helmet and will close ventilation during fast down-hill descents or finish line sprints, potentially maximizing the cyclist’s aerodynamic performance by 3.7 percent,” he says. “When aerodynamics are less critical, such as during slow hill climbs, the vents open to increase airflow and keep the cyclist cool. In this way, both the performance and health of the cyclist are improved through intelligent design.”

Source: Deakin University

5 comments
Agnes Dall
This is so cool!
paul314
Ultimately it would be great to accomplish this with some kind of shape-shifting temperature-sensitive materials so that you could get rid of the servo and the electronics. Might actually have better control as well.
moreover
Would it not be simpler to build a fan and exhaust into the helmet and mostly or completely do away with vent slots?
PAV
I did not read of any temperature sensor being incorporated. That would seem helpful. I like paul314's idea. It would eliminate complexity and some weight
TomWatson
Great. Please build in the following: A visor that retracts into the helmet (like my Rock Bros. helmet, love it!). In that visor please have a screen that connects to a rear-view camera. Also please include a 750 to 1000 (preferable) lumen helmet light (rechargeable) imbedded into the front of the helmet. Also please include a chin strap cover that does not rot away in a few months. Please have this available in 2020 for about $200. Thank You.