Is Cardboard the Future of Bicycle Helmets?

kranium cardboard bicycle helmet
Found via London Cyclist, design student Anirudha Surabhi has created a helmet that’s four times stronger than conventional helmets…and lighter! What’s his secret? Corrugated cardboard.

The design is called Kranium has reportedly already been licensed to many of the major manufacturers and should be available soon (we’re guessing in Europe, anyway). The cardboard is combined with a waterproof acrylic to make it sweat and waterproof, which makes it less likely that you can successfully cut and make your own. Instead, they’ll measure your noggin, cut it out to fit, then you pick out the candy-coated shell of your choice so you won’t look like a vagrant riding a stolen bike.

Impact test video comparison (Quick, Giro, look over there!) and another pic after the break…

Kranium cardboard bicycle helmet



Chris Jensen - 06/07/11 - 10:47am

the next trick will be making vents that will work. but, if i can get a lower-profile helmet for my giant head that is lighter, i’ll be buying two or three.

Glen - 06/07/11 - 10:57am

Putting a pillow around your head will lower the Gs on impact, but that doesn’t make it a better helmet.

Max - 06/07/11 - 11:34am

As fully described in Cycling Active April 2011 issue, published March 24

andy - 06/07/11 - 11:39am

Yeah, uhhhh hopefully you land directly on the top of your head so that the cardboard can equally distribute the impact…i would love to see a front or side impact and crunch there goes your dome

Rick Vosper - 06/07/11 - 11:51am

It’s an really interesting concept– although I had a similar idea about ten years ago and an engineer explained why I was full of baloney– but the testing is irrelevant.

Until it’s tested on the full required-by-law ANSI or EU protocols, all strength claims are worthless. Heck, I can make a helmet out of steel that’s a lot “stronger” than any existing model, but you wouldn’t want to wear it in a crash. The ANSI protocol is easy enough to set up, and the EU is much easier to pass.

Anil - 06/07/11 - 12:04pm

You gotta hope it doesn’t rain

Adam - 06/07/11 - 12:37pm

Interesting idea. The cardboard is a lot softer than the foam, so it deforms more. However, I see a few potential problems

1) Not omnidirectional. Performance will depend greatly on the angle it’s hit at
2) Probably not very stiff. It’d be easy to damage in regular use, or just by throwing it into a bag.
3) Fit. In order to get a roc-lock type fit, as on bell helmets, you’d have to put a lot os stress on areas that couldn’t take it. Also, notice how the giro in the video heald the head securly, but on the cardboard helmet the head rebounded all the way out of the helmet
4) Difficult not to rip or deform the cardboard at attachment points
5) Ugly

I could see these being $20 helmets for kids or if you forgot yours, but I just don’t see them holding up. Also, similar results could be achieved by having an inner, softer layer in conventional helmets, or by adding soft, deformable ribs on the outside protected by a hard but thin plastic shell. If they get crushed, the helmet still isn’t ruined.

gillis - 06/07/11 - 1:57pm

The way I see it, the Giro shattered displacing the impact the way it is supposed to. The cardboard version just compressed. I don’t necessarily see that as better. Not to mention the cardboard helmet would be much hotter with that shell on.

I could see this as a good alternative for kids or countries that can’t afford a helmet like a Giro or Bell.

Varaxis - 06/07/11 - 2:28pm

Interesting. It shows that it absorbed more impact too, since it didn’t bounce as high. Put a shell on it to better distribute forces and deflect and it’d do better. Looks a little bulky, but since it’s being styled as a skate lid and not a road helmet, that’s alright. Should make for a really light helmet. I wonder what kind of interior it’ll have, an interior with just padding or maybe a suspension fit system (like kevlar helmets).

I’ve heard of foam helmets helping kids survive having their heads run over. I doubt this would do that though, so I still see foam helmets still taking bulk market share. Would be interesting if this becomes appealing enough in terms of price, style, and usefulness to take market share.

I can see it already. This may produce a wave of helmets made of all sort of renewable organic/renewable materials, such as recycled bottles, old fabrics woven into some linen, or whatever. Would be like how Styrofoam is being replaced by other materials in packaging nowadays.

Varaxis - 06/07/11 - 2:31pm

^ lightest helmet in the world! Made from bladders filled with helium! Can be refilled with regular air. pre-ride checklist: check air in tires and helmet. LOL.

The Dude - 06/07/11 - 3:45pm

Genius! I smell a conspiracy to kill off the hipsters. Unsafe helmet that only hipsters will buy, when it fails… who will care! I envision the Guiness guys going BRILLIANT right about now.

Robin - 06/07/11 - 3:54pm

The test video is BS. The test done in a configuration wherein the head test forms were not mechanically connected to the shell (i.e., with straps). Uhm, this isn’t how tests are done, and more importantly this is not reflective of any real situation. This is as useful as the video that some lame bicycle company put out wherein they run over a bike frame tube (or a tube that might be used in a frame) with a truck, all to show, apparently how that tube’s best for cycling. Such a videos are other put together by people ignorant of valid testing methods; by cynical people looking to bamboozle what they perceive as a largely scientifically ignorant public bereft of critical thinking skills; or by marketeers flying their BS freak flag.

It’s pretty interesting that the article’s author didn’t have the insight, knowledge, or critical thought skills to make comment about the testing. Heck, the last thing the public wants is a “journalist” showing knowledge or the ability to think critically.

ELG - 06/07/11 - 4:08pm

Last time I checked, my whole body is attached to my head.

cardboard is softer, so it makes sense that it would cusion a light load better. put full bodyweight behind it and it will blow through its ‘travel’ and youre hitting your head directly on the concrete

Rich - 06/07/11 - 4:10pm

Oh, Yay! Robin’s back! Quick, let’s get angry about stupid shit on the internet!

Chipollini - 06/08/11 - 3:00am

@gillies bell helmets and giro are the same… Bell Sports owns Giro, the Giro branded helmets are bell helmets with different names and themes… You pay more for the giro logo. If you compare both brands line up you will see the same helmets. It’s like Dodge and Chrysler – same vehicles different trim and price.
Check this out
Giro Xar msrp 130$ vs Bell influx —- same helmet, different color, and a few vestigial cosmetic changes

Chipollini - 06/08/11 - 3:02am

Oh, and the influx is 65$….

erik - 06/08/11 - 8:52am

@ chipollini. untrue. the bell helmets are rounder and the giro helmets are more oblong I sell both and I have seen first hand how the “same model” in the same size fits differently. they are the same company but the helmets fit different head shapes for instance asians usually prefer the bells In my experience due to their shape.

it is also true that bell extends to a lower price point and giro, a higher price…. they are similar to diamond back and raleigh some bikes are very similar but each bike fits its own entity. an each range is different.

Gillis - 06/08/11 - 10:27am

@chipollini & erik
Your comments are irrelevant to this product or the conversation. All I was implying is that this cardboard helmet might be a good, inexpensive alternative for those who cannot afford a traditional foam helmets/plastic shelled helmets.

Skronglite - 06/13/11 - 3:39pm

Cardboard….not waterproof.

bebemahal - 12/01/11 - 7:44am

with all its potential flaws, the designer should have just gave the design for free… its like trying to cash in on a not so perfect product and just hyping it up with marketing strategies. with all things said…i still think its cool!!!

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