The fu­ture of kit: meet the no hear­ing-loss hel­met

An early look at an idea that might just make earplugs when rid­ing a thing of the past

Motorcycle Monthly - - News - Words by: Carli-Ann Smith

This is Louie Am­phlett, a re­cent prod­uct de­sign grad­u­ate from the Univer­sity of Brighton, who says that his rev­o­lu­tion­ary de­sign for a new style of mo­tor­cy­cle hel­met could change bik­ers’ lives for­ever.

“When it came to choos­ing my fi­nal year pro­ject, I de­cided to fo­cus on im­prov­ing rider com­fort and wel­fare. Through that pro­ject I in­ves­ti­gated a few av­enues which might be po­ten­tial prob­lems – I de­cided on hear­ing loss.

“It’s some­thing close to home as my dad suf­fers from it. While it’s as­so­ci­ated with other fac­tors in­clud­ing work­place and fes­ti­vals for the last 30 years or so – rid­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle has con­trib­uted too. I think he started to use hear­ing pro­tec­tion in the late 1990s or so but af­ter that time it’s al­ready had a few decades of dam­age. “Un­for­tu­nately there’s not any surgery that’s pos­si­ble to res­ur­rect the orig­i­nal hear­ing abil­ity – once it’s gone then it’s gone.”

The Lenza One hel­met pro­to­type has three main fea­tures to help pre­vent hear­ing loss – Louie de­cided not to fo­cus on over­all safety as part of his pro­ject due to it be­ing a well-trod­den area of re­search – it’s not just wind noise that had to be con­sid­ered, it’s vi­bra­tions too…

“As wind trav­els over the sur­face of the hel­met it cre­ates ran­dom pres­sure fluc­tu­a­tions on the hel­met, these are vi­bra­tions which are sent di­rectly through the hel­met shell through your skull to your mas­toid bone [one of the most im­por­tant struc­tures in your in­ner ear – not solid and rigid like most bones but is made out of air sacs and re­sem­bles a sponge]. This causes the most sig­nif­i­cant level of dam­age. The hel­met has a sus­pended shell on the top of the shell to try and ab­sorb some of those vi­bra­tions.

“As far as I know, I haven’t found any other hel­mets which fea­ture any tech­nol­ogy which can ac­tu­ally ab­sorb the vi­bra­tions – of course the EPS liner within the hel­met will help ab­sorb some prop­er­ties but there is no in­ten­tional tech­nol­ogy which aims to ab­sorb the wind vi­bra­tion.

“Se­condly, the hel­met has a dim­pled sur­face on the top – like a golf ball – and uses the same tech­nol­ogy. On a golf ball, the dim­ples are used to re­duce drag, on the hel­met, it does the same but it has an added ben­e­fit. As air trav­els over the hel­met, the air breaks away from the sur­face as it cre­ates tur­bu­lent flow – that low pres­sure of tur­bu­lent flow cre­ates noise. The dim­ples en­able the air to stick to the sur­face for longer which re­duces the amount of tur­bu­lence, which in turn re­duces the amount of noise gen­er­ated.

“The third fea­ture is an elon­gated shape – the hel­met isn’t quite as spher­i­cal as a stan­dard hel­met. If you think of per­haps an air­foil of an aero­plane, that’s the ideal aero­dy­namic shape, this hel­met tries to mimic that with a closer rep­re­sen­ta­tion to it than a stan­dard hel­met. De­vel­op­ing the hel­met and mak­ing the pro­to­type has taken up the last four and a half months.”

Just be­cause his de­gree has fin­ished doesn’t mean that Louie’s pro­ject is be­ing put away in a cup­board some­where and never thought about again, he’s got plans.

“I have some more tests planned in the wind tun­nel. I per­formed some pre­lim­i­nary tests and I was able to get some data but the mea­sure­ment meth­ods weren’t that re­li­able so I need to use some more pre­cise mea­sur­ing tech­niques to de­ter­mine the ex­tent that my hel­met can try to re­duce noise but it’s quite a com­plex sys­tem to try and mea­sure and record that data. The univer­sity has a wind tun­nel test fa­cil­ity so I am able to per­form the tests there. I haven’t ap­proached any man­u­fac­tur­ers – yet…”

Louie (far right) says that the golf ball­type dim­ples in the hel­met’s sur­face dis­rupt the air just enough to make rid­ing much qui­eter.

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