Tatoo Helmet is Lightweight and Low Cost. But Does It Work?

Tatoo bicycle helmet flat photo

Julien Bergignat
and Patrice Mouille have designed a new kind of bicycle helmet that folds flat. They wanted it to be simple to make with rapid assembly and low cost. They also suggest that being flat facilitates transport and storage. "This bike helmet is very light and airy because it does not consist of a single block but in a multitude of small cushions that can bend and reduce the material used for its manufacture."

But does it work?

Tatoo, Bicycle Helmet from Opton on Vimeo.

In Abitare the designers explain how it works, suggesting that the expanded polypropylene blocks have very high absorption power. They also suggest that current bicycle helmets are "embarrassing" and not very easy to carry. With Tatoo, "once the person has finished with his bike, he may put the helmet flat and store it in his bag!"

Tatoo bicycle helmet personwearing photo

I look at this thing and really wonder if it is any better than no helmet at all.

According to Granta Material Intelligence, the point of the helmet is to "redistribute a localised external force over a larger area, reducing the local stress on the skull. Second, it sets an upper limit to the magnitude of this distributed force, as determined by the plateau-stress of the foam." All those separate little blocks are not redistributing anything.

drop test bicycle helmet photo

Secondly, it is supposed to be strong enough to withstand a 2 meter drop of a 5Kg anvil.

bicycle helmet slide photo

Thirdly, it is supposed to be smooth so that it can slide, so it can't stick and jerk your neck. "In a crash you want an interface with the road that is smooth, hard, round and slick."

Why am I raising this issue? Perhaps because I took umbrage at the designers calling regular helmets "embarrassing." I have become convinced by Copenhagenize and others who make the point that promotion of helmets "implicitly shifts responsibility of care to the cyclist" instead of the cars. I really do get their point now, and wrote that here. But I wear one, I can also slip on ice or hit a streetcar track, and then the responsibility of care is mine. For a designer to call a helmet "embarrassing" and then design one that is no less embarrassing and is probably ineffective serves no one.

North America isn't Amsterdam or Copenhagen; people shoot cyclists and ram them with their cars. Really, as my editor succinctly put it, "embrace the f*ckin helmet ppl - its not that big of a deal"- and if you are going to wear one, get one that works.

See also:
Do Bicycle Helmet Laws Do More Harm Than Good?