In search of optimum comfort helmet

The ongoing objective for MAVIC’s helmet design and engineering team is the search for optimum comfort.

One of the keys to obtaining maximum helmet comfort is the reduction of pressure points and areas of discomfort where the helmet comes into contact with the head. The goal is to make a helmet so comfortable that you almost forget you’re wearing it.

1. It all started with a little anatomy….

Before implementing any solutions, MAVIC’s engineers tried to gain a better understanding of the head and analyze its sensitive areas. The surface of the head is traversed by arteries, veins and nerves (Figure 1). There are so many points and areas sensitive to pressure that wearing a helmet can result in a feeling of discomfort.

During long, tough rides, sometimes in extreme weather conditions, these points of discomfort can quickly become very irritating and cause pain or overheating.

In order to allow cyclists to focus solely on their performance, MAVIC’s engineers decided to do everything possible to identify those critical areas of the head.

Figure 1 – Location of the arteries (in red), veins (in blue) and nerves (in yellow).

 

By observing the distribution of arteries, veins and nerves, it’s not hard to imagine that some areas will be more sensitive to pressure than others.

2. Studying areas of discomfort

To compare theory with reality, MAVIC’s engineers developed a means of assessing the head’s sensitive areas. This involved a thin shell fitted with syringes attached to pistons intended to exert localized pressure on the head (Figure 2).

 

 

Figure 2 – Test device with pistons

 

The system was activated by a pneumatic distributor and selection device to make it easy to choose which pistons to activate (Figure 3). For example, this configurable device allowed for the selection of just one side of the head, a single area, or even a single pressure point.

Figure 3 – Pressure distribution device

 

On a sensation scale, the testers could then indicate the level of pressure, discomfort or pain felt by each of the areas under stress (Figure 6). This allowed the engineers to draw up a precise map of the sensitive areas of the head and the intensity of discomfort felt by each tester (Figure 7).

Figure 4 – Location of the pressure areas measured: right hemisphere (PR)

Figure 5 – Location of the pressure areas measured: left hemisphere (PL)

Figure 6 – Rating scale for areas of discomfort

Figure 7 – Discomfort level for pressure areas measured

3. Reducing pressure points

Once the database of sensitive areas had been finalized with a number of testers, the designers and engineers at MAVIC analyzed and took into account this new data when focusing on the areas of the helmet that come into contact with the head. This allowed them to avoid the most sensitive areas as much as possible.

The positioning and shape of the areas of the helmet touching the head were optimized to create the initial helmet design models and CAD studies (Figure 8).

 

 

Figure 8 – CAD study of a MAVIC helmet

 

However, in order to ensure that the helmet fits well laterally and longitudinally when effort is being expended, areas of contact between the helmet and the head are inevitable. The level of pressure felt on these contact areas must therefore be minimized.

The first solution that came to mind for MAVIC’s engineers was to reduce the weight of the helmet as much as possible, which had an immediate effect of reducing pressure on the contact points.

The most telling example in the MAVIC helmet range is the Cosmic Ultimate II (Figure 9) with its low weight of 210 grams in the M size (54-59 cm). There is no compromise on safety, as with its weight of 210 grams this ultralight helmet meets European (CE) and American (CPSC) standards, the latter being the strictest and hardest to achieve.

 

 

Figure 9 – Cosmic Ultimate II Helmet by MAVIC

 

4. Live Fit technology

In order to go even further in the reduction of helmet discomfort areas, the engineers at MAVIC created the LIVE FIT concept.

By inserting LIVE FIT (XRD Poron) urethane foam between the expanded polystyrene shell and the traditional comfort foams (Figure 10), they adapted the contact areas of the helmet to different head shapes as much as possible.

 

 

Figure 10 – Cross-section of the MAVIC Crossmax Pro helmet fitted with LIVE FIT technology

 

The elastic properties of LIVE FIT allow it to comply easily with different head profiles (Figure 11), as well as to return very quickly to its initial state in a way that can be sustained over time. This means there is no loss of elasticity in LIVE FIT foam, even after long rides. The comfort of MAVIC helmets fitted with LIVE FIT technology remains high throughout the life of the product.

Figure 11 – LIVE FIT technology adapts easily to any type of profile

 

The open cell structure of LIVE FIT foam (Figure 12) gives it excellent breathability, which ensures faster drying of the comfort foams positioned between the head and the LIVE FIT foam.

Figure 12 – Open cells of the XRD (LIVE FIT) foam

 

Another important characteristic of LIVE FIT foam is its tremendous capacity to absorb shocks, which also contributes to helmet safety (Figure 13). This type of foam is also used widely in protective equipment for intense contact sports, such as American football.

Figure 13 – Comparison of shock absorption between LIVE FIT foam (right) and classic EVA foam (left)

 

The work of the designers and engineers at MAVIC, combined with the excellent features of LIVE FIT technology, have allowed MAVIC helmets to achieve a new high level of comfort.

 

 

LIVE FIT technology is now used in more than 60% of the MAVIC helmet range through two concepts:

  • LIVE FIT SL for ultralight road helmets from the COSMIC range.
  • LIVE FIT for other helmets in the range (road and mountain bike).