Good aerodynamics are crucial in cycle racing – even on the cyclist’s head. Racing helmets are therefore poorly ventilated and force cyclists to adopt an uncomfortable position. A novel helmet promises a cool head and a relaxed neck despite having good aerodynamic properties. Fractions of a second can be crucial in cycle racing. Even the aerodynamics of the helmet can make the difference between winning and finishing second. Racing helmets worn by professional cyclists are therefore streamlined, with their tip resting on the rider’s back. But the very feature that enhances aerodynamic properties is tiring in the long run. The helmets force the cyclists to hold their heads in a fixed position. If a cyclist lowers his head at some point to give his neck muscles a rest, he creates turbulences that take away some of his momentum. As vents also have a braking effect, racing helmets do not have any – so it quickly gets hot under the helmet. To enable racing cyclists to ride with a relaxed neck and a cool head in future, the Fraunhofer Technology Development Group TEG in Stuttgart has developed the innovative helmet called ‘Movaero’. “It really consists of two helmets inside one another: a protective helmet and an aerodynamic cover,” says Christian Hart, practice leader of sports equipment at the TEG. “They are connected to one another via a hinged joint.” The outer helmet cover is attached to the cyclist’s jersey with a Velcro fastener or a spring mechanism. If the cyclist lowers his head, the inner protective helmet follows his motion, while the outer cover stays where it is and continues to ensure optimum aerodynamics. The cyclist can repeatedly relax his neck muscles during the race without losing speed. Should the helmet not be needed for racing, the aerodynamic cover can be taken off and the inner protective helmet used on its own. An interesting addition is the innovative cooling system: “We have integrated an active cooling system of phase-changing materials in the helmet,” explains Hart. Materials of this kind change their aggregate state from solid to liquid depending on the temperature, and thus prevent heat from building up. The effect is familiar to us from ice cubes in water: despite being heated, the water maintains a temperature of 0 degrees Celsius until all the ice has melted. The same principle applies to the racing helmet. If the cyclist gets a hot head, the materials inside the helmet liquefy and soak up the heat. The temperature remains constant until all the molecules have changed into the liquid aggregate state. The researchers first presented the design prototype of the Movaero cycle racing helmet at the ISPO sports fair.
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