Interview: Jeff Woolf, the maker of Morpher foldable bike helmet
Bike accident can be the most dangerous thing that can happen on the road and accounts for the maximum number of fatalities around the world. A guy, who himself got face-to-face with a dangerous accident decided to make a folding helmet that would protect the head no matter what. And we got the chance to get one-on-one with that intuitive person who is known as Jeff Woolf, the maker of popular Morpher Helmet, specifically designed to secure your head while riding bicycle and comes with light-weight and foldable credentials. So get mingled in this interesting interview with Jeff Woolf who cared to design a bike helmet with amazing protection and portability aspects.
DamnGeeky: What inspires you to make Morpher foldable helmet? Why did you think of making it foldable, is there anything beyond easy portability?
Jeff Woolf: The main reason was the fact that in the survey that I commissioned asked cyclists why they didn’t use a helmet the vast majority (84%) said that it was because they were too cumbersome to carry around all day. Also my daughter (10 at the time) couldn’t fit a helmet into her school rucksack and so didn’t want to ever take it with her – on the occasions that she did she kept losing it as it was one extra thing to carry.
DamnGeeky: What is the material used and how much does it weigh?
Jeff Woolf: The material is mainly EPS (expanded polystyrene) covered in a PC (polycarbonate) shell, as used in all standard helmets. There is the addition of an internal, in-moulded, “cage” which provides the hinging mechanism. This is made of P6 (nylon). There are also side clamps made of ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) and PP (polypropylene). The helmet should weigh under 270 grams.
DamnGeeky: The idea sounds great but folding mechanism has to be well designed. Let us know how you perceive this and how is your design different from other helmets like the Agency 360 with similar functionality?
Jeff Woolf: You’ve obviously done your research ;-). The Agency 360 product, the Overade, is big and chunky even when folded, as is the Carerra and the Pango. None of these solutions end up flat and all just save about 20% to 30% of the original volume, at best. Morpher appears to be the only solution that flattens out the curve shape of a helmet, ensuring that the resulting folded helmet is flat and thus, as simple to store and carry as a folded laptop computer.
DamnGeeky: The main concern is safety. Does your helmet provide as much protection as a standard helmet and how is it going to guard the rider in case of an accident?
Jeff Woolf: Absolutely. I had BSI (The British Standards Institute) involved since day one. It has been designed to exceed all helmet standards and if it doesn’t manage to pass these when manufactured then it simply won’t be possible to sell it as a safety helmet for cyclists. I believe that the nylon cage (mentioned earlier) may even help to spread the direct force of an impact laterally and thus away from a head, meaning that the Morpher helmet affords even greater protection from impacts. We will test this theory as soon as we are in full production.
DamnGeeky: The helmet crashes and destroys itself on an impact, absorbing energy that would otherwise injure the head. How does foldable nature of the helmet affect ability to absorb the impact?
Jeff Woolf: See above. It is designed not to collapse on impact but to be just as strong as a standard helmet. It is a folding helmet, not a collapsing one. Once the side clamps are engaged (ie, when the helmet is opened) the helmet should be as rigid as a standard one. The part that will absorb the shock and be destroyed is the EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) as on any other helmet.
DamnGeeky: Morpher seems to have no protection on the sides. What if wearer falls sideways, how is the impact negotiated?
Jeff Woolf: I am not sure what image has led you to draw this conclusion. Morpher has the required side protection, at least as much as a standard bicycle helmet. The height of this his side protection is laid down in the safety regulations of the various countries where we plan to market Morpher. The requirements differ for the US, Australia, the EC etc. but will all be surpassed by Morpher.
DamnGeeky: The helmet has space for air to travel through vents, head mounted camera or light. This makes it useful for rescue climbers. What do you say?
Jeff Woolf: That is most certainly true. I see many areas where the Morpher folding helmet could be put to great use. Climbing, equestrian sports, kayaking, skiing, skate boarding, snowboarding, kite surfing, roller blading, the military etc. I will try to develop helmets for these areas as soon as we have started production of the cycle helmet.
DamnGeeky: We are expecting the Morpher to hit stands by March 2014. How is the response to your marketing strategy, if any? Who do you think are your prospective buyers?
Jeff Woolf: I think that you should adjust your retail expectations to at least late summer 2014. WE are expecting to be in production by late Spring (if all goes well) but it will then take some time to move from initial production to mass production and distribution to stores. I believe that our prospective buyers are all urban cyclists, whether casual/occasional or regular. As well as some other cyclists. Helmet companies (as licensees). The response to our marketing strategy so far has been phenomenal. Google Morpher or Folding Helmet and see what comes up. Also, we are featured on the home page of Indiegogo… this didn’t happen by accident.