But here's the thing: Helmets are 88 percent effective in mitigating head and brain injuries; there's no excuse not to wear one every time. Finding one that's convenient and fashionable, however, hasn't always been easy.
I don't live in the city anymore, but I do have a number of friends and family who are brave enough to ride a bike on the busiest streets in the world. The gift I'm giving them this year is one I wish I had a few years back: the Fend Helmet ($119), a foldable bike helmet that makes you want to wear one.
Unlike other bike helmets which are fixed and clunky, the Fend foldable bike helmet collapses into itself, folding the entire helmet down by 50 percent of its original size. This allows it to fit in backpacks, messenger bags, gym totes, purses—whatever you're carrying with you on your ride. It also means it's sleeker and less chunky on your head than traditional helmets, thanks to its streamlined design and adjustable fit.
"When designing the helmet, it needed to be something that we'd say, 'Hey, this is actually something I want to wear, it's something that fits my lifestyle and is just part of the process of riding a bike'—it's not supposed to be this clunky thing you have to have," says Christian Von Heifner, co-founder of Fend.
Looks aside, convenience and safety were the two primary sources of inspiration behind the helmet's conception. Von Heifner and his co-founder, Sujene Kong, are two avid cyclists who live in New York City—like me, neither could find a helmet they wanted to wear. When Von Heifner was involved in a serious cycling accident sans helmet, the two realized something needed to change. So, they put their heads together—Von Heifner with his background in mechanical engineering, Kong with her background in fashion merchandising—and set out to create the helmet people actually want to wear, and could easily carry with them to do so.
"Our target customer is that city commuter," says Kong. "Some of the feedback that we've gotten is that it's super easy to carry around, the customers really love the design, how compact it is. You can fit a few in your backpack versus if you ever try to fit a normal helmet in your backpack with anything else, it doesn't fit."
The Fend foldable helmet collapses when not in use without compromising safety. It's US CPCS and EN-1078 certified for bikes, skateboards, and motorized vehicles up to 20mph. Von Heifner explains in order to meet these requirements, the helmet underwent meticulous testing through various conditions to protect the consumers (including an anvil drop on the helmet akin to something out of an episode of Looney Toons). The final style incorporates only the best of the best safety elements, including a durable, polymer shell that's filled with an impact absorbing core, an adjustable dial and padding for a customized fit, and reflective stickers for night-riding, which are included in every purchase.
"That CPSC certification is really what we focused on. Not to just pass it, but to exceed those standards," says Kong. "We wanted to make sure it was a safe, reliable product."
A product like Fend could be beneficial for the cycling community, according to Cory Epstein, director of communications for Transportation Alternatives. For more than 50 years, Transportation Alternatives has advocated for safer streets in New York City. Epstein says bike helmets help, but they aren't a cure-all—the solution comes from safer streets and protective infrastructure, like designated bike lanes. But he does think a product like Fend could get people to wear more helmets, especially from a convenience standpoint.
"I do think a product that's slimmer and more convenient for people who want to cycle a lot or who might not want to lug something around so much every day," he says. "It could be a game-changer."
Well+Good senior editor Jamie Thilman has been wearing a Fend helmet on rides throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan for several months now. "It's even better than I thought it would be," he says. "I do a lot of 'hybrid trips,' meaning I'll ride a CitiBike to the subway station to shorten my commuting time, and it's great for those 10-minute rides after which I can break it down and stash it in the canvas tote I'm likely carrying anyway. But it's comfortable enough for a long trip up the Hudson River Greenway, too."
You might even say wearing a Fend foldable bike helmet is a no-brainer.
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