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1950s Throwback – The Heated Motorcycle Helmet

By General Posts

by Florin Tibu from

Effervescent and lively as the ‘50s have been, that decade was also littered with some of the funniest contraptions aimed at solving some of the most common issues motorists had. And here’s one of the truly crazy ones, the heated motorcycle helmet.

The video comes from a French outlet and this helmet is presented as the “Thermoscaphe”, so we could assume it is a French invention. Its name is a derivation from the term “bathyscaphe”, a manned submersible vehicle for deep-sea exploration that’s still in use nowadays.

Now, we’re not at all sure that the inventor of the thermoscaphe was serious about it, albeit we reckon that most of the wacky innovators back in the day were convinced that their creations were genius. However, the design of this helmet’s hull is indeed useful, as its all-transparent, 360-degree viewing angle acryllic structure provides excellent sight. And we’re not going into the aerodynamics debate, right?

Obviously not designed for high speed, this helmet doesn’t come with a chin strap, even though it has safety thethers. Presumably it didn’t need a Pinlock lens, as the breathing space between its lower edge and the wearer’s body would ventilate the interior well enough to prevent fogging. And of course, you’ve got additional vents all around…

As for the thermal side of this prototype, we had a really good laugh. The heating element is a primitive one, using an alcohol lamp whose flame heats an air duct. The outside air is pushed through this duct by means of a battery-powered fan, and is supposed to become warmer as it flows through the metal tube. It would be interesting to measure the heat difference, though.

The whole heating device is attached to the left side of the helmet, adding even more weird points to this project. We can only hope that at least the lamp was designed in such a way that alcohol would not easily spill when the helmet is tipped, even though it appears to sit freely, without any visible straps to keep in in place. As if a bike crash and zero shock protection wasn’t enough, having your clothes doused in alcohol and catching on fire seems to be a scenario the creator of this helmet didn’t consider at all.

Helmet air conditioning is still a thing today

Still, the idea of having AC inside a motorcycle helmet was not abandoned altogether. From DYI attempts to actual helmets that are on sale today, many riders thought that being able to avoid extreme temperatures inside their lids was a neat thing. Today, we can find AC add-ons that strap to a helmet and provide a flow of cool air when riding in the summer, such as the BlueSnap from BlueArmor. It is indeed bulky and looks rather unnatural, and most likely is very unnerving when riding at high speed, but you can actually get one.

Or you can go even further and pull the trigger on a makeshift AC unit that you can carry as a backpack. It will cool down air sucked from the outside and push it through a tube inside your helmet. Will it do the trick? Probably yes, but this is hardly a solution, at least from a practical standpoint. Going cyborg certainly doesn’t cut it, especially if you’re using the bike for running errands around the city. Just take a look at what using this type of helmet AC is like and you’ll understand.

Honestly, the best solution we found was the Feher ACH-1 helmet. Dubbed the “Mr. Cool” helmet, this lid comes with an air conditioner perfectly integrated in the back of the helmet, looking pretty cool (pun intended) and unobtrusive. This DOT and ECE-approved lid is also on the lightweight side, as it tips the scales at 1,450 grams or 3.2 pounds, which is still lighter than most casual modular helmets out there.

No idea about craftsmanship and wearing comfort, but if keeping a cool head when riding the bike is crucial for you, the Feher ACH-1 sounds like a good buy at $450, also available in sizes XS through 2XL and in no less than five color options.

We here still use water poured on the liner when riding in very hot weather, sometimes considering a custom scarf made of hi-flow material, worn around the neck, and in whose pouch we can add several ice cubes. Melting ice also wets the undergarments and this helps cool the body, too, albeit being a solution a tad too messy for some.

As for the 1957 heated helmet, is DOES bring to mind the Red Bull Flugtag, an event we just can’t have enough of. Please do have your say on the Thermoscaphe, and who knows how much sillier and funnier ideas might pop up.