A Minnesota inventor wants you to forget traditional earplugs, and switch over to his new Quiet Ride Helmets design, using active noise canceling.

Noise is the motorcyclist’s constant enemy. Despite much chest-thumping from the “Loud Pipes Save Lives” crowd, studies show that wind noise and engine noise will damage a rider’s hearing over time, and also potentially increase fatigue, making a crash more likely. Most serious motorcyclists realize this, and wear earplugs to reduce the inflight noise.

This is the noise cancellation system that Halfaker adapted into the Shoei helmet. Photo: Quiet Ride Helmets

Inventor Alvin Halfaker says the problem is that earplugs only stop noise from being transmitted directly down the auditory canal of the ear. Noise can also be transmitted through the skull’s bones, causing air trapped behind the earplug to vibrate. Whether or not you believe this is true, there are many bone conduction earphones on the market that are based on this principle.

Halfaker’s design works by sealing an earmuff around the entire ear. The earmuff is built into the helmet’s shell, along with an active noise canceling system. The rider would put on their helmet, then, seal the muffs to their ears with a built-in pump system. Then, they adjust the noise cancellation system with an exterior control box mounted to the side of the helmet, or a handlebar remote (if you spring for the expensive, upgraded version that includes built-in comm system).

Halfaker has done his research. He used a decibel meter connected to a lapel mic to measure in-flight sound reduction.  The blue line here is levels measured with his design, the red line is levels measured without. Photo: Quiet Ride Helmets

The resulting arrangement looks somewhat ungainly, and is far from the sleek, polished repli-racer look that image-obsessed riders so often aim for. But is it a practical solution to a real problem? Digging through Halfaker’s documentation, it’s clear he’s put a lot of thought and work into this, including decibel meter testing (something the helmet makers don’t talk much about). The design seems sound (wait—was that a pun?).

The amount of sound reduction will obviously vary, depending what bike you’re riding, what speed you’re riding, and what helmet the system is installed in. However. if you look at Halfaker’s Kickstarter page, you can see a general trend of reduction to safe hearing levels when riding at speeds around 70 mph (112 km/h). They’ll function above that speed as well, but under OHSA and WHO guidelines, the internal ear decibel rating means riders would be advised to limit their riding time, to avoid over-exposing their ears to noise.

A built-in speaker system comes standard, along with Bluetooth 5.0 compatibility, meaning your mobile device should easily link to the speakers. With no earplugs, in-flight comms and music should be much more enjoyable.

What’s next?

At this point, Halfaker has his helmet design on Kickstarter, where he’s trying to raise funds to go into production. He says he’s willing to travel to China and arrange manufacturing for a complete run of these lids. However, he’s also happy to have an existing helmet manufacturer pick up his design and incorporate it into their line.

For more details on the noise cancellation system, Halfaker’s testing, and his future plans, head over to his Kickstarter page.

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