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Did you notice anything odd about the Troy Lee Designs D3 helmet Cam Zink wore during his historic run at Rampage? What on earth were the funky things attached to it? Turns out it's something that could have saved his life if (that's a big if) the Sender backflip had gone wrong.

Cam Zink's prototype Troy Lee Designs D3 as seen at Rampage 2013. - Photo by Stikman // TLD

Curious, we reached out to Troy Lee to get the scoop, and Craig "Stikman" Glaspell filled us in:

Zink’s lid was to test, and luckily he did not have to do real world testing on it. Troy Lee is incessantly concerned for our riders' safety. When we were doing some runs in Whistler during Crankworx, he saw someone crash on the slopestyle course and hit their head, like he has seen many times, which has resulted in the industry standard in safe full-face and trail helmets like the D2, D3 and A1… but this time he wanted to try something more. He said to me "You’re going to think I am crazy, but I want to put an extra layer of EPS on the outside of Zink’s helmet. They are starting to do it in auto racing and currently it's only good for one big impact, but the data shows a huge increase in impact absorbtion. There has to be a way to make it look cool…" I responded with "Yeah, you are crazy" and we went about our day shredding the park (as well as two old dudes can shred).

When we got back to the shop, Troy and Mike David (our resident mad scientist) started tinkering around, talking to the indy and F1 guys that Troy knows, and made some mockups of some strategically placed EPS shaped with TLD styling. We tried a few different applications, sent some to testing and found it to be pretty amazing.

Photo by Ian Collins // Vital MTB

I will admit, it was a really strange dynamic to hand a helmet over to Zink with the intention of extra crash protection, "Here ya go buddy, you are probably gonna crash, so here is a helmet made just for you." But listen, we all know what they are doing at Rampage is the most dangerous bike riding on the planet, or on any planet, so why not? Zink was unable to ride much during the practice days as he was in the hospital with that leg/hip injury, so he opted to just run the prototype D3 in the finals, but it clearly gave him the confidence to attempt and land the worlds biggest backflip.

We are currently working on some samples that could see production that could possibly last through more than one impact, so stay posted to what we are up to. Troy and the design team have always pushed the boundaries and Troy loses sleep at night with an unending pursuit to keep riders safe - it is his life mission, and I admire him like hell for that.

I heard Zink was telling everyone, "It’s like wearing two D3 helmets, so it's like a D6." Haha.

That wasn't all Cam was wearing, though. We also got a preview of some 2014 gear that's in the works. - Photo by Stikman // TLD

Rampage viewers also got a sneak peak of one our brand new 2014 Sprint racewear colorways, with an entirely new pant we have created for MTB racing, BMX and Freeride. The new sprint pant is about half a pound lighter than our previous pant, has been designed specifically for bicycle riding and will be available in February 2014. Stay posted for a complete launch of the 2014 lineup in January 2014.

So there you have it - further innovation from Troy Lee Designs. What are your thoughts about the strategically placed layers of EPS? How about the looks of the new prototype?

Stay up to date with their latest by following them on Facebook or watching the TLD website.

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bturman bturman 10/16/2013 10:09 AM

23 comments newest first

If you look carefully he also has eps on the sides of the helmet. I think this a great idea first it has the advantage of being not as bulky as moto keeping the d3 breathable and light I was think as the foam only absorbs once maybe they could use d3o instead .
Also it would be cool if troylee used some d3o in their lineup

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He couldnt do a moto helmet with more padding on the inside because he would have two impacts. the initial hitting the ground, and then his head hitting the helmet when the soft liner on the inside is compressed all the way. With the eps liner on the outside, the initial impact would be lessened and his head wouldnt move as much in the helmet with the regular lining. They do it to cut back on traumatic brain injuries.

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No comment on the helmet as I'll never be able to afford a Troy Lee. But I showed that video to my very polite mother and got a "Holy F#cking Sh!t." out of her.

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That probably added negligible weight as opposed to a larger shell with more padding. I wouldn't want the soft padding on the outside for fear of it grabbing the ground though!

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Grabbing? I doubt they would give him a helmet with such an absurd risk, haha.

That's a cool idea but why isn't there one at the back of the helmet? That seems to be a pretty frequent place to hit like the side of your head.

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Why not just run a larger shell helmet, moto style, and put the extra foam on the inside... I don't really get what bennefit you get from it being on the outside other than you can retroactively add more protection.

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Sounds like Mtn Bike Helmet Maker propaganda to me. The type of impact is not that different at all.

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The type of impact no, the speed and force of the impact yes. Generally moto's will be travelling faster so the foam has to be harder so that way it doesn't compress too fast. Where as on a bike you'll generally be going slower, so the foam is slightly softer to allow for compression to still occur to help slow down your head. If you're using a moto helmet though, the foam is unlikely to compress on the majority of crashes resulting in little to no positive use of the helmet.

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You don't have to offer an entire new line of helmets that are bulkier. You can just slap on the added foam when you're about to get rowdy.

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Yes, please please please make some helmets that protect better with some thicker EPS foam. The smarter ones of us know that an extra 200g isn't going to affect our riding ability. Nor do we care if it doesn't look "cool".

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I actually think we do care if we look cool or not. Otherwise, we wouldn't be shelling out loads of money on good looking gear.

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I haven't seen this helmet up close but biggest concern with putting foam of any other soft material on the outside of the helmet is the increased risk of neck injury. This has been talked about in football helmet development. While the extra layer of material on the outside will without a doubt help absorb direct impacts, it can also get caught on things and increase rotational forces on the head. Think about going over the bar and sliding down the hill. Often your head just glides right along on the hard shell of your helmet. Add in a softer outside layer and all of a sudden your head may be getting caught on the rough ground as you slide, possibly leading to neck.spine injuries. Same as football. Part of how the helmet works is that the none direct blows glance off each other.

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I was REALLY surprised at the lack of neck braces at Rampage! What's up with that?
Sure things have changed since '01 when Simmons looked like a football linebacker with all of the shoulder pads, but I thought Leatt braces and the like were the new thing? Especially for Rampage contestants.

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i was surprised with the lack of protection in general. many guys seemed like the only had a helmet, goggles, and knee pads.

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They could make these things like the sliders they use for motorcycle racing (street). They have velcro pucks that attach to their knees and elbows.

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