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Who cut the cheese? Ripe smell to warn cyclists their helmet needs replacing

German boffins develop olfactory alert for cracked lids

We’ve all heard the advice to buy a new helmet after the current one’s been impacted in a fall, but as you sit there dazed on the tarmac picking gravel out of your elbows and knees and checking your prized frame for scratches – not necessarily in that order, if you’re anything like us – it can be easy to forget whether or not your lid took any of the force of the tumble.

Now, some German boffins have come up with a rather novel – and quite frankly, unmistakable – way of making you aware that your helmet needs replacing.

The Germans may not be as renowned for cheesemaking as some of their neighbours – the Dutch, French, Swiss and even the Danes are renowned worldwide for some of their cheeses – but by employing the smell of some rather ripe cheese to alert the helmet’s owner to the fact that it is damaged, and the larger the crack, the stronger the aroma.

The helmet contains microcapsules of oil that are released when it is cracked, and as reported on the tech blog CrunchGear, Dr. Christof Koplin, a research scientist at the IWM, says: “Cyclists often replace their helmets unnecessarily after dropping them on the ground, because they cannot tell whether they are damaged or not.”

He adds: “The capsules eliminate this problem. If cracks form, smelly substances are released.”

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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