Creators of 'Tough Turban' say it'll make riding safer for Sikh motorcyclists
SASKATOON -- Some turban-wearing motorcyclists in Canada have had helmet exemptions for years, but a Sikh man wants riders like his father to feel safer with his new protective turban that features bulletproof laminate and foam that hardens on impact.
Vic Bath, one of the creators behind “Tough Turban,” said he was inspired by his father who always dreamed of having a Harley-Davidson motorcycle growing up in India.
“He finally eventually got one much later in life. But to him, Harley always represented the idea of freedom,” he told CTVNews.ca during a joint interview with other creators behind the project. “I thought if it means that much to him, it must surely mean that much to other Sikhs who ride motorcycles.”
The prototype design, which hasn’t hit production yet, took two years to develop.
Bath, a creative lead at marketing firm Zulu Alpha Kilo, worked closely with Spark Innovations, industrial designers who’ve helped develop other unique protective headgear; and Pfaff Harley-Davidson, which sells motorcycles across Ontario.
Brandon Durmann, a marketing specialist at Pfaff Harley-Davidson who helped get the word out on the idea, said many of their customers in Toronto, Brampton, Vaughn happen to be Sikh.
“So this is a really good opportunity for us to showcase that and really put a face to our customers and give them a voice,” Durmann said.
Tough Turban’s chain-mail-like design features bulletproof laminate called Dyneema and a foam that hardens on impact that’s used in military armour and helmets. The design, which also includes 3D-printed chainmail lining, pays homage to how early traditional Sikh warriors used to affix chainmail onto their turbans before battle.
Chris Pearen, president of Spark Innovations whose firm helped create the prototype, said his team consulted with Sikh riders, including the Sikh Motorcycle Club of Ontario.
“We included several materials that are currently used in other motorcycle clothing protection to layer up the turban to get to where we are today,” Pearen said.
Jagdeep Singh, spokesperson for the Sikh Motorcycle Club of Ontario, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview he's "really excited" about the prototype but said more needs to be done before his group can endorse it.
“We welcome the freedom to ride message that the Tough Turban touts, however for now, it strictly remains a concept. The idea needs to be developed further and tested for practical daily wear," he explained.
“In the meantime, Sikhs should have the same freedoms to ride in Saskatchewan, Quebec and the eastern provinces. We continue our fight to seek helmet exemption for turban wearing riders in these provinces, and the ability to broaden the benefits that come from charitable rides led by our club.”
TOUGH TURBAN ALLOWS FOR EXPRESSION: BATH
Wearing a turban is a deeply important symbol for Sikhs and some motorcyclists of the faith have had helmet exemptions for years. British Columbia and Manitoba first granted Sikhs a helmet exemption in 1999, with Ontario and Alberta following suit in 2018.
Bath said the idea behind the Tough Turban “really came out of how we can celebrate the fact that people have the ability to have self-expression while riding a motorcycle but use the latest protective gear within that.”
But designers behind the “Tough Turban” acknowledge that despite it having safety material such as D30-like shock absorbers, it doesn’t offer the same kind of impact resistance and protection as a traditional full-face motorcycle helmet.
However, if you’re looking to nab one of the Tough Turban’s, you’re out of luck, at least for now. Although riders can download the “open source” documentation of their design, none of the parties involved have committed to mass production yet, but that could change soon as popularity for the idea has taken off on social media.
Videos of the turban prototypes have racked close to 20,000 views on Pfaff’s YouTube and Instagram feeds. And Bath and the team said some motorcycle apparel manufacturers -- including some overseas -- have been reaching out asking how they collaborate or be a part of potentially scaling up the idea.
“We received a lot of overwhelming positivity from around the world, which has been amazing… and it's been great to see that really embraced by the Sikh community from everywhere.”
One of those people is motorcycle enthusiast Shamsher Singh Sidhu, who tested out the Tough Turban in the videos. “Tying a turban to me is more than just a fashion statement, it’s a whole heritage, it’s your freedom to express yourself, your identity. And that’s what riding is to me – being on an open road, feeling the wind on you, it’s just freedom.”