MIPS to You Too!

Using guidelines that a helmet should be replaced every 5 to 10 year and noting that the current helmet had a bunch of scrapes and scratches and well as being (a cool but) invisible black, a “Hi-Viz” replacement seemed in order. But wait – what about the new MIPS technology: What It Is and Why You Need It?


MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System.” Created through years of research, the combination of the brain’s own protection and MIPS can provide better protection from angled impacts. When a MIPS helmet hits the road and sticks initially due to the high friction, one’s head can slide relative to the helmet thus reducing rotation of the head during impact and minimizing strain to the brain.

So here is a Bontrager MIPS helmet (TREK – $99.99 + tax and tip) (note the WindBlox noise blockers ).This is a very comfortable helmet with the only disadvantage being the cheesy, twist-prone quality of the chin strap meaning that it has to be smoothed out before wearing.


Previously, helmet shopping were limited to comfort, ventilation, price, style/color, weight, configuration, visibility, overall quality, and ease of buckling and adjustment. A 1999 federal law requires that bicycle helmets meet the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) standard. Look inside your helmet (probably with a magnifying glass) to find this fine print attestation – possibly accompanied by a Snell Foundation label.** Thus all helmets provide the same level of safety; that is, the helmet does not block the rider’s vision, does not come off when after falling or during a crash, and reduces the force to the head when the helmet hits a hard surface. However, helmet crash testing has not evolved as the basic impact test is still smashing the helmet against an anvil in a test rig. (See also – https://www.cpsc.gov/Business–Manufacturing/Business-Education/Business-Guidance/Bicycle-Helmets )

Note the WindBlox on the strap – see – https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/2017/06/01/wind-blox-cut-that-wind-noise/

These criteria do not protect against all concussions or other brain injuries especially during slower crashes or crashes at oblique angles. MIPS addresses this gap in with a form of slip plane technology with two low-friction layers that rotate against each other, mimicking the rotation of the brain’s own cerebrospinal fluid (the body’s natural defense against oblique impacts). In short, a MIPS helmet can move relative to the helmet’s outer shell. MIPS technology provides an extra safety but at a slight cost premium.

The MIPS helmet’s outer layer is same impact-absorbing EPS* material as a conventional, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACPSC helmet. The difference comes in connecting the shell to a low friction inner layer that rests on the rider’s head. (Look inside a MIPS helmet at this clearly visible and moveable plastic interior liner with connectors joining it to the outer shell – see white arrow in photo.)



An earlier attempt at reducing rotational injuries was the transition from the white Foam Helmet“foam” “Bell” helmets of the 60s and 70s to a smooth, hard outer surface covering the shock absorbing EPS* material. This smoothness allowed the helmet to slide along a rough road surface rather than bouncing along the roughness and subjecting the head and neck to a rapid series of jolts that might result from the rougher surface of the “foam-style” helmet.

Does your helmet have MIPS? If it lacks a MIPS label, tell by looking inside as all MIPS-equipped helmets have a plastic interior liner that can move relative to the outer shell with connectors joining the inner and outer layers.

Since the Bontrager MIPS was already over $100, why not go all out in the visibility end with a Serfas TL-HLMT LED blink light? ($11.99 + tax). Curiously, the orientation of the hook-and-loop mounting strap is for a vertical helmet bar rather than horizontal,  Thus, when mounted, the light looks a little goofy.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If this helemet is not up to your standards, check out the Lumos Smart CPSC-CE Certified cycling helmet with wireless turn signal handlebar remote, built-In motion sensor, and 70 LEDs on front, rear, and sides at $179.00.

NOTES *EPS or Expanded Polystyrene has ideal crush characteristics with no bounce-back to make the impact more severe. The manufacturer places polystyrene beads (granules) in a pressure mold shaped like the helmet liner and expands the beads 2 to 50 times their original size with a blowing agent under pressure and heat. The beads expand to form the cells and fill the mold. The cells are tightly bonded and varying the density of the foam cells can produce optimal crush for a given impact level. Additives can increase cell adhesion to reduce splitting on impact. Manufacturers can also add internal reinforcing of nylon, carbon fiber, or plastics to reduce cracking, enabling designers to open up wider vents and still pass the lab impact tests.

**Curiously, the subject Bontrager helmet lacks the higher standard Snell Foundation approval. Its competitor, Specialized, seems to have many of its helmets so certified.

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Filed under Bike Tech, Product Review, safety

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