Up until recently, bike helmet safety remained relatively stagnant over the years. Enter MIPS, an innovative solution that can reduce certain types of brain injuries on impact. I visited the manufacturer’s headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, to learn more about why many popular helmet manufacturers have decided to incorporate MIPS into their helmets.
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1. Giro Fixture MIPS HelmetPrice: $64.95Pros:
- Removable visor protects the eyes
- Feels comfortable on longer rides
- Innovative locking system ensures a proper fit
- Only comes with a one-year warranty
- Limited color options
- Doesn't come in other sizes
Stay safer on the road and trails with the popular Giro Fixture MIPS helmet. Not only does the integrated MIPS protection system ensure a comfortable fit even on longer rides, the helmet’s polycarbonate shell makes it durable enough for adventerous cyclists.
A dependable in-mold construction, combined with a sport-oriented fit system, keeps the cycling helmet securely in place as you tackle obstacles and rough terrain. Giro Fixture MIPS caters to downhill demons, aggressive trail riders, and everyone in-between.
An innovative locking system quickly adjusts to the shape of your head using an intuitive rear-mounted dial. Not only does this ensure a proper fit on your head, it also gives you full control on the fly.
Even as the temperature climbs throughout the day, there’s ample ventilation to allow air to escape. Quick-dry padding ensures your head won’t feel damp as the temperature rises.
A removable visor is a handy feature to have out on the trails. The Giro Fixture MIPS also has reflective elements to make you more visible.
2. Bontrager Specter WaveCel Cycling HelmetPrice: $149.99Pros:
- BOA Fit System allows for quick single-handed adjustments
- Reflective elements on the back of the helmet
- Ideal for all types of riding
- Relatively heavy
- Honeycomb structure may limit airflow
- Buckle is rather bulky
The Bontrager Specter WaveCel employs innovative WaveCel technology, which also helps to protect the brain during certain angled impacts. While MIPS and WaveCel aim to protect the brain during certain types of impacts, there are some key differences between the innovative technologies.
MIPS is a low friction layer that enables a sliding motion between 10 and 15mm in all directions to reduce the risk of a rotational injury during certain types of crashes. In contrast, WaveCel is a continuous liner suspended inside the helmet that behaves in different ways according to various impacts. This design allows the helmet to spin on itself instead of transferring the spin to the head, which could potentially cause a concussion.
Technical details aside, Bontrager’s Specter WaveCel is a versatile helmet that can be used for mountain biking, road riding, gravel, and other types of riding. Regardless of how long or fast your ride, this helmet is designed for prolonged comfort. Plus, it’s properly ventilated to promote airflow. Moisture-wicking and washable helmet pads ensure stress-free maintenance.
Regardless of your skill level, you’re probably looking for a helmet that’s equally comfortable and functional. A BOA Fit System allows you to safely and properly secure the helmet with one hand. The helmet secures into place with a magnetic buckle and even has reflective elements on the back to make you more visible to others on the road.
This helmet comes in small, medium, and large sizes, and will generally fit head circumferences between 51 and 63 centimeters. Multiple colors are available, so you can have some fun and show off your personality.
3. S-Works Prevail II + ANGI MIPS HelmetPrice: $250.00Pros:
- Sits low on the head
- Innovative cooling system for optimal moisture control
- HairPort accommodates longer hair
- Can't purchase the MIPS helmet without the ANGi sensor
- Limited chin strap adjustability
- Colors are prone to fading
In an effort to improve on its already popular S-Works Prevail helmet, Specialized used feedback from cyclists to create its S-Works Prevail II + ANGI MIPS Helmet. If you’ve previously worn the original Prevail helmet, you’ll quickly notice the redesigned shell that sits lower on your head.
Whether you’re dedicated to your daily rides or enjoy the occasional weekend spin, you want a helmet that’s safe and comfortable. Specialized teamed up with researchers at MIPS to create its exclusive MIPS SL technology, which is exceptionally light and comfortable. What’s more, MIPS technology has been incorporated into the padding itself to maximize comfort and protection without sacrificing safety. It’s lightweight and fully ventilated for those hottest riding days.
One of the biggest improvements over the previous model is an integrated ANGi crash sensor. Once it’s paired with the accompanying app, the sensor acts as a ride tracker, safety beacon and crash detector and will alert your loved ones if you need help. If you’re planning a ride with limited service coverage, you can set your estimated ride time before heading out. If you’re not back within that frame, ANGi will notify your contacts of your last known uploaded location.
A helmet that fits properly can reduce the risk of injury during a crash, which is why Specialized has selected a micro-dial fit system with height adjustability. There’s even a HairPort to keep cyclists with longer hair safe and comfortable.
A thoughtful cooling system with large vents and deep internal channels keeps you from overheating when the temperature rises. You’ll also find a comfortable brow pad for sweat management.
4. Bell Super 3R MIPS Adult Mountain Bike HelmetPros:
- Adjustable visor works with goggles and glasses
- Float Fit system with adjustable dial
- Integrated camera breaks away on impact
- Relatively heavy
- Cheek pads can feel snug but are removable
- Could use more padding around the ears
The Bell Super 3R MIPS Mountain Bike Helmet from Bell caters to every type of off-road rider. Whether you’re screaming down an unforgiving descent or testing your strength on a monstrous climb, the Super 3R is a versatile helmet for nearly any situation.
This popular helmet is appealing to mountain bikers for many reasons, but one of its most notable features is a removable chin bar. If the bar is getting in the way or adds more bulk than you prefer, simply detach it for the ride and lock it back in place if you need extra protection on the way down. You don’t need any tools or special equipment to disconnect or reattach the chin bar.
In addition to MIPS technology, the Bell Super 3R MIPS helmet features a float fit system to make quick dial adjustments on the go. X-Static padding dries rapidly and inhibits the growth of bacteria that can cause odors.
Even on a warm day, the helmet’s brow ventilation system keeps your head cool and comfortable. With 23 helmet vents, six chin bar vents and four brow ports, you won’t feel overheated even on the hottest days.
Most mountain bike helmets have an adjustable visor, but this one accommodates goggles and cycling glasses for your riding comfort. You’ll also find an integrated mount for your bike helmet camera that’s designed to break away during impact.
5. Troy Lee Designs A2 MIPS HelmetPros:
- Adjustable strap dividers for maximum comfort
- Rear stabilizer system provides a customized fit
- Dual-density EPP and EPS liner for maximum crash protection
- Visor can be difficult to adjust
- Straps are relatively long
- Bigger goggles might not fit properly under the visor
No two mountain bike helmets are identical, and the Troy Lee Designs A2 MIPS Helmet sets itself apart from the crowd with its innovative dual-density EPP and EPS liner. Not only does this combination boost coverage in crucial impact zones, it’s equally effective during low- and high-speed impacts. Plus, MIPS technology adds an extra element of protection.
That extra padding can potentially be uncomfortable when your head gets warm, but Troy Lee Designs has taken preventative measures by adding large intake and exhaust ventilation ports. An X-STATIC Pure Silver liner provides additional cushioning and moisture management.
This mountain bike helmet fits virtually any head with its low-profile shape. A semi-adjustable strap ensures a more comfortable fit and increased safety out on the trails. We’re also fans of the break-away visor, which won’t snag or get caught if you crash.
6. Bell 4Forty MIPS Bike HelmetPrice: $110.00Pros:
- Loaded with vents for optimal airflow
- Full hard shell for all types of trail rides
- Minimalist Float Fit adjustment system
- Doesn't have removable ear pads
- Slightly clunky styling
- Visor doesn't lock down
Some mountain bike helmets feel downright steamy when your head gets warm, but the Bell 4Forty MIPS Bike Helmet keeps discomfort at bay with several thoughtful features. Whether you’re grinding it out on some seriously technical trails on your e-MTB or exploring new terrain at your local park, innovative Sweat Guide material draws moisture away from your brows and eyewear. You’ll also find 15 vents for optimal airflow.
Safety is just as important as comfort, and Bell has you covered with a full hard shell and extended rear coverage. Integrated MIPS protection adds an extra element of protection on impact. A minimalist and lightweight Float Fit adjustment system ensures a proper fit and allows you to make adjustments on the fly.
You can ride in style with your favorite goggles or glasses — this mountain bike helmet accommodates both. The visor is also adjustable for your safety and comfort.
7. Giro Syntax MIPS Adult Road Cycling HelmetPros:
- Easily adjustable Roc Loc 5 Air MIPS system
- Wind Tunnel ventilation keeps heads cool
- Available in sizes from small through extra-large
- On the heavier side
- Can be cumbersome to fit sunglasses through vent holes
- No room to add a visor
Giro Syntax MIPS offers premium features in a relatively affordable package, making it an accessible helmet for road cyclists of all levels. Although the helmet offers deeper coverage along the sides and back of the head, Giro Syntax MIPS retains a modern, low-profile appearance to keep you looking stylish on the road.
This unisex cycling helmet is just as functional as it is stylish. In addition to the standard integrated MIPS liner, which may help reduce the amount of rotational force to the head during certain angled impacts, the helmet also features an easily adjustable Roc Loc 5 Air MIPS system. A durable polycarbonate shell adds an extra element of protection.
Regardless of how fast or hard you ride, Giro Syntax has 25 vents for optimal temperature regulation. Giro also incorporates its innovative Wind Tunnel ventilation system with vents and exhaust channels to draw cool air in and around the head while pushing warm air out. Technical lingo aside, it’s designed to keep your head nice and cool.
Giro Syntax MIPS comes in sizes ranging from small through extra-large to fit head circumferences ranging from 51 to 65 centimeters.
8. Bell Sixer MIPS HelmetPrice: $97.49Pros:
- Designed for endurance racing and aggressive trail riding
- Adjustable rear dial makes it easy to tighten the helmet
- Can mount a light or camera
- A bit heavy
- Some wish the sweat management system worked better
- Chin buckle isn't adjustable
Aggressive trail riding demands a rugged and sturdy helmet for maximum protection in the event of a crash. The Bell Sixer MIPS helmet has virtually everything you need for endurance racing and aggressive trail riding, from strap grips to keep your glasses from flying off to an innovative tightening system where you use an adjustable rear dial to tighten the helmet.
Not only does this helmet come with a visor, the visor can be positioned in multiple ways for maximum protection as you ride. In the event of an impact, you’ll have extra protection thanks to EPS foam and MIPS technology.
Built-in camera and bike light mounts let you add your own light or camera to boost your riding experience. Dual flow ventilation, complete with air ports by the brow, assists in ventilation and can keep your goggles from getting foggy. A strategically placed sweat pad keeps moisture from getting into your eyes as you ride.
9. Lazer Gekko MIPS HelmetPrice: $54.99Pros:
- Drop-down design improves side and rear protection
- Integrated visor adds more protection
- Comes in several colors
- Some dislike the one size fits all design
- Visor isn't adjustable
- A bit heavy for a kid's helmet
The Lazer Gekko MIPS is a kid’s helmet that’s designed for optimal protection. For starters, it has a drop-down design for added protection along the sides and rear. An integrated visor protects again sun glare as well as unexpected run-ins with branches and other objects.
A user-friendly adjustment system makes it easy for parents and kids to make adjustments on the go, and when initially fitting the helmet. Strategically placed vents (12 total) promote airflow as kids ride.
In addition to EPS foam, this MIPS helmet has an integrated layer for added protection in the event of a crash. It’s also compatible with rechargeable rear bike lights, although you’ll need to purchase the light separately. This bike helmet is equally suited for many types of terrain, including trails and roads.
10. Specialized Airnet MIPS HelmetPrice: $150.00Pros:
- Micro-dial fit system for specific adjustments
- Quick-drying Merino wool pads
- Easy to make adjustments on the go
- A bit bulky
- Relatively heavy
- Chin straps aren't adjustable on the sides
The lightweight Specialized Airnet MIPS Helmet is just as stylish as it is functional. Whether you’re tackling a long and steep climb on a hot summer day or you’re setting out to crush an existing PR, there’s plenty of ventilation to keep your head as cool as possible.
An innovative cooling system, complete with deep internal channels and big vents, allows for maximum airflow. Quick-drying Merino wool pads help to manage sweat while keeping your head cool. The helmet is also equipped with lightweight webbing that won’t lose shape despite absorbing sweat or water.
Front and rear vent grippers keep your eyewear securely in place. A micro-dial fit system along with reflective details makes you more visible to others on the road. The Airnet MIPS is made for road cycling and is covered by a two-year warranty.
11. Bell Avenue MIPS HelmetPrice: $69.95Pros:
- Dial adjustment for single-handed use
- Also available in extra-large
- Sweat liner keeps moisture out of eyes
- Lacks integrated slots for glasses
- Doesn't have a visor
- No clip for a light
If value is your primary concern, it’s worth checking out the Bell Avenue MIPS Helmet. This inexpensive helmet has all the basics as well as additional features that you often find in pricier helmets. For starters, it has an integrated MIPS liner. There’s also a sweat liner to keep moisture out of your eyes.
You can quickly adjust the retention system as needed, even on the go. The dial system is designed for single-handed use, so you don’t need to stop your bike every time you need to adjust the fit.
A total of 18 vents keeps air flowing smoothly along the surface, so your head stays cool even when the weather is warm. You’ll find the helmet in a universal size for adults as well as an extra-large universal fit. EPS impact foam adds an extra element of protection.
Is a MIPS Helmet worth It?
Even if you’re not familiar with the science behind MIPS protection technology, you may have noticed bright yellow stickers on the sides of some bike helmets. Flip those helmets over, however, and you'll see a thin layer of plastic material on the inside. That material is called MIPS. Aside from those trademark stickers, MIPS isn't noticeable on the helmet's exterior.
MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) is a low-friction liner that's typically located between the head and helmet. Rather than subjecting one specific area of the skull to potential injury during an impact, the energy that's absorbed during a fall is redistributed by this slip-plane design instead of being transmitted to the brain. The end result is a potentially lower risk of rotational injury in the event of a crash.
I first met with Peter Halldin, one of the co-founders of MIPS (the other is Hans von Holst, a Swedish brain surgeon from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm). Halldin has a Ph.D. in head and neck injury biomechanics.
Halldin explained how a MIPS helmet can reduce the risk of rotational injury, which occurs more frequently during cycling falls. Prior to this type of technology, many bike helmets were generally designed to help reduce linear acceleration injuries.
However, Halldin said, cyclists often fall in a different way. “Many helmets today are tested for vertical impact, but that is not how you fall. You fall at an angle...and your brain is much more sensitive to rotational motion."
He uses the sport of boxing as a simple and effective way to explain the sudden impact of rotational movement. "Boxers can take hits round after round, with straight-on hits, but then suddenly they get an uppercut, their head rotates, and they are knocked out. The human head and brain are much more sensitive to this rotation than a linear motion."
The sudden impact of a boxing hit is comparable to the shock and trauma the brain can experience during a cycling fall.
"When you understand how sensitive the human head and the brain are, you want to have the safest helmet possible. Hopefully, helmets will improve in the next 10 years, and hopefully, most helmets will have a rotational protection system," concludes Halldin.
Do I Need a MIPS Helmet?
In short, a MIPS-equipped helmet can provide better protection against rotational impact injuries in the event of a crash.
There is currently no federal law in the U.S. that requires cyclists to wear helmets, but many riders choose to wear a helmet whenever they ride.
Similarly, bike helmet manufacturers aren't required to use MIPS in their helmets. However, having that extra layer of protection against potential injuries, especially rotational ones, can be a compelling enough reason to consider investing in a MIPS helmet.
Rotational impacts are especially common among cyclists, whether the fall occurs on the road or trail. According to the Brain Injury Association of America, one of the most common types of rotational injury is a diffuse axonal injury. This type of injury occurs when the brain doesn't move as quickly as the skull, which can result in torn brain structures.
You can visit the MIPS website to learn more about how MIPS is increasing protection against rotational movement injuries among cyclists.
To test its validity in the most likely crash-related scenarios, MIPS conducts numerous in-house tests on a daily basis to assess the validity of its current technology and identify areas that might need improvements. The company also sends MIPS-equipped helmets to third-party testers for comparison.
Halldin explains that while MIPS has conducted over 27,000 in-house tests to date, the results have also been validated through third-party testing. "One of the foremost research bodies for independent helmet testing is Virginia Tech, which evaluates a wide variety of makes and models of helmets, and their abilities to reduce linear acceleration and rotational motion in the event of an impact," he says. "Of the 86 helmets they have rated, 40 are equipped with MIPS, and out of the top 20, 17 are equipped with MIPS."
What Is the Best MIPS Helmet?
MIPS continues to expand in popularity and can now be found in virtually every type of cycling helmet. Some of the most popular MIPS helmets are road and commuter helmets, but you'll also find MIPS helmets for younger riders, mounting biking, and more.
In terms of appearance and functionality, MIPS adds a minimal amount of weight and volume to a helmet. According to MIPS, each layer weighs between 25 and 45 grams.
Ultimately, the best MIPS bike helmet should be the one that fits properly, feels comfortable as you ride, and works for your budget.
Several well-known bike helmet brands offer select MIPS helmets, but Nutcase, which manufactures stylish helmets for kids and adults, is the first bike helmet brand to fully incorporate MIPS into its lineup.
Nutcase global brand director, Christopher Bohannon, explains that Nutcase is "nuts about safety" and has fully integrated MIPS into their helmet lineup "to get as many people as possible in MIPS-equipped helmets."
Is Wavecel Better than Mips?
Sam Foos, Marketing Manager at Trek Bicycle, explained to us precisely what makes WaveCel so unique.
"Bontrager helmets with MIPS have a low-friction layer between the shell and liner. The MIPS Brain Protection System is designed to allow your head to move within the helmet, which can redirect harmful rotational energy during certain angled impacts." However, he says, "WaveCel goes one step further by absorbing rotational energy. WaveCel accounts for how most cycling accidents actually happen: ungracefully, with twists, turns, and angled impacts."
WaveCel also looks and acts a bit differently than MIPS. Unlike MIPS, which is a low friction layer that enables a sliding motion of 10 to 15mm in every direction, Bontrager's WaveCel "...works like a crumple zone that helps absorb the force of impact before it reaches your head. In order to protect your head and absorb the energy created by an angled impact, WaveCel is designed to go through a three-step change in material structure: flex, crumple, and glide," Foos explains.
Take a look at the helmets side-by-side and you might notice that it's harder to spot the MIPS layer inside a helmet. Most of these helmets have yellow MIPS stickers on the outside to indicate which models have the technology. It's much easier to spot WaveCel inside of your favorite cycling helmet.
While MIPS performs its own in-house testing to verify its safety and effectiveness, Trek uses an outside facility. Foos explains, "All adult WaveCel helmets received the highest rating from Virginia Tech's third-party testing facility. This unbiased assessment places Bontrager's WaveCel helmets amongst the highest level of protection available to cyclists with a 5-STAR rating."
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