We at EB Cycling Law want cyclists to be aware of the fact that bicycle helmets, while incredibly effective at preventing a brain injury, are far from failsafe. It goes without saying that wearing a helmet will protect you far better than not wearing one. But when it comes to selecting a helmet, which one should a cyclist choose? If you have been shopping for helmets recently, you may have noticed the acronym MIPS on higher end helmets. So what exactly is MIPS, and is it something you should consider during your next helmet purchase?
I used to work in bike shops. I could confidently tell a customer to choose whatever helmet worked best for their application. High-end helmets offer more ventilation, lighter weight, and a better aesthetic. Regardless of a helmet’s price point, they all protect the rider to a standard level of safety. That is all thanks to the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission). CPSC standards assure a consumer that the helmet will not impede vision, will not come off the rider’s head during a fall, and will significantly reduce the force to the rider’s head upon impact. They do not, however, offer the rider any specific protection from concussion or brain injury. This is especially true in impacts that occur at slower speeds, or at oblique angles. This is where MIPS comes into play.
MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System. It was developed by the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. MIPS is a form of slip-plane technology. A MIPS helmet is manufactured with two layers that rotate against one another. This resembles the rotation of the cerebrospinal fluid inside the skull. Thus, the helmet mirrors how our body naturally defends itself against oblique impacts.
A conventional CPSC helmet is constructed of EPS, with various internal mechanisms meant to grant the rider a good fit. A MIPS helmet has the same outer layer as a standard CPSC helmet, but connects the outer layer via an elastomeric attachment to a low friction inner layer. This layer then rests on a rider’s head. During an impact, the EPS absorbs linear force the same as with a standard helmet. The MIPS inner layer rotates up to 5 mm, which absorbs rotational force. This seemingly small rotation significantly reduces the force transmitted through the brain and further reduces the potential for concussion and brain injury.
While no helmet can protect a rider 100% against brain injury, MIPS certainly helps by providing an extra dynamic to helmet safety. Most major helmet brands have adapted MIPS on their top of the line helmets, with brands such as Bell and Giro adapting it across their product line. With a $20 premium over a non-MIPS helmet in the same product line, a MIPS helmet means $20 well invested if it prevents a brain injury. The next helmet I buy will certainly have MIPS. Thanks for reading, and as always, keep the rubber side down!