MIPS Helmet Technology: What It Is and Why You Need It

Until very recently, when a customer was shopping for a bike helmet at our store, we could confidently tell them, “Choose one that’s comfortable, lightweight, and well-ventilated; they all provide the same level of safety.” That’s because since 1999 U.S. law has required that all bicycle helmets sold in the United States meet the same standard, which is set by the CPSC, or Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The CPSC standard (you can view the entire thing online here) ensures that all bike helmets meet the following criteria:

  1. They do not block the rider’s vision.
  2. They do not come off when the rider falls, or during an accident.
  3. They significantly reduce the force to the rider’s head when the helmet hits a hard surface.

CPSC helmets really do work. When you wear a CPSC approved bike helmet, your chances of suffering a bike-related fatality or serious injury during a catastrophic impact are reduced immensely. For all practical purposes, such a helmet will keep your skull intact during a crash.

The problem is, CPSC approved bike helmets do not prevent all concussions or other brain injuries, especially during slower crashes, or crashes at oblique angles. That’s where MIPS comes in. MIPS, which stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System, was developed by biomechanical specialists at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. MIPS is a form of slip plane technology, meaning that a MIPS helmet is constructed from two layers that rotate against each other, mimicking the rotation of the brain’s own cerebrospinal fluid, which is the body’s natural defense against oblique impacts.

The outer layer of a MIPS helmet is made from the same impact-absorbing EPS material as a conventional, CPSC helmet. It’s connected via an elastomeric attachment system to a low friction inner layer, which is what rests on the rider’s head.

MIPS Helmet Testing at BRG Sports

A MIPS-equipped GIRO helmet undergoes testing at The Dome, BRG Sport’s helmet development lab

In a crash, the outer shell of a MIPS helmet absorbs linear impact, while the inner layer rotates up to 5mm, absorbing rotational impact. This small rotation of the liner relative to the shell results in a signification reduction of the forces on the brain, which reduces the likelihood of concussion and other brain injury.

This excellent little animation gives a good explanation for how MIPS works to reduce the energy transmitted to your brain in a bicycle crash:

 

MIPS helmets provide an extra degree of safety for all bike riders. So if you’re ready to replace your old helmet, the extra $20 or so to upgrade from a non-MIPS to MIPS-equipped model is well-worth the price.

At the moment, MIPS technology is available in select helmets from Giro, Bell, POC, Scott, and Lazer. Are you unsure whether your helmet has MIPS or not? It’s easy to tell by looking inside. All MIPS-equipped helmets have a plastic interior liner that can move relative to the helmet’s outer shell, and bright yellow connectors joining the inner and outer layers.

At Bicycle Roots, we carry the Giro Savant MIPS helmet for road cycling, and the Giro Sutton MIPS helmet for bike commuting. Shop online, or come into the store to try one of these helmets on in person.

What’s your experience with bike helmets? Love them? Hate them? Owe your life to them? Tell us about it in the comments!


Bicycle Roots is a friendly, neighborhood bike shop offering bikes, accessories, parts, and repairs. We stock a curated selection of high-quality cycling gear, including MIPS equipped bike helmets to keep you safe. We strongly recommend that you wear a helmet on every bike ride. To learn more about our store, visit the About Us page.

14 Comments

  1. Pingback: Cascos MIPS: nueva tecnología que necesitas - MundoBici

  2. El Viejo

    I was hit from behind by the mirror of a SUV. The helmet absorbed the impact, and the road absorbed me. I am riding again (some on the sidewalk) but I try to ride 17 miles, weather permitting, then I ride inside. (I use the bike in the accident, I have a new one for outside). Getting a mips helmet let me ride again. By the way, I am over 72, so biking and the helmet saved my head. Do not skimp on your headgear, get a safe one!!!

  3. Dave

    I recently suffered a horror crash while mountain biking at speed, coming off an obstacle & falling down face first more than 2 metres onto a rock. Fractured C1, fractured C4, left orbital facial fracture, dissected vertebral artery, but incredibly no spinal cord or brain damage. My MIPS helmet liner was totally destroyed…it had sheared more than 15mm & torn off it’s internal attachment points. I have no doubt that the MIPS system in my helmet saved me from extreme rotational forces which could’ve proved the difference as to whether I’m able to write this blog response or not. MIPS helmet effectively now destroyed, I’ve chucked it out, along with some older “spare” helmets that weren’t MIPS-enabled.

    To anyone who reads this, I’ll never buy another helmet unless it’s got MIPS…I reckon it helped save my life.

    1. BicycleRoots Post author

      Hi Dave. That is a crazy story and I’m so happy you survived the injury and recovered well enough to tell the tale. MIPS is a game-changer for ambitious cyclists like you, who tend to get into more “extreme” accidents involving multiple impacts, especially while mountain biking. If you are riding again, I wish you safe and happy trails. Thanks for sharing!

    2. mike

      You and El Viejo just talked me into spending another $20 on a helmet. Thanks you two, and hopefully you will never have to test your helmet’s ability again in the future.

  4. Knobb

    MIPS seems to me to be a way for helmet manufactures to make ill fitting helmets fit.

    It is a means to make their one size/shape helmet seemingly fit everyone

    1. Ralph

      It has nothing to do with fit. The part that grips your head will have pretty much the same level of adjustment as a non-MIPS helmet. The differentiator is that it is attached to the impact absorbing layer with attachments that allow a small amount of movement so that rotational forces are reduced somewhat, before reaching your brain or spine.

  5. Sagar

    Hey!

    Thanks for the article. I just purchased a helmet that has MIPS does that mean it is also CSPC standard?

    1. BicycleRoots Post author

      I believe so, but the best way to check is to look inside the helmet shell for a sticker. All CPSC rated cycling helmets have a small sticker on the inside of the shell saying they are CPSC approved.

  6. Anonymous

    After looking I went MIPS- the only problem I have is they all look like a big mushroom- seem to be thicker all the way around. Small price to pay for that little extra margin of safety. I ride in NoVa/DC and know 2 people that have been in serious crashes, so, yeah- I’m in.

  7. Gfoos

    After looking I went MIPS- the only problem I have is they all look like a big mushroom- seem to be thicker all the way around. Small price to pay for that little extra margin of safety. I ride in NoVa/DC and know 2 people that have been in serious crashes, so, yeah- I’m in.

    1. Jim

      Think of what your head will look like after it bounces off the pavement three or four times. This is not fashion. It is about staying non-vegetative.

  8. Don

    Would a smooth surface outer shell also divert some of the rotational force as it skids along a the impact surface instead of ‘catching’ on the pavement? My recollection from ‘back in the day’ is riders were warned not to purchase helmets solely made from styroforam and the like due to the danger of the increased friction which could cause neck injuries if the head/helmet slowed more quickly than the body upon impact with the pavement. Is this similar to the problem MIPS is trying to address? Would a smooth surface helmet shell provide the same protection as MIPS?

  9. JD

    I’m deep into my 60’s and ride 400+ miles a month. My greatest fear as I got older was Alzheimer’s. The thought of forgetting everything it took a lifetime to learn was terrifying. I have done everything I can as far as my diet and exercise to keep my brain healthy so upgrading to the cutting edge of protecting my brain from impact and TBI was, pardon the pun, a “no brainer”. The Giro Savant fits me perfectly and gives me peace of mind.

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