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.

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.

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