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MIPS HELMET MINI_REVIEW HELMET ROUNDUP

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MIPS HELMET MINI_REVIEW HELMET ROUNDUP

By Coach Rick Schultz (biketestreviews.com) & John Marsh (roadbikerider.com)

The entire RoadBikeRider & BikeTestReviews Test teams jumped at the chance to do a roundup review of the MIPS helmets available to road riders. We all wanted to learn more about MIPS: What is it, how does it work, any difference from a regular helmet in terms of fit/form/function? And, how about cost?

First – What is MIPS?

Modern (non-MIPS) bike helmets are wonderful pieces of technology in terms of their impact resistance. They are designed – and tested – to help prevent skull fractures and other major blunt-force trauma. They are not, however, designed to mitigate the forces that can cause a concussion.

A Swedish company called Multi-directional Impact Protection System — MIPS — patented the slip plane concept (what it calls a low-friction layer), using two layers in the helmet (the MIPS “liner”) to help mitigate the rotational force of an impact, which can result in a concussion or other brain injury.

Here’s how the company itself describes the technology: “In a helmet with MIPS Brain Protection System the shell and the liner are separated by a low friction layer. When a helmet with MIPS Brain Protection System is subjected to an angled impact, the low friction layer allows the helmet to slide relative to the head.”

(At the end of the review is a link to a detailed analysis and report from helmets.org regarding MIPS technology, as well as a link to the MIPS website.)

Short of wanting to test the helmets to their true capacity, none of us on the RBR Review Crew volunteered to crash, so we did the next best thing: We came up with a set of criteria to evaluate the helmets against one another using a standard helmet as the baseline. The following is the list of criteria used. We also added any notes and gave each of the criteria a rating from 1-5 points.

Our Testing Criteria

  1. Ventilation (# of vents, how well air flows /stays cool, does the MIPS liner interfere with or cover vent holes, etc.)
  2. Fit and fit adjustments?
  3. What padding is offered; how well does it work?
  4. How easy is it to adjust, buckle, put on/take off?
  5. How easy is it to get the fit dialed in, and keep it dialed in?
  6. Weight.
  7. Comfort.
  8. Price.
  9. Extras/Special Features (carrying bag, sunglasses slots, extra padding, bug mesh, aero properties, additional safety features like bright or neon colors, etc.)

Getting the Helmets
We made a concerted effort to try to acquire a test version of all of the MIPS road models on the market at the time of the testing. You’ll note, however, that at least one well-known maker is not represented; POC elected not to provide a current model helmet because they were nearing the launch of an updated model.
The manufacturers represented in this review, however, were extremely helpful in getting us their MIPS helmets to test. And a couple even bent over backward to help out: The Smith and Scott helmets weren’t even in the U.S.; both makers pulled the test helmets from their Asia manufacturing lines and direct shipped them to us for testing. And Giro sent us 2 MIPS helmets to test, one men’s and one women’s.

Helmets Delivered – Initial Impressions

Once the helmets were delivered, we got a chance to look them over and compare them to each of our favorite standard helmets.

It seems to us that manufacturers have taken two distinct approaches to adding MIPS versions to their lines: Some have created entirely new helmet designs in which to implement MIPS; others have used existing helmets, adding MIPS liners to those. We mention this in part to help explain the wide range of prices for MIPS helmets, and also to note that one of the biggest issues we had was with the way they fit.

Compared to standard helmets, MIPS helmets in some cases can fit slightly tighter. At least two of our testers experienced an overly snug fit with a MIPS helmet of the same size they normally wear.

The helmets.org article mentions this issue. “MIPS says the liner reduces the helmet size by a half centimeter, so the manufacturer would have to adjust the size in some way, either selling the consumer a larger helmet or reducing the thickness of the helmet liner.”

Our female tester’s helmet was so tight (side-to-side) in the temples that she had to cut part of the foam padding away so that her temples wouldn’t be over-compressed. The Smith Overtake was also tight to the point of our tester not being able to wear his standard “dew rag” or any other sweat-redirecting product. (He chose to pass along the ill-fitting helmet – a large – to another of our testers who normally wears a medium. It fit the second tester just fine.)

So, if you are considering a MIPS helmet, we suggest that you test fit one size larger than normal before you make the purchase. And don’t forget to wear whatever sweat band or head covering you normally wear under your helmet while testing the fit.

Some MIPS helmets can carry a slightly higher price tag than a standard helmet. It’s important to note that Bell purchased part of the MIPS company, and that other makers license the technology to use in their helmets. It’s hard to say how much this affects pricing.

As noted earlier, it seems that the lower priced MIPS models on the market are those that used an existing design in which to implement the technology, vs. designing an entire new helmet.

Following the individual helmet capsules is our final wrap-up, including a link to a detailed analysis and report from helmets.org regarding MIPS technology, as well as a link to the MIPS website.

1

1a

The Smith Overtake MIPS helmet combines Smith’s unique Koroyd technology with MIPS. The most distinguishing feature of the Overtake is its departure from the looks of most helmets. The Koroyd ‘straws’ themselves offer a very unique look and texture. The lack of gaping vents leads to a more streamlined form and good contrast of the hollow ‘straws’ and solid components of the helmet. Smith takes advantage of this contrast with lots of color options that really pop. Other highlights include aerodynamic advantages (per Smith testing claimed to be just slower than the Specialized Evade and faster than the Giro Air Attack) and excellent retention system and fit in a fairly lightweight package.

There are a couple drawbacks. First, if you are on a budget the $290 price tag will be tough to swallow. Second, ventilation is well below average. While the Koroyd ‘straws’ form a very porous material, the orientation of the ‘straws’ — perpendicular to the riders head to maximize impact energy absorption — results in little direct airflow reaching the scalp. The helmet breathes well when standing still or at slow speeds, but at typical biking speeds forced-air vented cooling is very limited.

2

2a

The only drawback to this women’s-specific helmet is that the straps seem to be of the one-size-fits-all men’s size XL helmet. What happens is that even when the chin straps are adjusted to the smallest size, they are still so long that the buckle ended up high up my cheek. Other than this issue, this is a great helmet.

The fit was fine, but a little tighter fit than its non-MIPS counterpart. Cooling and comfort were exceptional and it was very lightweight. I liked the easy adjustment of the Roc Loc 5, but my favorite thing was the cool ‘camo’ look!

At an MSRP of $110.00 for the MIPS version (same price as Giro’s men’s offering), this is a bargain. It’s a very well made and very comfortable helmet (except for the buckle) — the best bang for the buck in this test. But, as with the other MIPS helmets, the fit is tighter.

3

3a

If you’re looking for the latest in head protection with classic styling, a great and easy-to-adjust fitting system and top comfort, you’ve found it in Giro’s Savant MIPS. And, at a suggested retail price of only $110, it’s a nicely affordable helmet, too. It’s also available in Small through Extra Large sizing to fit heads from 51 through 63 centimeters in diameter, so you’re sure to find one to fit. Note that Giro calls this a “Slim” fitting helmet, so if you have a round rather than a narrow head, you’ll want to test the fit before buying.

For looks/styling, it has a modern, contemporary road helmet shape with conservative color choices. I think it looks great and I like the color choices, too: Matte Black/White; Matte White/Black; Red/Black. I was happy that the MIPS design did not force a clunky or funky shape/style.

With Giro’s Roc Loc 5 fitting system, the Savant can be easily fine-tuned for snugness around the head and also for how high or low it rides. The former is done by turning a ratcheting dial in back. The latter is accomplished by raising or lowering the back of the harness, which clicks into position. Besides letting you find the most natural place for the harness to fit the back of your head, this adjustment also lets you adjust the helmet to be compatible with different eye-wear. Complementing the adjustable fit is Giro’s Wind Tunnel channels that keep you dry and comfortable with 25 large vents drawing air through the lid. Overall, this is an excellent helmet with great features at an excellent price.

4

4a

Some of the MIPS helmets referenced in this review are new model year lids and had not yet been released into the U.S. market during our testing period. The Scott ARX Plus is one of them. Scott said they wanted to support the test and bent over backward to ship us a brand new MIPS helmet right off the ‘assembly’ line in Asia. The only thing they skipped was the strap “pre-adjustment” that most manufactures provide for helmet headed for the retail market. This was a blessing in disguise since I was forced to try and figure out how to adjust the straps. Turns out it is very easy to get a perfect fit for this helmet.

Another positive is that its MIPS tech feels like it takes up the least room of the helmets tested. I noticed only a slight decrease with the internal size. This helmet is very comfortable and provides a positive fit. I have not experienced any slipping or sliding around of the helmet.

A last note worth mentioning is the cooling channels. There are grooves molded into the foam that direct airflow between the top/inside of the MIPS liner and the bottom/inside of the top of the helmet. Other MIPS helmets suffered from being hotter than their non-MIPS counterparts; not so the SCOTT. A lot of value for $149!

5

5a

The Lazer Helium MIPS helmet is the most comfortable helmet I’ve used in 10+ years of riding. The styling is good and it’s available in a range of colors, including a high viz yellow.

The RollSys fitting mechanism is a delight to use. It means the fit can be dialed in with just one light touch from a single finger. It conforms well to my head and always feels secure. Ventilation is also quite good, although the testing period didn’t allow for a go in the high heat of a North Carolina summer. However, based on my time in the helmet so far, I imagine this will be at least the equal of any I have worn to date.
The cost is higher than any helmet I’ve used before. But in all functional and comfort areas, there are no weaknesses. The helmet does what exactly what I want a helmet to do – disappear and make me wonder if it’s really there.

6

6a

The Z1 is the second helmet in the “top of the line” classification I’ve tested in the past couple of years. I’ve ridden with all kinds – and all levels – of helmets over the years, from entry level to mid-level, from super light to optic heart rate sensor built in. But what sets these top-of-the-line helmets apart is the array of features that add up to a level of comfort, adjustability and overall great fit that is hard to equal.

To be fair, it’s also hard to equal the price for these expensive lids. Yes, the features, the comfort, the fit, the looks – they all deliver. But it’s really a question of personal value to the individual rider to decide whether he or she would be just as happy with a helmet that delivers some, but not all, of those same advantages, for half the price or less.

In the case of the lower priced MIPS models, the argument could be made that you’re actually getting more for significantly less: a helmet with the latest safety tech, too. When it comes right down to it, it’s much the same calculus we make for most bike products. To each, his or her own.

 

9

Conclusion

We found that the current MIPS models for road riders share a number of characteristics with their non-MIPS cousins: They come in a wide range of prices, with variability in terms of fit, ventilation, comfort and other factors.

Some look cooler than others. Some are, literally, cooler than others.

Yet, the key attribute the MIPS helmets feature is the latest safety technology in an area of bike tech that has remained relatively unchanged for decades. And still, the real value of the technology can only be proven in the event of a crash. Like helmets, in general, you employ the tech in hopes that you never actually have to test its effectiveness – but knowing that it’s in place just in case.

And, to be sure, the jury is still out on the technology. And competing technologies are in development. We’ve reviewed literature on MIPS and don’t see any hard evidence that should compel anyone to dump their current helmet and purchase a MIPS helmet. Here’s how helmets.org summarized it in their article:

“… do you need MIPS? Using careful evaluation, we can’t answer that. It probably won’t hurt, other than any effect on ventilation, of if your manufacturer has kept the same outer profile and reduced the thickness of the normal liner to accommodate the MIPS layer, or if it lets the helmet slip too much, or if the extra cost of the MIPS model makes a difference to you. We do not see compelling evidence that you should trade in your current helmet on a MIPS model unless having the Latest Thing is important to you.”

To us, here’s what it comes down to: More and more manufacturers are including MIPS in their helmet lineups (in a range of price points both affordable and expensive. So, when it comes time to replace your current helmet (recommended on average every couple of years, or after any crash or impact), consider checking out the MIPS equivalent of your favorite helmet, or perhaps an entirely new design featuring the technology. And be sure to try it on to ensure the proper size before buying.

Click to read MIPS and Sliding Resistance of Bicycle Helmets from helmets.org.

Click to read more from MIPS at http://www.mipshelmet.com/

May 2015


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