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
- Ventilation (# of vents, how well air flows /stays cool, does the MIPS liner interfere with or cover vent holes, etc.)
- Fit and fit adjustments?
- What padding is offered; how well does it work?
- How easy is it to adjust, buckle, put on/take off?
- How easy is it to get the fit dialed in, and keep it dialed in?
- 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.
Smith Optics Overtake MIPS Helmet
|Ventilation||The Koroyd technology allows for a very open structure, but the orientation of the 'straws' relative to the direction of travel results in almost no active venting benefit. The helmet pads and MIPS liner also block airflow. The result is a warmer than average helmet, though it never felt uncomfortably hot. The biggest issue was the lack of sweat evaporation under the helmet. I found sweat running down my face on almost every ride with the Overtake, an annoying issue that I rarely have in other helmets.||2.5|
|Fit||I have an oval shaped head that generally fits well in medium sized helmets. The addition of the MIPS liner resulted in the fit of a size large Overtake working well for me. The Overtake has a more rounded interior shape so the helmet fit a bit wide on my oval head compared to other helmets.||4|
|Padding||The padding was soft and supported the helmet well. It is held in place with hook and loop so it can be removed for washing and allows for minor placement adjustment. The pads have a medium thickness and rounded shape that is comfortable.||4|
|Adjustability||The Overtakes retention system was very easy to adjust with a single hand twist knob at the rear of the helmet. The points where the retention system anchors to the helmet body are also adjustable with three different anchor locations at each point. This allows the helmet tilt to be optimized. Adjusting strap location around the ears is simple and quick.||4.5|
|Dial in fit||Once the fit was dialed in the retention system cage set securely on the head. The twist knob allowed for quick tension adjustments on the fly. A minor drawback of MIPS systems is that on very bumpy roads, the retention system held tight, but the MIPS slip plane would move. In some cases the helmet tilted sideways, while in other cases the helmet pitched forward and would bump the top of my sunglasses. Overall. this movement was a minor annoyance and the helmet could be quickly readjusted back to a neutral position with one hand.||4|
|Weight||Not a featherweight helmet, but even after sizing up due to the MIPS liner the helmet felt comparable in weight to most helmets I have used. In heavy rain some water can stick to the Koroyd 'straws' and make the helmet gain some weight. It can be a bit difficult to get all the water back out.||3.5|
|Comfort||Once on the head the comfort was such that helmet disappeared. The only reminders that I had a helmet were the occasional MIPS-induced helmet slip on bumpy sections and excessive amounts of sweat running down my face under hard efforts.||4|
|Price||At $290 this helmet falls in the high end of the price bracket.||2|
|Overall Rating||Great looking helmet with aero advantages and comfortable fit, but high price and lack of ventilation are drawbacks.||3.67|
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 (check latest price here) 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.
Giro Sonnet MIPS Helmet
|Ventilation||Very good ventilation||5|
|Fit||Helmet fits great, strap length doesn't match to the helmet size. Need to make straps adjustable in length. Strap clip fits to the far right of chin, not under chin like one would expect||3|
|Padding||Padding puts pressure on temple area. We needed to cut part of the padding. After that, it fit much better||4|
|Adjustability||Good spacing in the back (I like to put my hair through the slot and it fits great). Roc Loc easily adjustable||5|
|Dial in fit||Straps are very long. Can save a little money (maybe) by not including such long straps, especially for females. Ended up with 6 inches of extra strap length. Needed to cut straps, then seal nylon from unraveling by using a couple of matches||3.5|
|Weight||Very lightweight at 270 grams; didn't feel any weight on my head||5|
|Comfort||Once 'fine-tuned, the helmet was very comfortable. I could ride all day in this helmet||4.5|
|Price||Probably the best deal out of all of the helmets tested.||5|
|Extras||Also love the white camo color, as it's subtle but adds a little fashion||5|
|Overall Rating||When including price, I have to rate this one of the best MIPS helmets! At only $ (check price here) for the MIPS version, being a proven quality GIRO helmet, Roc Loc 5 system, it don't get any better than this!||4.45|
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 $$ (check price here) 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.
Giro Savant MIPS Helmet
|Ventilation||25 vents with Giro's Wind Tunnel channeling that draws air through the helmet. It hasn't been hot enough yet to test it thoroughly, but so far I would give it a high rating for its airy feel from the many large vents and the space between the head and the helmet that lets the air pass through the channels.||4.5|
|Fit||Giro's Roc Loc 5 micro-adjustable fitting system works great to keep the helmet nicely in place and can be fine tuned with ease with the dial in back. I found the fit nice out of the box. It did not change or need to be adjusted. The helmet has the stana buckle with locking adjustable strap buckles below the ears on either side. I did not need to adjust the chin buckle very much, or the side buckles at all.||5|
|Padding||Minimal padding: 2 thin foam strips on top/inside of the helmet that rest on top of your head and another larger/longer pad across the brow/forehead area with 5 built-in "fingers" that go up your forehead. Less padding means less absorbent material to hold sweat, so that's a good thing, in my experience. I rated this 4 because - as I note under Comfort - the pads are held in place with hook-and-loop fasteners that occasionally become exposed and chafe when they do.||4|
|Adjustability||Giro's Roc Loc 5 fit system is very adjustable, with both the dial and the ability to raise and lower the harness in back, to adjust the tilt of the helmet on the head (Giro points out that this lets you adjust your helmet for different eye wear compatibility, too - something I hadn't thought of). Sizing runs 5 51.55cm, M 55-59cm, L 59-63cm and XL 61-65cm. I tested the M. Note that Giro states that the Savant MIPS has a "Slim" shape, which I believe means it's better suited to narrow, instead of wide/rounder heads.||5|
|Dial in fit||A small ratcheting dial on the back of the harness lets you fine-tune the fit with ease and while riding, if needed.||5|
|Weight||280 grams (roughly 50-60 grams heavier than Giro's lightest helmets). The Savant MIPS feels light on the head to me compared to my Giro Air Attack Shield, which is one of their heaviest road helmets at 360 grams. I also compared it to my +/-200 gram Giro Prolight - my standard race helmet (no longer made), and it didn't feel all that much heavier.||4|
|Comfort||Very comfortable. Only complaints: The pads are held on inside the helmet with hook-and-loop fasteners. Sometimes the pads move and I felt the hook-and-loop chafing. There are also some sticky parts of exposed tape that I can't seem to find that sometimes pulls my hair when I take it off. These are small things, but I noticed them.||4|
|Price||Nice to get the latest cutting-edge protection and a nice fit, feel, comfort and style at a lower price than Giro's Gucci helmets.||5|
|Extras||In-Mold construction adds durability.||3|
|Overall Rating||This is a fully featured helmet with added protection at a surprisingly affordable price. I only had a few minor complaints that might work themselves out with more use.||4.39|
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 (check price here), 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.
Scott ARX Plus MIPS Helmet
|Ventilation||On the inside of the helmet, SCOTT has designed and built small integrated channels that provide additional cooling. This additional cooling takes place between the MIPS liner and the top inside of the helmet. 17 large vents for cooling or 20 if you count the largest 3 vents on top that are split into 2 vents each.||5|
|Fit||From out of the box, this helmet required a little fiddling with to get it adjusted correctly (see ADJUSTABILITY below). It only took a couple of minutes to get a perfect fit, and once adjusted, I haven't needed to readjust after more than 2 months of riding. Again, the size I received was large and is the size I wear. With MIPS, the helmet grips my head only slightly tighter and then only at the rear. The vertical fit is adjustable and this helmet feels very secure and comfortable.||4.5|
|Padding||Minimal padding. Even though there's not a lot of padding in this helmet, there's just enough to make it comfortable. Sometimes helmets with an overabundance of padding, the padding tends to slip around when wet with sweat. This helmet offers perfectly placed padding.||4|
|Adjustability||The straps were definitely not pre-adjusted from the factory. In fact, the straps were so loose that they would have fit someone with an XXXXL head. Maybe a good thing since had to go through a quick 'learn on the fly' to get the straps adjusted. This actually proved how easy it was to adjust for a perfect fit. The possible reason -- this was one of the helmets that came directly from the manufacturing facility, and, to get this to us as quick as possible, the pre-adjustment steps were bypassed. Since I have not heard of this issue on production helmets, I can assume this is a non-issue.||4.5|
|Dial in fit||The MRAS2 (Micro Rotary Adjustment System II) fit system provides for tighter/looser fit adjustability as well as up/down adjustability for a perfect stable fit.||4.5|
|Weight||270gms (Medium) which is on the lighter side of the MIPS helmets tested. Feels very light when wearing even for many hours.||4.5|
|Comfort||This helmet fits my head perfectly. I like the fact that it is slightly tighter in the rear which helps prevent the helmet from slipping forward when getting saturated with sweat.||4.5|
|Price||A lot of value for $ (check latest price here)||4.5|
|Extras||A large soft helmet bag is included with the purchase. This protects the helmet, is washable and if purchased separately, would be close to $20||5|
|Overall Rating||A lot of built in quality for a low price. Extremely comfortable and lightweight||4.56|
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 (check price here)!
Lazer Helium MIPS Helmet
|Ventilation||19 vents available. It feels much like any other helmet I've ever used. The vents are well spaced and seem to work well. I've not had an opportunity to use this in weather above 70F due to the timing of the review; however, I do not anticipate issues.||4.5|
|Fit||Excellent. I received the large size, which is what I normally wear. The helmet grips the head well without any pressure points. It feels very secure and comfortable.||5|
|Padding||Comfortable and does the job. One thing I would have liked is for the helmet to be supplied with a replacement set of pads.||4|
|Adjustability||The helmet has a secure buckle which goes unnoticed when in use. The straps could be adjusted to fit around my ears. One-touch adjustment.||4.5|
|Dial in fit||The "Roll Sys" adjustment is a dial on top of the helmet. It is very easy to change the fit with one finger, and it stays in place. I found this very helpful when wearing a balaclava for winter riding.||4.5|
|Weight||299g (Medium). Once in place the helmet goes unnoticed.||4|
|Comfort||Very comfortable due to the high adjustability.||4.5|
|Price||check latest price here||3|
|Extras||Lazer has a light plastic cover available in three styles called an "Aero Shell". It has two functions. It will make make the helmet more aerodynamic. More importantly (for me, at least) it blocks wind and rain, making wintertime riding that little bit easier. Since it is rigid it has to stay on for the duration of the ride. The helmet also ships with a carrying bag. The helmet is available in a range of colors, including high visibility orange and high visibility yellow.||4.5|
|Overall Rating||The Lazer is my favorite helmet I've used in 10 years of riding. Extremely comfortable and with a quick adjustment system which should meet a variety of head sizes. Expensive; however, the price is in line with helmets from other manufacturers.||4.28|
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.
Lazer Z1 MIPS Helmet
|Ventilation||With 31 vents in a system tested in a "vent tunnel," this is among the best-ventilated helmets available. There's plenty of well-thought-out airflow.||5|
|Fit||About as good as it gets. Easily adjustable, comfortable even with minimal padding. Easy to dial in. Not much good to say about it.||4.5|
|Padding||Minimalist approach, as with many high-end helmets. And that's a good thing. This helmet features only 2 pieces of padding. One V-shaped strip on each side of the helmet, running down the middle toward the forehead, and then across the forehead to each side of the helmet at the temple. Simple, effective. No need for anything more.||4.5|
|Adjustability||Features Lazer's Advanced Rollsys fit system (ARS), with an easy-to-use rolling dial at the top of the helmet, which progressively increases or lessens the peripheral "grip" around the circumference of the head. Coupled with the adjustable head basket, which can be moved up or down to position where the helmet fits the back of your head.||4.5|
|Dial in fit||The combination of the ARS, adjustable head basket and the adjustable strap clips to manage the under-the-ear confluence, this is one of only 2 helmets I've ever got dialed in on the first try. The only issue I've had since was one time when fiddling with something, I inadvertently moved the head basked position. A quick fix; back to normal.||5|
|Weight||Very lightweight, at a stated 276g for the largest model tested. It's not the absolute lightest helmet I've ever worn, but it's in the top tier. Not at all noticeable on rides of any length.||4.5|
|Comfort||Everything stated above rolls up to a supremely comfortable helmet.||5|
|Price||At $269.95, it's expensive. But the features, comfort and fit are all hallmark of a high-end helmet. None of the mid-range or lower-end helmets I've had in the past are comparable, so you could argue that you get what you pay for. Still, it's pricey!||2.5|
|Extras||T.pro design shape provides more coverage of the temples for added protection. Optional Aero Shell easily snaps onto helmet to provide improved aerodynamics for race conditions and rain coverage and additional warmth during cold weather rides. Head basket shape curved up in the middle to accommodate ponytails with no impedance. Also comes with a carry bag.||5|
|Overall Rating||Top-of-the line (non-MIPS) helmet with features, comfort and looks that all deliver.||4.5|
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.
Summary of the Ratings
|HELMET REVIEWED||OVERALL SCORE / 5|
|GIRO SONNET MIPS (WOMEN'S)||4.45|
|GIRO SAVANT MIPS (MEN'S)||4.39|
|SCOTT ARX PLUS (MIPS) HELMET||4.56|
|LAZER HELIUM MIPS||4.28|
|LAZER Z1 (non-MIPS)||4.50|
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.
I have always enjoyed bicycling and, through a series of coincidences, became a Bicycle Industry Consultant and Product Tester. I test prototype products for companies and have published only off the shelf production products on biketestreviews.com.