To The Point: MIPS

Sep 24, 2013
by Matt Wragg  
John Thompson is an engineer who, after twelve years of working in mainstream business, left to pursue his dream of working in the bike industry. He moved to Switzerland for the amazing riding on offer, and is now the Bike Helmet Product Manager at Scott. He is part of a passionate international team at Scott focused on creating safe, well-designed helmets. He feels that fashion has dictated too much in the bike helmet market, for too long, leaving customers with a very wide choice of good looking helmets, most of which just about pass the minimum safety requirements. His philosophy is to develop helmets that far exceed safety standards, and to strive to further increase the safety capabilities of Scott helmets by incorporating technologies such as MIPS. After all, as man who describes himself as an aging and avid mountain biker who is not too unfamiliar with the odd dirt sandwich, he is keen to preserve what little horsepower he has left upstairs.

What is MIPS?

MIPS is a Swedish science and technology company focused on improving helmet safety to deal with the type of crashes we experience in the real world. The MIPS Brain Protection System is a helmet safety technology which significantly improves head protection in the event of a crash. When we fall, our head often impacts at an angle. This angular impact creates a rotation in the brain, which has been proven to have significant potential to cause brain damage. With MIPS, the helmet absorbs much of that damaging rotational energy, offering increased protection. MIPS has no effect on the traditional safety mechanism of the helmet, the Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), so the helmets EPS shell is left to do its job of absorbing radial impacts.

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How MIPS works in a crash.
Test results from analysis of MIPS equipped helmet

How was it originally discovered?

MIPS is a result of a Swedish neurosurgeon, Hans von Holst, who while working at the World Health Organization in 1997, felt that traditional helmets did not do enough to protect people and accidents were having devastating consequences for many people. He sought the collaboration of Peter Halldin, researcher at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, with a view to them trying to develop a technology that could provide more effective protection. The idea was to look more closely at the head's anatomy and physiology, and copy the body's own protection system. Together Peter Halldin and Hans von Holst developed a technology that involved building a cushion or low friction layer into helmets which would provide unique and much improved protection for the brain. Out of this work came the name MIPS, an abbreviation of the functionality of the concept, Multi-directional Impact Protection System.

A cutaway of the new Scott Stego helmet which uses the MIPS liner.

A cutaway of the new Scott Stego helmet which uses the MIPS liner.


What does it look like inside a helmet?

It is hard to see the MIPS Brain Protection System from the outside of the helmet, but it is easily visible when looking at the inside, It is a bright yellow layer covering most of the inside of the shell, while also featuring corresponding vents to ensure the ventilating properties of the helmet are preserved.

The finished Scott Stego helmet - the yellow liner you can see beneath is the MIPS liner.

The finished Scott Stego helmet - the yellow liner you can see beneath is the MIPS liner.


How does it work?

When the human head is subjected to an angled impact, the brain slides along a membrane on the inner surface of the skull. This freedom to slide reduces the rotational forces transmitted to the brain. MIPS mimics this system by introducing a low friction layer between the head and the helmet. In experimental and numerical tests this low friction layer has shown dramatic reductions in rotational forces transmitted to the brain under angled impacts.

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Do you see MIPS in other types of helmets?

We have incorporated MIPS into both mountain bike and city bike helmets. The reason we have done this is not because MIPS is better suited to these applications. It is purely due to the fact that we felt that these type of riders are more receptive to the message of increased safety, and therefor would be more willing to pay the additional cost for a MIPS equipped helmet. We believe in the technology, and feel it has a place in all helmet types. Due to this we have developed a strong partnership with MIPS to ensure the integration of their technology works seamlessly in all of our helmets, and all of the key qualities our customers expect are preserved. The big challenge is to offer MIPS in models where the customers will value the benefits enough to spend the extra amount (typically a €30 upcharge over an equivalent non MIPS equipped helmet). We are committed to continue to release new models with MIPS in the coming years.

www.mipshelmet.com
www.scott-sports.com


66 Comments

  • + 22
 Surely it would seem then that the "industry standards" need improving if so many helmet manufacturers are able to produce and distrubute a minimally safe helmet.

Thanks to the above producers for putting safety and function before aesthetics.
  • + 14
 Im glad a helmet company is finally showing some of its testing processes, that definitely deserves some respect! It would be great if all helmets were released with all the data from impact and penetration tests, so instead of just having to take a blind guess as to the safest helmet we could choose for ourselves... This is definitely a step in the right direction!
  • + 6
 I think that most of the people don't make any blind guess and simply buy the one with prettiest design and color Smile
  • - 15
flag WAKIdesigns (Sep 24, 2013 at 5:26) (Below Threshold)
 Quite honestly I thonk there istoo mich paranoia about helmet quality. One should buy a certified helmet according to use, and if he thinks he engages himself in activity requiring higher level of protection he should ride in some fullface. If he goes total balls out he should ride in D3 kind of high-end, half-moto helmet and forget all about hidden details. We engage ourselves in a potentially life threatening activity and we either face it by forgetting about it and focusing on doing it best we can, thus no crashing, or we drop it and change hobby. The safest thing to do is to learn to ride well. Investing in skills clinics will make yoy less likely to crash, thus test wuality of protective gear yourself and costs less than a leatt brace. God and Science bless anyone wearing that but as soon as he/she puts any trust in it, he/she is on shortest way to the hospital.
  • - 21
flag nouser (Sep 24, 2013 at 6:19) (Below Threshold)
 Just wear your helmet lose on your head would do a similar thing
  • + 6
 Unfortunately, not everyone who rides is as well informed or even interested as most PB readers. Yes skills courses are a great way to improve your own personal safety on the trail, but not everyone has the time or the finance to attend such things - let alone pay for a decent bike and all the safety gear and necessary tools etc.

We shouldn't be in a position where people should have to research 'the safest option'; all the options should provide an agreed upon and internationally, legally enforcable level of protection to be approved for sale. As it is, I think a great majority of people will balk at the prospect of paying over $50 for a helmet, making the assumption that 'they all do the same thing anyway; it's just down to looks and weight' which is soooo not the case.
  • - 2
 a light, well ventalated, full face ... why change, sure i take it off going up a hill, who needs it going up a hill anyway
  • + 6
 @Waki - skills courses have made me a safer rider, but I then ride faster as a consequence. Yes, being better and not falling off is a far better way of staving off injury, but even the best of us will have an off at some point and the better/faster we are, the more we are indebted to protection, helmet or otherwise.

Also, I think POC do a full face with MIPS? I might be wrong, but if technology is proven to reduce the risk of injury what is the harm in employing it?

Oh, and there's no way I'm wearing my full face everywhere! :-)

Sorry, but I can't agree with your argument here...
  • + 9
 WAKI and Slade - We're talking concussions here, not general protection. A full face offers zero improved concussion protection over a half shell. They both use the same expanded polystyrene foam with a plastic or carbon fiber shell. The extra protection provided by a full face is for facial injuries (broken jaws, teeth, etc), which is a definite positive, but doesn't influence concussion risk. The D3 is not a safer concussion helmet, no matter how cool it looks. The MIPS and the new odd looking Smith helmet are the only ones on the market that offer increased concussion protection.
  • + 5
 Yes slimboyjim POC does offer MIPS in their Cortex, Fornix, Trabec and Receptor models, they were the first company to offer MIPS 4 years ago, its great to see other companies realizing the great technology that MIPS offers
  • + 5
 "...and we either face it by forgetting about it and focusing on doing it best we can, thus no crashing, or we drop it and change hobby." But Waki, the best riders in the world, while pushing the limits, are usually the ones that have the most life-threatening crashes.Yes, the safest way is to not crash, but crashing is, unfortunately, a part of our sport and we need all the protection we can get to take a hit, then get back up unscathed.
  • + 2
 No... just... no.
  • + 3
 Sorry, that was to tankzaclover
  • + 5
 Although it is great to see the MIPS lab test video, it is practically worthless without a baseline video to compare it to. Perhaps a helmet without the MIPS system behaves exactly the same, perhaps it rotates even more due to less mass, perhaps the MIPS is 1% better, perhaps 100%...
  • + 2
 Totally agree with tankzaclover and Rasterman. After personally trying on the POC Trabec MIPS helmet a feel it would do next to nothing for concussion prevention. Its about the silliest looking thing you have ever seen, a few silicon rubber bands hold a nylon plastic net. I'm sure in FEA models this seems to make a huge difference, but it requires the MIPS inner liner to be fastened to your skull to work. I could see the full-face MIPS system to working much better since you can get a very tight fit. Which is what your trying to do when buying a proper sized full-face helmet.
  • + 1
 Thank you GtimklV but people did not seem to agree. But felt the need to say how I felt regardless of the feedback from the comment.
  • + 3
 I agree completely! I'm a numbers person (b/c I'm a engineer and like data), but numbers quantify results. Companies aren't going to release stress/strain analysis because that releases too much information, but it should be the requirement.
  • + 1
 @olddirtyE

WHAT?! Did you not even look at the pics in the article?!?!?

www.pinkbike.com/photo/10114692
  • + 1
 Jackclarke89 With respect those aren't actually numbers, it is just a graphical representation. It is easy to tweak them to display images that support your argument. All they needed to do is use a logarithmic scale and they could easily change the 'apparent' relationship... You cant argue with numbers, needless to say it still indicates some sort of improvement and sometimes a very slight difference can do a world of good!
  • - 5
flag WAKIdesigns (Sep 25, 2013 at 3:47) (Below Threshold)
 @katmai -if you can't get the difference between a layer of styrofoam (half lid) and a set of layers of hardshell-EPS-styrofoam in a good FF like D3, providing more cushioning and "braking travel" for the brain hitting the skull from the inside, then just don't say anything. This isn't wheel size debate, if someone listen to your stuff here, he may end up injured more than he would if he didn't read this... can't find an insult giving it enough justice.

@matthewlikesbikes - but that depends on lots of other factors, like what Cedric said after his crash in VDiS: tracks should be safer by adding additional padding further away from the track and clearing more area from potentially dangerous elements. It is too complicated to boil it down to personal protection. Sure make it best you can, but I say these days it is almost as good as it can be, unless we develop air bags or something. This MIPS idea here is pretty neat, as in theory it redirects the vector of the force acting upon our skulls, the question is how much. I tend not to believe such graphs, as I know how graphic design works for marketing, but it's made by as Swedish guy so I believe it more than most.

Whatever, the most important thing to remember is that: Protective gear REDUCES negative consequences of an accident, it rarely MINIMIZES them and it never ELIMINATES them. In an event of a high speed crash into a hard object, causing sending you to a virtual stop in a matter of miliseconds and centimeters - be it a tree, lip of a jump, burm - you are going to get seriously fkd, regardless of what you are wearing. Kinetic force is a bitch, that's why I do not ride downhill bikes. Overanalizing of would have could have should have like piercing force is pointless. Fate is coming that I know...
  • + 4
 Industry standards are always way out. Take for example my daughters car seat that is crash tested at only 30mph but the standard is an even more shocking 15mph! Always buy the best you can afford and look deeper than the paint job.
  • + 1
 You're right those are not numbers, but I doubt they got some pictures of skulls and went wild with some felt tips in order to try and prove their point. While the images themselves are 'not numbers', the data has to be based on something i.e. statistics from testing. It wouldn't do their credibility any good if they warped the statistics to suit their desired results.
  • + 1
 This is why I bought a Poc Cortex DH MIPS. On sale on Amazon.com
  • + 1
 "@katmai -if you can't get the difference between a layer of styrofoam (half lid) and a set of layers of hardshell-EPS-styrofoam in a good FF like D3, providing more cushioning and "braking travel" for the brain hitting the skull from the inside, then just don't say anything. This isn't wheel size debate, if someone listen to your stuff here, he may end up injured more than he would if he didn't read this... can't find an insult giving it enough justice."

You are wrong about this. There are half-lids that are hardshell and full-faces that are in-mold so they are not exclusive to a certain helmet style. There are also many half-lids that have dual-density designs to help deal with the different forces from an impact. Hardshell helmets do not necessarily provide more safety than in-mold, their uses are situational with hardshells offering more protection against penetration (although POC uses an aramid layer in their in-mold which is *supposed* to offer similar protection) but in-molds offering better absorption.

"Sure make it best you can, but I say these days it is almost as good as it can be, unless we develop air bags or something."
Materials will improve, our understanding of injuries will improve and as a result our protective equipment should improve. I do not think we are anywhere near the limit of what we can do in terms of personal protective equipment.

My problem with these MIPS helmets is that it is only available on high-end helmets so it is not just a $100 price jump for MIPS but a $300 price jump for MIPS, carbon fiber, epp, etc.
  • + 0
 crazedmodder - one is making a clear choice by buying 70$ FF helmet and a 300$ one, but also one messes up with the point getting a full on moto helmet.

Penetration... roadie/xc lids are kind of out of equation here, and I'd say most "Enduro" helmets as well. A branch has a high chance of finding it's way into Trabecs vent. In molds are off course better because they will crack easier, absorb some energy this way and then by deforming further due to the crack, allow brain for a bit more travel, thus take some edge off the impact. Hardshell piss pots are good for street riding due to particularly high risk of hitting hard and sharpish objects that might crack the helmet so severly that they could separate in-mold and hit the skull directly. Then they are excellent canvas for graphics related to "cool stuff of any kind" thus many other "genres" are using them, even though they are doing worse job that in-moldish helmets. they are much better to make a statement and express your own personality than any other helmet. Form takes over function big time.

When it comes to life threatening crashes I do not think much more can be done with "classic" designs, because not much more tech, if any, is used in best car and moto helmets. Air bags or it's nearly over. Carbon fibre in helmets is nothing more but a price booster.

About POC - it is a company that uses "high tech" that is rich in law of diminishing returns, as their main mean of "establishing a niche" or being "unique". That comes at the cost of high price while getting little if any actual gains - I will never buy anything from them. It is ruled by same mentality as another snobbish Swedish brand: Peak Performance. If I had POC money I'd go for D3 and Dainese for the rest of protection without a blink of an eye. But I don't, so I go D2 and 661.
  • + 13
 Well done Scott. I'm a believer. I also have a POC Trabec MIPS and John spotted me last year on an Alps back-country train uplift with it and sought my views on MIPS. Scott's motives are laudable. My Trabec shows ugly scars after a couple of rock garden diving episodes in Sierra Nevada, Spain. I was oblivious of any head impact (painful side-impact to knee might have distracted my sensory perception!) until the helmet scars were subsequently pointed out to me. I'm choosing to deduce from that that its a great system. The Trabec also benefits from an aramid (brand names include Kevlar and Twaron) 'ballistic' composite fabric skin beneath the outer surface. I worked 16 yrs in the composite industry and believe I know sufficient to judge that the helmet is still usable largely due to that impact-absorption layer, and its tendency to not lose strength after minor deformations, whereas I have binned other helmets after far less impact. Suggest you look out for that too on any expensive helmet purchase.
BTW one drawback is that any helmet with MIPS is going to be less suitable to carry a helmet cam. Any POV camera on the top of a helmet will make it inevitably somewhat top-heavy and, in my experience, MIPS seems to contribute to a little extra wobble.
  • + 1
 Why were you still riding a helmet that had seen some nasty crashes and had scars to prove it?
  • + 2
 Did you read the whole thing?
He says -

"I worked 16 yrs in the composite industry and believe I know sufficient to judge that the helmet is still usable largely due to that impact-absorption layer, and its tendency to not lose strength after minor deformations, whereas I have binned other helmets after far less impact."
  • + 2
 exactly my experience too, Mutly, with a big crash that didn't feel like anything to my head but left a substantial dent in my helmet. MIPS is the real deal and actually makes a huge difference in impact absorption/energy dissipation. Way more than meets the eye.
  • + 2
 Totally agree with Alexsin!^^^ A compromised helmet is not JUST about the shell strength integrity. Once the absorption layers are compressed from a big impact, the efficiency is reduced regardless of the shell strength. Maybe it's good, maybe it isn't, but that can't be judged from the shell's integrity.
  • + 6
 I have tried on the POC mips helmets and the two pieces move fairly easily with respect to one another. Who is to say the mips "travel" isn't already bottomed out upon impact? Is there talk of this?
  • + 0
 Who's to say? How about the ridiculous amount of testing that went on before that helmet ever touched a store shelf? You think some random guy touching it for two seconds knows better than all the testers and equipment it's been through, the years of prototyping and designs? They don't just have idea's like this, build some shit version and send it off to see what happens.
  • - 2
 you mean the ridiculous amount of marketing
  • + 2
 +1 @jasperthomas. Nothing else to say.
  • + 4
 @jasperthomas I was just asking? But your right there has never been a product put to market that wasn't perfect....
  • + 8
 Buy a helmet that's too big for you. Instant cheap MIPS!




(in case you couldn't guess, yes I was joking)
  • + 2
 So, is the mips a one and done system or does it return to normal after impact? Does it break away on impact, or just slide and return to its original position? Obviously you are supposed to replace a helmet after any impact, and I would should I hit the deck hard, but what about small crashes. I'm all about safety, but I can't afford to replace a $200 helmet after every little fall.
  • + 2
 My Poc Cortex is a multihit helmet. It has a shear pin that will break off with a certain amount of force and allow the MIPS to activate. If the helmet is ok after the crash, just replace the pin and its good to go.
  • + 1
 Got it. I read a lot more about it last night.
  • + 2
 I own 3 POC lids and only wear the MIPPS version. POC makes a wonderful fitting helmets and I find they last a long time. The pads feel great and tend not to drip on your forehead while the visor is anchored perfectly for vision and Gopro capability. 2 months ago I hit a tree with my fav POC lid. It was mangled and cracked protecting my head....too bad the gloves didn't stop my thumb from breaking. Major props to SCOTT for entering the waters and offering a sweet option. I will ONLY wear a MIPPS lid.
  • + 2
 Bicycling Magazine (US) has provided a special, online link to its extensive story about MIPS and helmet regulations -- the histories and testing and status of both. It is worth a read:

www.bicycling.com/senseless/index.html
  • + 3
 30€ up charge? that's not that big of a deal imo, it would be awesome if giro incorporated it ibto the aeon and tld put it in the d3 (assuming mips works for full face)
  • + 6
 POC cortex full face comes with mips, so yes it does
  • + 3
 My next helmet purchase will be for the upcoming winter season. I am willing to spend a few more dollars to protect the ONE body part doctors can't really fix, ya know!
  • + 1
 Props to MIPS for trying to reduce injuries. The idea seems sound, but what about the testing?

The video they show is in a controlled lab environment. They used a dummy head to do the tests. What about the rest of the body and how that will effect your crash? Does the dummy head weigh the same as an average human head or the average weight of the entire body? Did they do the test from multiple different angles to account for different ways of crashing and hitting your head?

mipshelmet.com/how-it-works/test_results
there are 5 videos at the bottom that all show a similar crash angle.

I would like to assume these variables(and others) were taken into account. Has anyone been able to find out more about the testing procedures MIPS does on their helmet system? Should I just look in the official governmental testing procedures to gain more insight?
  • + 1
 The Senseless article from Bicycling is definitely worth a read. Explains quite a bit about testing procedures and current state of the helmet industry.
  • + 0
 I'm sorry but that still does not justify the price of $220 on a POC Trabec MIPS, when I can get an equivalent Giro helmet for less than half the price.

What can I say, I'm a broke ass university student.

Besides CPSC helmet certification is still legitimate, even if it might be arguably less safe than the MIPS they are advertising.
  • + 4
 Is the CPSC still legit? It's a standard from 1998. How much have we learned about head injuries since then?

Government is notoriously slow to change.
  • + 2
 It's nothing new&unique, boys and girls...

I have similiar liner in my old speleo helmet (manufactured by Petzl).
And it works great.
  • + 1
 My Mips Liner broke after a 10 ft drop... Now its held together with zip ties.. Does that make it a ZIPS liner???
  • + 0
 No thanks, i'll keep my standard helmet forever. Im more worried about breaking my neck/back then my fox flux not protecting my head
  • + 1
 That scale is 1:1 is it. For leprechauns is it
  • + 0
 Yeah,it's not going to break your skull but it surely gonna break your neck!
  • - 1
 How many riders are currently brain damaged every year? I'm not sure if there is that bad of a problem to be solved. Just be something else we're told we need to buy...
  • + 10
 Cycling has the second highest rate of concussions after football, and cycling concussions are heavily underreported. One or two concussions in a lifetime is generally not considered to be a large concern, but get beyond that and the risks of all kinds of degenerative brain diseases goes through the roof. Post concussion syndrome is a terrible thing to go through as well and severely affects your ability to work and function. There's a video on Pinkbike of a guy who injured himself in Peru, took a year to recover, and now has permanent double vision and has to ride with an eye patch. Also, check this article on concussions at whistler. www.piquenewsmagazine.com/whistler/lives-unravelling/Content?oid=2455087. Don't kid yourself, concussions are a big deal. A safer helmet would be a huge step forward.
  • + 3
 I'm deffo surprised by that fact, I would of always thought boxing or any sport where you punch another in the head to be worse than cycling. I tend not to go to deep into the what ifs, or I don't think I would push myself and progress the way I do. But point taken its clearly a bigger problem than I thought.
  • + 1
 Interesting article, thanks.
Here's the bottom line on why change is so slow from that article:
"I think bringing in new standards is always tough for a manufacturer because we have moulds and tools in place and that tooling is hundreds of thousands of dollars," he says.

"To enforce a new standard for Canada would mean a lot of retooling, which would be a huge financial burden and time constraint on all manufacturers."
  • - 1
 Im all about protecting my brain, cool stuff. However, towards the end of the second video it looked like I was starring at a plumber's crack...
  • + 1
 Owwwwwwwww that hurts
  • + 1
 Looks promising!
  • + 3
 It's a no brainer!
  • + 1
 I love the future...
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