MIPS Helmets Take Top 4 Spots in Latest Virginia Tech Rankings

Nov 26, 2019
by James Smurthwaite  
MIPS headquarters

The latest Virginia Tech helmet safety rankings have been released and MIPS equipped helmets have claimed the top four spots.

The latest rankings score Bontrager's MIPS equipped Rally helmet as the safest tested followed by the Troy Lee A2 MIPS , the Lazer Century MIPS and the Lazer Cyclone MIPS - the winner from the last round of tests. The Bontrager Specter Wavecel is the next safest helmet, however this is a road focussed helmet; the highest-ranking mountain bike helmet without MIPS is the POC Tectal Race that uses POC's (soon to be discontinued) proprietary Spin system.

The top four helmets from the latest Virginia Tech rankings. N.B a lower score equals a safer helmet.

2019 saw a battle of rotational protection systems as Bontrager's Wavecel was released to claims that it was 48 times more effective than EPS foam at preventing concussions and that it prevented concussions 99 times out of 100. In April, Virginia Tech ranked the Bontrager Specter Wavecel as the safest helmet, but its rankings from May and the latest results posted yesterday have MIPS helmets back on top in terms of safety.

POC SPIN

Of the 29 helmets that scored five stars out of five, 24 had MIPS with Wavecel and Spin making up the rest of the spots. However, with only Bontrager helmets able to use Wavecel and only POC helmets able to use Spin, these results may be more skewed than they first seem. All 29 high ranking helmets had some form of rotational protection. The highest-ranking mountain bike helmet without rotational protection was the POC Tectal that scored 4 stars out of 5.

Virginia Tech's ranking prioritizes concussion reduction and is formulated using a drop test that measures a helmet's ability to reduce linear acceleration and rotational velocity of the head. Some helmet manufacturers have grumbled that this doesn't paint a full picture of a helmet's efficacy but Virginia Tech is certainly the most prominent independent body that tests the safety of bicycle helmets. Virginia Tech recommends any helmet that scores 4 or 5 stars.

Read the full rankings here.


140 Comments

  • 233 2
 Disappointing the lazer helmet doesn't come with frickin lazer beams attached to the frickin helmet.
  • 71 0
 All I want is a frickin helmet with frickin lazers on it.
  • 36 2
 Evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that can't be done.
  • 24 2
 @rawrr: who in their right mind downvoted you...?

His name...NUMBER 2!!
  • 6 1
 @rawrr: Then get an other frickin cycloptic colleague.
  • 34 0
 @Svinyard: WHO DOES NUMBER 2 WORK FOR????
  • 11 0
 @mscofield4: Margaret Thatcher naked on a cold day!!!! Margaret Thatcher naked on a cold day!!!!
  • 3 0
 @mscofield4: yeah you tell that turd who's boss!
  • 3 2
 @Svinyard: I hit downvote by accident. Ugh.
  • 8 0
 Are the Virgina Tech Researchers ill-tempered?
  • 4 0
 You speak Japanese?! Well you might be a cunning-linguist but I am a master debater!
  • 6 5
 We will call it... Preparation H!
  • 3 0
 Frick me
  • 4 1
 @WAKIdesigns: Why don't you just call it operation ass cream!?
  • 4 1
 I work at VT so I think I’m qualified to answer this question... yes.
@David-S:
  • 4 0
 @WAKIdesigns: I hate you! I wish I was never artificially created in a lab!!
  • 100 3
 As an ER nurse, paramedic, and mountain biker; I would argue that rotational impact protection may be the best advancement in bike related technology in the last decade. It's nice to finally see some tested science behind all the claims from a non biased entity. I have witnessed many head injuries and trust me, you don't want one. I hope that many of you can avoid the impact (no pun intended) that a concussion can cause. Maybe more will realize that a little extra cash is worth it when spent on your head vs those titanium water bottle cage bolts and carbon fiber cage... Happy trails and safe heads to all.
  • 3 0
 Agreed!
  • 28 8
 My hair does it for me
  • 8 0
 No one cares about your head or helmet. Everyone cares about the titanium carrier
  • 3 0
 @nickfranko: Only if it's for a flask!
  • 8 0
 @mjsotelo91 - Agreed- but what is also interesting about the list is that the cost of the helmet doesn't necessarily correlate to it's positon in the ranking-...for example the $18 Schwinn outscored the $170 Leatt. That Troy Lee A1 looks like a great value for safety/cost! I think it shows that generally speaking you should pay to have a good helmet that fits but guessing safety based on how much it costs isn't necessarily accurate.
  • 2 2
 @snl1200: True. The Bontrager wave cell stuff caught a lot of flak for its outrageous pricetag combined with its outrageous marketing claims. Rightfully so.
Safety should not primarily be a question of wealth! Particularly because younger riders may simply not have the money for either expensive helmets nor expensive bottlecages.
  • 4 5
 @Ttimer: Mips gets no flak for suing everybody and limiting the diversity of innovations. So sorry but MIPS is quite a lot about Wealth
  • 26 3
 Im gonna need MIPS to protect my skulll...from the repeated blows I’m getting banging my head against the wall waiting for field test videos to drop!
  • 10 0
 VT lab is doing an awesome job and I'm really happy someone is finally providing 3rd party helmet testing and rating. Would love to see them get more funding to expand the range of tested helmets, including fullface. I noticed they do have a donate button, so check it out if you think this info is valuable too.

apps.es.vt.edu/onlinegiving/gift?giftDetail.supportAreaID=GTEN&giftDetail.fundCode=821082&giftDetail.fundName=Other&giftDetail.customFundName=Helmet%20Lab%20Research%20Account%20875399
  • 9 0
 Could anyone figure out how they affixed the helmets to the headform? I read the paper but couldn't find that detailed anywhere

This seems important because how the helmet is attached to our heads has a great deal to do with rotational impact. A loosely attached helmet could provide benefits similar to MIPS. If helmets are fixed against the headform during testing, it would overstate the benefit of MIPS.

Once again I find myself in the ironic position of being in favor of playing it safe (I look like robocop at the bike park); but i'm also skeptical of the data we have available so far on bike helmet safety. For the record, i'm arguing in favor of science, not against science. MIPS is probably a good thing, perhaps even a great thing. The same is probably true of neck braces, maybe. But so far I've yet to see data that bears out these assumptions of mine.
  • 2 0
 Agree. Do the crash dummies have bald & sweat free heads? Seems unrealistic. But then again, they've been doing this for a long time with football helmets and the lab is very well respected. So I'm guessing they've got some science supporting their methods. Just would like to know.
  • 1 0
 @jm2e: my guess is that if a helmet will do great with a normal head, then it'll also do great at this controlled test within reason. This is a great data point but DEF needs more helmets, especially the FF helmets that are being pushed to the limit
  • 1 0
 From what I can remember in testing videos I have seen in the past the helmets are attached using only the helmet straps provided. There isn't any additional glue or tape used. That isn't specific to this test but standard testing format for bicycle and motorcycle helmets. In the pictures provided you can see the helmet straps tight against the head form chin. Of course my memory of past tests and the pictures provided don't provide 100% proof.
  • 7 0
 Congrats Troy Lee! Now get to work making the foam inside the helmet last more than 3 months & you'll have a winner! Thank you for the 3 year warranty though on that lame headliner foam & your excellent customer support Smile
  • 1 0
 Is that their lighter density foam (dual density foam helmet)?
  • 1 0
 And their outer layer that peeled off under hot sun. My A2 needs sun screen for a ride.
  • 1 3
 I really wanted to buy A1 or A2 as my next helmet but it they are so shallow and moves on the head so much that I hd to give it a pass. I am sure that because of that they would score quite high without MIPS
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: I've tried them too and they just don't work for my head, with the A2 being particularly uncomfortable. Might need to give the POC another try but man, is it expansive!
  • 2 3
 @EckNZ: poc i great, my both half lids are from Poc. but they need to release an intermediate size. The differences between XS/S, M/L and XL/XXL are too big. You can’t cover heads from 54-66 with 3 sizes
  • 5 1
 I bought Bontrager Solstice MIPS helmets for my wife and kids. $55, mix of road/MTB look.... reflective straps, nice buckles... really nice helmet for the price, and the MIPS? Better to have it & not need it than need it and not have it.....
  • 5 0
 Kids are especially in need of a Full Face, ideally with MIPS (hopefully dual density style foam etc too). I learned that the hard way with my 3yro (dead tooth and mangled face from slow crash) and also a neighborhood kid was life flighted out at like age 5 for just a neighborhood crash on his jaw. Another younger dude put a stick through his cheek. My nephew racing BMX put a handlebar through his cheek. They just crash bad sometimes even when standing still and brother whacks his handlebars into the other one. Mine permanently ride with them to no ill effect.
  • 1 0
 @Svinyard: many large studies would bear that out. The strongest data for helmets in general have been in age 10, and while I'm not aware of a specific study looking at full face helmets the consensus is that they're safer/recommended.
  • 1 0
 But, once you have it, aren’t you more likely to use it?
  • 2 0
 The biggest problem on this topic is that not enough lightweight MIPS equipped full face helmets are available for kids under 8. Most full-face helmets are designed for older kids (4-6+) which means there is a significant age gap betweem learning to ride an proper full face protection. I wish Bell had an XXS-XS 3R or similar. Or even just more super small lightweight full face helmets for tots on Stryders.
  • 3 0
 We really need someone like VT to start testing full face chin guards. My DH certified FF chin guard recently asploded when I oopsied a medium size drop. As far as I can tell, there's no testing to advise my replacement.
  • 1 3
 May we ask what helmet model was that specifically?
  • 1 0
 There is testing that each helmet has to pass to be DH certified. I am not certain who does the testing, if independent company or the manufacturer themselves but there is testing. ASTM International certification (F1952-15 / F2032-13)
The two articles linked below mention the testing and certification. Plus there are Youtube videos showing the testing. So all of the DH certified or Enduro helmets are passing these tests but nothing like the VT ranking that I am aware of.

www.bikeradar.com/news/met-parachute-mcr-helmet

reviews.mtbr.com/five-new-enduro-ready-helmets-with-removable-chinbars
  • 1 2
 @MattyBoyR6: Bell super dh and Met Parachute 2 have DH certificates, it means that the DH certificate is worthless
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Was prolly the Giro Switchblade if I had to guess. IMO Bell Super DH vs 3R gives you an idea about DH vs not, seems worth it to me.
  • 1 2
 @davec113: Switchblade is the only one with a jaw that can be described as rigid. 3Rs jaw is for cosmetic damage only, Super DH doesn’t seem much more solid to me. I had them all in my hands and on my head.
  • 3 0
 Why are there no full face or detachable chin bar helmets rated? Was the testing limited to half shells? Just curious as I bought a Bell 3 Super with MIPS, Love to know how it's rated...
  • 2 0
 I did my mech eng thesis on this, I design an entirely new matrix material which performs rotational, oblique and direct impact protection all on one lovely lightweight package, that is also more environmentally friendly than polystyrene.

#plug #pleasehireme
  • 5 1
 BUT WHERE ARE MORE FIELD TEST REVIEWS?

SHAKE YO ASSES IN THE OFFICE BOYS AND GET THEM TO US HUNGRY PUNTERS

THAT'S ALL
  • 2 1
 Not that this discredits anything, but I was hoping for an explanation as to why a helmet that isn't new or redesigned is now testing as safer. The Rally MIPS isn't anything new, and the same way that I'm curious how it got safer I'm curious what changed for some of the helmets that had been ranked ahead of it...
  • 1 0
 Yeah I was hoping to hear more about the mips stuff but also the dual density foams and stuff designed to minimize smaller concussions as well. Or is that stuff already in there and I missed it?
  • 1 0
 It does mention that the rally was unique in bontragers proprietary Wave Cell™️ technology rather than MIPS. I'm pretty sure pink bike did a review on that and POC's spin stuff. I know you want all this stuff in one place, but it's here just search for it.
  • 1 0
 My daughter has been horse jumping the last few years, and I finally was able to get her a MIPS equestrian helmet (No, mountain bike helmets are "not the same" apparently). So, there are only 2 companies on the planet that have just introduced them. Since MIPS is a "revolutionary breakthrough in safety for equestrian riders", you guesses it - I forked over $350 for the exact same technology and no points for style compared to the Bontrager. Total crime.
  • 1 0
 MIPS is a good start to get the ball rolling for more advanced technology that will eventually be much more effective. Unfortunately, MIPS does not render the protection it is designed to do during a direct impact without rotation. It's kinda like air hockey, where the puck drifts effortlessly around the table until it is struck by a direct hit from the goalie mallet. Now, imagine if the goalie mallet was made of a type of gel or liquid that is encapsulated in a sack, kinda like a breast implant. Let the comments start LOL!!!
  • 1 0
 I have a Rally MIPS and a Blaze Wavecell. The Rally is heavy as heck, and the MIPS liner makes my head sweat really badly. The Rally is so heavy in fact that it makes my neck tired after a long day in the saddle. The Blaze isn't a fly weight but isn't as heavy and contrary to my initial reaction, has very good ventilation. There's sort of a venturi that will pull heat from the wavecell and it works, well. Plus Bontrager has their crash replacement policy, which I've used twice since switching to Bontrager helmets. My POC Octal I use for road and commuting is super light and very well ventilated, but who knows about safe it is without any MIPS.
  • 19 19
 This kind of testing does not reflect real world. Its clear, that in this case MIPS is beneficial. In real environment however, helmet is not stick to solid mold. Natural movement (also rotational) is obvious thing (just try to shake your helmet). Of course MIPS is huge benefit, when helmet is firmly stick to solid figure.
  • 25 0
 Whilst I agree to a certain extent that this sort of testing is flawed, (as will be most lab tests) I firmly believe that it's better than not testing at all. Kudos to the people at Virginia Tech for coming up with something other than the standard drop test and being an independent litmus test for the safety gear we use.

It's also good to see a variety of companies pushing the tech to reduce the rate of concussion or serious head injuries, we can only hope that it leads to a safer sport for us all.
  • 11 0
 While I agree that the helmet is not fixed in the real world, rotational force applied to the helmet by glancing blows is a real thing and the testing methodology replicates the moment of such an impact fairly well. A model that replicates a rider flying through the air would be more elaborate and expensive, and harder to achieve reproducible results.
  • 7 7
 Helmets with rotational protection systems scored best in a test designed to measure rotational velocity. Groundbreaking! Nothing against MIPS. I never ride without it. But I agree that some sort of real world testing would be better. I'd much prefer to see a study that examines the proportion of crashes that result in a concussion for MIPS vs non-MIPS helmets. E.g. survey the MTB community asking if riders have had any recent crashes in which they've hit their head, which helmet they were wearing, if their helmet was damaged in the crash, and if they were diagnosed with a concussion or had any symptoms of a concussion.
  • 5 4
 @Blackers: some testing is better than no testing, yes, but wrong testing leads to wrong solutions and builds false confidence.
  • 11 2
 @dlxah: anecdotal reports without any mention of the mechanism of impact or any way of measuring energy transfer would be LOWER-quality data than this. We know how much energy it takes to cause a brain injury, both from direct and rotational impacts. As I mentioned above real-world data are usually quite a bit sloppier and less precise.
  • 4 0
 I wish they would further expand on the correlation between the star rating and the numeric score.

I understand that they said they recommend helmets with a 4 or 5 star rating and to take into consideration cost, fit, and comfort, but what is the difference between a 9.3 and 11.2 score, and do those values relate to "real-world" differences?

What I'm getting at is everyone will look at the results, and pick #1. But are all 4 and 5 star ratings virtually identical? And if not, why?
  • 4 1
 @dlxah: At the beginning of this year I braked head first falling from a steep off camber turn onto the following flat singletrack. My A1 (non mips) broke and I had a headache but fortunately no other symptoms. A few months later I managed to replicate that exact crash with my new A2.
Same location, same speed, same line, same impact location on the helmet... I actually felt nothing and the helmet has no sign of damage. Needless to say I'm pretty stoked about that helmet... and I won't try that line again.
I'm sold on the tech. And the A2 actually has considerably more movement through the mips layer under pressure than the A1 ever had, so no, the scalp doesn't do anything comparable.
  • 3 0
 @deoreo: There is a link provided by VT ... vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/bitstream/handle/10919/83760/Bicycle%20STAR%20Methodology.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Basically, from what I understand, they give an important value to the rotational velocity (not acceleration) into the rating's calculation.

I do agree with most people here, that MIPS may help prevent injuries, but the study is based on football helmet studies : i.e. firmly in place on our head, using chin-strap on an open-face motorcycle-type helmet, hitting the tarmac ... and not a loosely bond helmet on top of hairy heads (well, at least for some of us) hitting dirt and grass.
  • 10 3
 If you don’t agree that they work your welcome not to wear one. Personally I’d rather listen to the experts than a load of keyboard warriors anyway
  • 4 3
 @DrPete: I understand the problems with surveys, but I'm not convinced that lab testing like this is accurately recreating real world crash conditions. The only way to test that would be with real world crashes. Given the impracticality and potential ethical issues with conducting that sort of an experiment, surveys seem like they might be the best way to see if these lab testing results seem to be consistent with real crashes.
  • 2 0
 I crashed with a MIPs half-shell helmet on during an enduro race, and only had a mild concussion. I'm pretty happy with the way things turned out and will continue to buy MIPS helmets.
  • 1 1
 You can not compare the forces exerted on a helmet during a crash with it just sitting on your head.
  • 5 3
 @dlxah: That's not even a valid method, all crashes are different. In order to compare anything scientifically, you have to have precise, reproducible impacts.

Science really is dead.
  • 1 2
 @TheOriginalTwoTone: I think you're being a little dramatic. I never claimed that observational studies or surveys are a substitute for controlled experiments.
  • 1 0
 @dlxah: Lets bring in Johnny Knoxville to go to work for PB as the official helmet tester.
  • 1 0
 Where did you read that the helmet was stuck to the mold and not strapped in only using the helmet straps as part of each helmet? My understanding is that there is no use of glues or tapes or other sticking substances used for standardized helmet tests.
  • 1 0
 @jzPV: I feel as though your friends should propose an intervention. You may have a very specific problem.
  • 2 0
 @MattyBoyR6: Even assuming that's the case, the dummy heads do not appear to have any skin or hair. Put one hand on each side of your head above your ears and feel how much of a natural "slip-plane" you have even without the helmet.
  • 1 0
 @dlxah: as I said above, comparing the A1 and A2 side to side shows that if you put pressure on top of the helmet the hair does almost next to nothing compared to a mips helmet. And I have lots of hair.
  • 2 0
 The nice thing about the Troy Lee A2 is that it is actually a really good looking and well ventilated helmet. I have had one for a year and just got one on sale for my son.
  • 2 0
 My A1 MIPS saved my noggin'.
  • 3 0
 Just crashed in my 2 month old A2. Into the bin it goes...very sad.
  • 4 1
 What happened to bontrager wavecell being safest ever that didn’t last long
  • 2 1
 they designed a helmet that fits this specific test better. Until they make helmets with embeded g sensors so they can see what the impact actually was they're all just guessing. Likewise with helmet fixation to the dummy head.
  • 2 2
 How can it be that a non mips helmet scores 4 out of 5 and more than some mips helmets? I thought the tech was groundbreaking saving lives? I bought a-helmet with yellow logo to feel safer. Oh and if it’s Swedish I want one made of vegetables
  • 1 0
 Does anyone have any thoughts on the Kali helmets in relation to these tests?

Really like the sound of what they're trying to do but doesn't seem to be borne out by these results?
  • 3 0
 Can you buy a MIPS hairnet to go under an inferior non-MIPS styrofoam hat?
  • 1 0
 If you got hair it’s a natural mips system, as the hair acts in the same way... was a chat late one night at a race over beer if mips best suits men who are bold? Who knows
  • 3 1
 I prefer to put Vaseline on my head before i put my helmet on to prevent rotational impacts. Its just more convenient.
  • 5 0
 try hummus, similar effect and is perfect with laBaguette tire inserts
  • 1 1
 Some say that quality on the outside is directly related to the quality on the inside, that’s why I have too many helmets.
Nevertheless Rally MIPS is really great helmet, especially considering the price.
  • 1 0
 one downside to that helmet is its hottttttt, one of the worst ventilated helmets ive worn. in the texas heat i have to drain the sweat after every climb and if its flat then every 10 or so minutes.
  • 2 0
 @TylerG96: Yep, its a sweatbox. On my head it comes down too far in the front and when looking up on steep descents that is exacerbated to the point where the headband in the front is over my eyebrows. The Y straps are also not adjustable which stinks.
  • 1 0
 @mtbgeartech: so did mine!! rough terrain it would rattle on my riding glasses, even worse at night with the light on top..
  • 1 0
 "Some say that quality on the outside is directly related to the quality on the inside"

Based on my past girl friends this saying can't be farther from the truth.
  • 1 0
 I'd like to see these same helmets tested with the mips removed (?) Or maybe a test of helmets that are available with and without mips.
  • 3 0
 I guess full face helmets don't count as bicycle helmets?
  • 1 0
 So why are they not testing with Ballistic gel and fake skulls with with fake brains . Mips may stop a concussion but what other injuries are happening ???
  • 2 0
 Helmets definitely help prevent lacerations, and fracturing your skull from a direct blow takes a massive amount of energy transfer. Since a concussion is really a mild form of traumatic brain injury (TBI), it is safe to say that preventing mild TBI also means preventing severe TBI.
  • 1 0
 @DrPete: I do find it interesting that more people. I know have had more concussions since switching to Mips designs. And these are from simple little crashes trail riding. Not from high speed crashes off stunts or DH type riding. I personally wear a non-Mips full face. Lots of crashes and zero concussions to date. I tried a Mips design and did not like the fit or having to dial adjust the head band.
  • 7 4
 Thanks for the heads-up.
  • 2 0
 Maybe i missed it. But how come FOX was invited to the party ?
  • 2 0
 The 18 dollar schwinn helmet scored about same as the non-spin tectal
  • 4 4
 i dont need a helmet becouse when i crash i dont get hurt, the ground gets hurt 100% real shit
  • 4 0
 ok chuck norris
  • 1 0
 Damn, bro. You sound so hard.
  • 1 0
 I like Rally. It fits and looks great and it's the safest of helmets!
  • 2 1
 MIPS. Exactly what your hair does.
  • 2 0
 It definitely would be interesting to see data on concussion incidence for people with long hair, short hair, and the follically challenged.
  • 1 0
 Viginia Tech, could you perform a similar test with MTB wheelsets?
  • 21 0
 Why would you want to hit people on their heads with an MTB wheelset?!
  • 6 0
 Why would you wear a wheel set on your head instead of a helmet?
  • 1 0
 troy lee A1 mips is my worst helmet ever! it`s too hot !
  • 1 0
 No Fox?
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