MIPS Helmets: So what’s the big deal?

Ok, I am going to be totally honest:

1. I’ve never had a helmet with MIPS technology before this season.
2. I was pretty misinformed about the valuable purpose of this technology.

So what the heck IS a MIPS helmet anyways?

MIPS, or the Multi-Directional Impact Protection System, was developed in Sweden with the intention of reducing rotational motion of the skull in bike crash scenarios by “absorbing and re-directing rotational energies and forces transferred to the brain from angled impacts to the head”. Essentially, when a MIPS helmet is “crashed” with an angled impact, which is pretty much every mountain bike crash ever, the low friction “MIPS” layer allows the helmet to slide relative to your skull. This sliding motion serves to reduce the force of impact on your actual brain tissue. More information regarding the technology can be found on Lazer’s website.


Helmet test

This is very important and can literally mean the difference between severe brain damage or suffering mild concussion symptoms that are treatable. My teammate Jen Malik likes to refer to her MIPS helmets as her “MAY I PLEASE SURVIVE” devices while my other teammate Emma Maaranen literally WILL NOT ride a bike of any kind without a MIPS helmet. For Emma, wearing a MIPS helmet literally saved her life while bike commuting in Utah 8 years ago. She was struck from behind (while obeying all traffic laws and riding within a protected bike lane!) by an intoxicated and altered driver already being pursued by the police. According to police footage, her bike was dragged under the front of the sport utility vehicle while she was thrown into the air “like a piece of toast.” Luckily for her, she had purchased a MIPS helmet 2-3 months prior; they were just hitting the market around that time.  Her trauma doctor told her “If you hadn’t been wearing that helmet, you probably wouldn’t be here.” As it was, she still suffered severe concussion symptoms and injuries related to the crash but lived to tell the tale (and shred on)!

Although developed over the last 2 decades, MIPS technology is still a relatively new addition to the list of available safety features for high-end bicycle helmets. It has gained a great deal of popularity in all facets of cycling (road, mountain and cross) over the last few years. For me, however, it seemed like just another extra “bell and whistle” that unnecessarily increased the cost of a helmet. This was largely due to the fact that I had once been wrongly informed by someone that MIPS stood for “Multiple Impact Protection System.” My understanding had been that MIPS was a more durable, probably heavier, and reusable-after-crashes type of helmet; you know, like for crazy Enduro people who crash a lot pre-riding (j/k Enduro fam- we luv u!) or a motorcycle DOT helmet!

Of note: ALL helmets should be always inspected for signs of impact after every crash, and replaced after major crashes or according to the manufacturer’s guidelines; usually 5-6 years, but check the inside of your helmet to be sure- it will generally be printed on a sticker.

Inside helmet

I finally discovered the error of my misunderstanding while discussing helmet choices with my KS Kenda teammates who were genuinely confused as to why I was voting for the pretty colored non-MIPS helmet. So after a sheepish explanation of my version of the MIPS acronym and some good-hearted laughter, we opted as a team to be safer bike racers and select our team helmets from Lazer’s amazing line-up of MIPS offerings.

MIPS Lazer Helmet

Lazer has been working with MIPS for almost as long as it has been available to the market. As our race helmets, we opted to race the Blade helmet. We loved the Blade for its extremely light weight (lighter than some MIPS helmets on the market that cost twice as much!) and $130.00 price point. This helmet is a bargain for all of the technology bundled into it and Lazer nailed the fit and comfort! Our other selections for training include the Z1, Bullet and Revolution. The Z1 and Bullet are primarily for road and CX training and the Revolution is for DH and Enduro. Each of these helmets is also offered in MIPS. To learn more about Lazer’s awesome offerings, check out the link here!

After spending so many years in school trying to educate our noggins, MIPS really was the right decision for protecting a very important investment that we’ve each chosen to make!
-Fairlee Frey

And Then There Were Four

When I first decided that I wanted to try out UCI XCO racing I was essentially clueless about the scene but hey, I had done a full UCI cyclocross season so how much different could it really be? SPOILER ALERT: it was pretty different!

For my first year, it was just Chris (boyfriend/mechanic/support/the list goes on), me, a rocking FS bike and a lot of camping. We put together a modest schedule and I got my first taste of what it is like to race “with” Olympic level athletes. It was quite the learning experience. The following year (also known as last year), I really felt that I could benefit from some team support; not so much gear-wise (although that would be nice) but from the standpoint of having ladies to ride with and stare at lines together without feeling slightly awkward when you cannot find THE LINE. I learned very quickly that team spots are few and far between, especially if you are not an aspiring U23 rider or don’t have a national championship (or 3) under your belt. So it was back to privateering and taking what we had learned from the previous year and improving upon it!

I made sure to update my race resume and compile a tentative schedule early so that I could reach out to sponsors and begin to build my program. With the help of BikeFettish I went into the 2017 season with a sick setup that was ready to tear it up! By the way, I am really excited that we get to rep them as a team! Even though my results were good and I had earned some UCI points I couldn’t help but look at the other teams and wonder what it must be like and whether or not I could add another rider to “my program.” Andddd cue Fairlee!

Chris and I were walking around Boston Rebellion when Fairlee came up to me and said that she and two other ladies (Nikki and Emma) were thinking about putting together an elite women’s mountain bike team and asked if I was interested (heck freaking yeah I was!!). And so it began: the planning, the hundreds of emails, and tons of learning.

I would have to say that the hardest part of creating the team was (shocker) sponsors. Since we had all been successful privateers we were lucky to have so many relationships with sponsors but that also meant losing some because now there were four riders. I would get back from a ride or take a break from lab work and have emails for daysss. Part of me really enjoyed this because I felt like we were really being productive but the other part of me was like “ahhhh we still have so much to do”!!! I found that making excel sheets helped alleviate some of the stress and behold, our master Google Drive sheet was born.

It has been an amazing experience to have three other incredibly driven and organized ladies to plan the team with. I am pretty sure that I have talked with at least one of my teammates every day since we decided to embark on this mission and I am so freaking excited to get the season rolling!!!

This year we will be repping KS Suspension, Kenda Tires, BikeFettish, Hyperthreads, GQ-6, KMC Chain, Novatec Wheels, Lazer Sport, Lake Cycling, ESI Grips, HT Pedals, Joe’s No Flats, Gu, Smanie Saddles, Tasco, Handlebar Mustache Apparel, and Pedal Power Chamois Cream, with more sponsors in the works. (Pretty baller lineup if I do say so myself).

– Jen Malik