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