Have you been shopping for a bike helmet lately? If so, you've probably come across MIPS - you know, those helmets with the bright yellow lining? So, what's the deal with MIPS anyway? I took a trip to the MIPS headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, to get the scoop.
MIPS is popping up in helmet after helmet, and there's a good reason for it. It's not just a trend; there's solid science behind it. The scoop is that MIPS is a brain protection system that helps reduce harmful forces that can result from certain impacts. It's designed to add an extra layer of safety for your head. Today let us share all you need to know about MIPS tech for you. As a helmet manufacturer for over 10 years, we know every bit about helmet manufacturing and can offer custom helmet service. MIPS is one of our techs in the helmet manufacturing process! Now let's dive in.
Back in '95, Hans von Holst, a brain surgeon from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, saw that helmets didn't address rotational motion. They ignored how our heads twisted and turned in a crash. So, he got the Royal Institute of Technology on board to dig into the science.
A year later, Hans and a brainy PhD student, Peter Halldin, cooked up MIPS tech, and by 2000, they had their first test-ready helmet. MIPS aimed to make its own helmets at first but shifted gears to power up other brands with its smarts instead. You won’t find a MIPS-only helmet, but you’ll spot its tech in helmets from the big players.
Fast forward to the end of 2017, and over five million MIPS-laden helmets have hit the streets. They're not everywhere—Kask hasn't jumped on the bandwagon, for instance. But most top bike helmet brands have. And MIPS isn’t just about bikes—it’s making waves in motorbikes, snow sports, hockey, even for military heroes.
With 72 patents under its belt, MIPS is all about that crucial 10-15mm wiggle room that lets your head and helmet move separately, a simple yet game-changing idea. They’re not stopping there, with 71 more patents waiting in the wings.
Up to now, MIPS has put helmets through the wringer nearly 20,000 times to make sure they’re up to snuff.
Peter Halldin from MIPS explains that side hits are what you'll mostly see in sports. Take bike crashes, for example. You're likely to hit the ground at a speed around 13 to 14.5 mph, usually at about a 45-degree angle, rather than slamming into a car.
When a helmet rubs hard against the road during a fall, it can twist. This twist can really shake up the brain, which doesn't take well to spinning around.
For over 50 years, experts have known that this twist, or rotational motion, is bad news for the brain. And it's not just MIPS saying it; it's a common understanding that we need to avoid this kind of brain jolt.
Hans von Holst tells us that head injuries from hitting your head can be of two kinds: straight-on and spinning. Straight hits can crack or bruise your brain, while spinning ones can lead to more complex issues like blood pooling under your skull (a subdural haematoma) or widespread brain damage (diffuse axonal injury).
So, how does MIPS step in?
MIPS's goal is simple: keep the brain from spinning during a crash by redirecting the force. Their method? Slip a low-friction layer into the helmet, giving the head about 10-15mm of movement in any direction when a spill happens.
You might have seen this layer in helmets, that yellow plastic piece that sits snug between your head and the helmet's foam. It's designed to let the helmet slide over it when you hit the ground at an angle, reducing the chance of your brain taking a spin.
Peter Halldin admits that back in '96, they had the wrong idea about why MIPS was effective. They thought it was about spreading the impact or the heat from friction. But after a deep dive into the data, they realized it was all about preventing the helmet from gripping the ground — which is what twists the head — something an MIPS-equipped helmet reduces.
Bike helmets are as diverse as the cyclists who wear them, tailored to fit every head shape and cater to different airflow needs. It's impossible to find a universal MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) that fits all helmet types.
Amy Pomering, a MIPS product engineer, points out that finding the right MIPS for each helmet is tricky. "For road helmets, balancing safety with staying cool and light is key," she notes. "We aim for maximum protection without blocking all the air vents, because that would make the helmet too hot and unsellable."
While most MIPS helmets have a plastic layer that allows for movement during a crash, not all follow this design. Take the Giro Aether, for instance. It doesn't have this extra layer; instead, it has two parts that shift to absorb impact, helping to keep your head cooler.
Usually, helmet makers will send new designs to MIPS's CAD engineers who work on the special layer that helps reduce friction. These designs must already meet safety standards.
MIPS then gets various sizes of these helmets, both with and without the special layer, to test them. They check how the helmets handle impacts from different angles using high-speed cameras to catch any surprises for later analysis.
The team at MIPS looks at how much the brain would strain during impact. "We're after at least a 10% strain reduction," explains Peter Halldin. "Often, we see reductions up to 40%. But it's not just about reducing the force; it's about how long the brain is exposed to it. That's what can tell us about the risk of injury, not just the force's peak."
MIPS is a great step forward, but it's not the only safety feature in helmets. Other technologies, like WaveCel, SPIN, Koroyd, and Kevlar help protect your head too.
WaveCel has a special structure inside some helmets that collapses and slides to take in the force from a hit.
SPIN has special pads that move around to cut down the shock to your brain.
Now, let's talk about Koroyd technology and Kevlar Technology. Koroyd is made of tiny tubes that crush down in a crash to absorb impact. It's light but strong, making helmets safer without being heavy. Kevlar, the stuff in bulletproof vests, is also used in helmets. It makes them super tough and helps spread the force of a hit over a bigger area. Check out Huacesports helmet technology for more information.
Remember, a helmet's not just about what's inside. The materials used and how it's made, like with strong carbon fiber or aramid, and how it fits you, are just as important. No one helmet is the best for every situation, but choosing one with these smart features is a good move for extra safety. If you are looking for a helmet manufacturer that can produce MIPS helmet, be sure to check Huacesports who has been manufacturing bike helmets for over 10 years! Feel free to contact us if you want to customize your helmets and you will be amazed by our bike helmets!