MIPS Helmets Explained – Do You Need One?

Written by : Mr Mamil
Last updated :
MIPS Technology Logo

As cyclists, we are always looking for ways to improve our safety on the road. One of the most critical safety equipment we can invest in is a helmet.

In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about MIPS helmets and how they can provide an extra level of protection in the event of a crash.

You may have noticed that many cycling helmets come with MIPS on the back. That designation, along with a yellow insert inside the helmet, designates it as a helmet with MIPS technology.

This article covers MIPS in detail and whether it’s worth getting a helmet with MIPS.

What is MIPS?

MIPS is an acronym that stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System. It’s a safety technology designed to better protect the brain in an accident where your head collides with a hard surface and an angle.

While traditional helmets are effective at absorbing impact forces from head-on collisions, they are not as effective at protecting the brain from rotational forces. This is where MIPS comes in.

By reducing these rotational forces, MIPS can help to reduce the risk of severe brain injuries.

While more helmet manufacturers are adding MIPS technology to their products, it doesn’t come with government safety endorsements, like today’s helmet standards, including CE and CPSC.

MIPS technology and helmet standards are two separate things.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has the final say on approving bike helmets sold in the U.S. As of today, MIPS technology remains an add-on feature to conventional helmets.

How does MIPS work?

How does MIPS Work

MIPS mimics the brain’s protection system by using something called slip-plane technology. When your head hits the ground or a wall at an angle, a low-friction layer of the helmet rotates ever so slightly (about 10 mm to 15 mm), redirecting the energy of the point of impact.

The brain can slide inside the skull for protection. The inventors of MIPS took that same concept and applied it to a helmet.

As a result, the chance of a concussion is brought down drastically. It also helps prevent serious neck injuries, although its primary goal is to protect your brain.

Who invented MIPS?

Dr. Hons von Holst and Peter Halldin
Dr. Hons von Holst (Left) and Peter Halldin (Right)

Swedish neurosurgeon Dr. Hans von Holst and engineer Peter Halldin are credited as the inventors of MIPS helmet technology.

In the mid-1990s, Dr. Hans von Holst was seeing too many traumatic brain injuries but was concerned that not enough was being done to prevent those accidents from happening in the first place. 

Hans von Holst was leading research at Karolinska University Hospital on creating a new helmet technology but ultimately felt the technical work with his medical colleagues was getting in the way of developing a product.

So, Hans von Holst went to KTH Royal Institute of Technology, where he met Halldin and ultimately convinced the engineer to help him tackle the project. Halldin was so energized by the idea that he pursued a Ph.D. in biomechanics, using the MIPS project as his main research point during his studies.

The duo invented the MIPS technology early on in the experimentation phase.

Does MIPS lead to a safer helmet?

Traumatic brain injuries and concussions don’t occur solely at the point of an aggressive impact. It’s the rotational forces that ultimately cause these severe issues. That’s what MIPS solely set out to solve.

Halldin and Hans von Holst tested their technology in 2001 on a police helmet, and the results were astounding. The rotational forces were reduced by 50%, meaning that half of all bike crashes could avoid concussions or severe brain injuries if the rider wore a helmet with a MIPS insert.

That was undoubtedly an encouraging piece of data, but does the MIPS technology make today’s helmets safer?

Well, it’s not a simple yes or no answer. Instead of using the word safer, the engineers and doctors behind MIPS today prefer to speak about its technology in terms of its handling of rotational impact.

They guarantee that any helmet equipped with MIPS technology can better handle rotational impact by at least 10%. If it’s any less, MIPS won’t allow its technology inside that particular helmet.

When MIPS describes its technology as handling the rotational impact better, it means cutting down on the computed strain on the brain when an angled point of impact occurs.

Although there are helmets out there that can handle rotational impact by as much as 60% better, no one will tell you which helmet.

These decisions come down to liability and potential lawsuits. If someone sustains a traumatic brain injury and knew they were wearing a helmet that advertised itself as able to eliminate concussions by as much as 60%, there’s a chance that the victim could sue the helmet manufacturer for false advertising.

Of course, a 10% improvement in the handling of rotational impact is better than nothing. So, technically, a helmet with MIPS technology is safer than a standard helmet.

Do MIPS helmets cost more?

The Yellow MIPS Liner inside A Helmet

MIPS helmets cost slightly more, but the cost is relatively unsubstantial for increased safety.

Remember, MIPS isn’t a helmet. It’s an insert that goes inside a helmet. The company behind MIPS works with bike accessory manufacturers and convinces them to sell their helmets at a higher price to pay for the technology.

So, what does that mean for the consumer? 

The typical premium for a bike helmet with MIPS technology ranges from $15 to $25, or 10% to 20% more.

For a higher quality bike helmet, you’re looking at about $80 to $120, depending on the brand.

In the past, helmet brands such as Giro and Lazer would sell two different versions of the same helmet. One would have MIPS, the other wouldn’t. Today, most helmet brands have decided it’s worth including MIPS technology in their helmets, which is an endorsement of the technology.

Are MIPS helmets worth the money?

It can become challenging to determine whether a particular piece of equipment, like a MIPS-powered helmet, is worth it.

The main challenge with MIPS today is that several associations, including the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, are still on the fence about whether or not MIPS technology protects cyclists’ brains more than standard helmets. The organization said there isn’t enough data on the technology at this point.

That said, helmet makers aren’t necessarily getting richer by including MIPS technology. They need to pay the company behind MIPS to include the insert in their helmet.

So, why are many of the top helmet makers including the technology?

In my opinion, I like to think it’s because they believe in the data and the science behind MIPS.

So, is an extra $15 to $20 for a bike helmet worth it if your chances of getting a concussion are reduced anywhere from 10% to 60%?

You decide.

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