Helmet manufacturers are under a lot of pressure to continually improve their protective headgear. In the motorcycle world, meeting the additional standards of SHARP or SNELL makes a helmet stand tall above those who only meet the minimum requirements of ECE 22.05 or DOT. But can more be done to protect our heads? That’s where a MIPS-enabled helmet might persuade you to part with your hard-earned.
What does MIPS stand for?
MIPS is the abbreviation of Multi-directional Impact Protection System. Developed by Hans von Holst, a Swedish neurosurgeon and Peter Halldin, a researcher at the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology; MIPS Brain Protection System (BPS) was designed to reduce trauma to the brain from rotational motion. After 20 years of research, over 20,000 tests and third-party validation, the first MIPS-equipped helmets were launched in 2007. Currently, there are over 70 helmet brands across numerous disciplines, including motorcycling which incorporate MIPS BPS.
Why is MIPS important?
Our brains are protected by a layer of fluid that keeps our brain safely floating away from our skulls. If enough force is created during an impact, our brains risk being a compression trauma if it gets squashed against our skulls. Mips have performed years of research and concluded when you fall and hit your head, it’s most common to fall at an angle, compared to a linear fall. In other words, you won’t always hit something head on, your head will change position in relation to the direction of your body.
Falling at an angle means your head can be twisted or rolled within your helmet. Standard motorcycle helmets are not designed to allow for this type of movement. As a result, your brain can come into contact with your skull and damage the tissue. The force of a crash, and how well your helmet can dampen the energy transfer, will decide on the level of injury.
How does MIPS work?
The thin, low friction layer which makes up the MIPS BPS, is added between the EPS layer and padded liner of the helmet. If an impact occurs at an angle, this additional layer allows your head to move inside the helmet by rotating 10 – 15mm in all directions. The rotational force is redirected, and the risk of damage to brain tissue is reduced. The movement of your head and the MIPS System occur within the first 5 – 10 milliseconds upon impact and could make the difference between a more severe or less severe head injury.
Why is MIPS a good idea for motorcycle helmets?
Unlike enclosed vehicles which have crumple zones and seat belts, motorcycles leave riders exposed to extreme hazards. The same way boots, gloves and jackets contain additional armour; motorcycle helmets are designed to reduce the forces transmitted upon an impact.
Although helmets are designed to reduce fatal or life-changing brain injuries, continuous research shows MIPS-equipped helmets could offer a higher level of protection. Therefore, why would we ignore this technological advancement?
Do SHARP test MIPS helmets?
SHARP test helmets which pass ECE 22.05 and provide a clear guide for consumers. Currently, SHARP have only tested one helmet with MIPS, the Bell Qualifier DLX Mips. It scored 3/5 stars and had average performance in 3 of the 5 impact locations during the 8.5m/s linear impact tests against a flat anvil.
MIPS is designed to protect against angled forces; SHARP only perform 2 oblique (angled) tests. SHARP recorded a “very good” rating for the top of the skull and back, which could be an indicator that MIPS did help improve the level of protection to these areas.
As more helmets are manufactured to include MIPS, it will be interesting to see how well they perform against SHARP’s approval ratings.
Are there any motorcycle helmets that have MIPS?
MIPS has expanded their reach and now have over 20 brands who incorporate their product including Bell, Kabuto and Alpinestars. A lot of helmets are off-road, or adventure designs like the Bell MX-9 Adventure Mips Torch but more street style helmets are being added including this Bell Qualifier DLX Mips full-face helmet.
Based on other sports categories which MIPS work with, some have over 40 brands who use MIPS Systems; they could dominate the market soon.
Helmets which include MIPS Systems tend to weigh around 20 – 40 grams more than models which don’t include it and will cost approximately £20 – £50 more. However, can you really put a price on safety?