It’s a safety feature that has slowly taken off with a few small helmet brands. But Tuesday in Friderichshafen, the technology that can both save lives and help prevent irreversible brain injuries will receive a shot in the arm; Giro will debut to the greater bike helmet world world a line of helmets this fall featuring MIPS, a safety feature that studies has shown helps reduce brain injuries.
Tuesday, Giro invited a few media members in Friedrichshafen, Germany to the debut of Giro’s partnership with MIPS, one that has far-reaching implication in the accessibility of a key bike crash safety advance.
MIPS (which stands Multi-directional Impact Protection Systems) is a light plastic interior shell that has all the features that keep a helmet cool, including design to match the helmet vents to retain cooling features. The development of MIPS came after 19 years of academic research in Sweden. It’s seen not only in bike but in snow sports, equestrian and moto, as well as within projects with the military, police and fire. The company has five patents and is the singular leading technology advance to date since the use of expanded polystyrene as the preeminent helmet material.
The design feature of this MIPS shell is that it decouples from the helmet’s polystyrene, floating the head independent of the helmet. While a standard helmet does a great job absorbing linear impact in and of itself, that type of impact is the exception rather than the rule; when we crash at speed, often the head can hit the ground at speed in an angular impact, creating an effective sliding impact. Focally, this kind of impact causes dangerous torque on the brain as it sits inside the skull, which floats off the skull within a thin film of celebrospinal fluid. The scalp shears some of that impact in this kind of crash (move your hand forward and backward over your scalp to feel how much “play” your skin has over your skull to get a sense of this lateral mobility), but when that “play” terminates, the skull absorbs the remaining impact, and the brain is jostled, torqued and twisted inside the skull, being floated off the skull as best as possible within that celebrospinal fluid.
Want to see the mechanics of a typical bike crash? Giro created a video that illustrates it here.
MIPS was designed on the inspiration of the body’s own celebrospinal fluid; MIPS shell sits off the polystyrene, affixed to the helmets itself by a few (four to six) yellow dogbone-shaped elastometric anchors. It’s a hinge pivot, but also stretches in all directions, up to 2 millimeters.
When the helmet impacts, the head within gets a few millimeters of slip play as it decouples from the polystyrene, preventing the brain greater impact effect. In short, it absorbs and laterally dissipates the shearing impacts that could cause greater damage to the brain.
The story isn’t as much about Giro adding the feature to its helmets; it’s certainly not the first brand to employ it in bike helmets. Rather, it’s making a safety technology that has, to this point, been priced at a fairly high premium (in some cases well over $40 in price addition to the helmet’s base price), and making it more widely available to the masses.
And that availability comes in two ways. For one, while MIPS is a premium technology, it’s being introduced not in Giro’s top-shelf helmet models, but rather in its mid-tier line. The MIMS upgrade versus a standard helmet of the same model ranges about $20. That runs contrary to existing MIPS helmet offerings, which seem to price it at a premium…. Which doesn’t necessarily get a key safety feature in the hands of the lion’s share of those customers, yet.
And on the other hand, as a brand, Giro is the global helmet sales market leader. Add brand partner Bell Helmets (which will also be featuring MIPS on some models in its line in 2015), and you have a massive share of bike helmets on the global market, being made available on many more store shelves with a technology that can save lives. Giro’s standpoint is, why make a lifesaving technology only available to those who can afford a $150 helmet?
“With both Giro and Bell making this introduction, we will truly make MIPS more accessible,â€ said Giro Excective Vice President and Product Manger Greg Shapleigh. “We want it to be more affordable and to really get more people into the MIPS technology.â€
Giro is introducing MIPS within five new models:
- The Sutton commuter helmet ($95)
- The Feature (men) and Feather (women) Cross-Country mountain bike helmet ($95)
- The Savant (men) and Sonnet (women) road helmet ($110) The Savant and Sonnet feature 25 vents and the RocLoc 5 fit and stability system.
Neither Giro’s aero helmets or aero road helmets are part of the MIPS program for 2015, but Giro staff said it will likely filter into these categories as the project evolves.
To say that Giro, Bell and parent company BRG Sports are excited about this partnership is an understatement; the company so firmly believes in the technology and what it means for the care of its customers, it has become an equity investor in MIPS AB. Shapleigh said that while some design queues created in partnership with engineers at MIPS may remain proprietary, any safety advances they would share with any other MIPS customer.
“Yes, of course; if there was a safety advance we helped with the development on, we would share it,â€ Shapleigh said.
As part of the partnership, Giro invested heavily in new testing hardware that can measure these forces. It created a dummy called B.R.A.D, an acronym for Biofidelc Rotational Anthromorphic Dummy. Biofidelity refers to the dummy’s neck, which will move and flex—and in crash testing, torque—like a human neck, so the helmets receives accurate force and shearing data. It has three rotational sensors.
“We’re really trying to better understand angular impacts,â€ Shapleigh said.
The Giro MIPS helmets will be noted with a small MIPS brand logo on the helmet lateral aft, as well as having a holographic decal to show authenticity. And we won’t have to wait long for them; Giro officals said these helmets will be available at Giro retailers late this fall.
You can see more on the line and MIPS technology at giro.com/mips