Two milliseconds – that is the time between when you're flying free on your bike and you're crashing to the ground. Two milliseconds – that tiny bit of time determines if you pop back onto your bike or face a possible head injury. The helmet on your head during those critical 2 milliseconds determines how you handle this fall.
The reason I bring this discussion up now is that helmet technology has just made a quantum leap forward. Helmets incorporating a brand new design will be appearing in stores in time for the 2015 riding season, and so it is a good time to learn about this new technology and decide if it is time to replace that old head protector. So let’s start with a little Helmet 101.
Traditional helmets were designed to minimize the trauma due to linear forces. Envision your head moving in a straight line and coming to a sudden stop. Helmet liners deform on impact, effectively absorbing the impact and and minimizing the transfer of energy to the brain (it is this transfer of energy which causes injury). Your helmet works like a “second skull”.
This system works great in minimizing injury due to linear forces, but it totally neglects the fact that most accidents involve both linear AND rotational forces. Rotational forces are created when your head is struck at an angle and then comes to a sudden stop. Traditional helmets do nothing to mitigate these rotational stresses.
It is at this point that researchers looked to the amazing human body to see how we naturally protect against such rotational forces. The solution is in our cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). This fluid surrounds the brain and provides a low-friction cushion which allows the brain to slide slightly upon impact. This “sliding” dissipates the transfer of energy to the brain, thus reducing injury.
Since CSF works so beautifully to naturally protect the brain, scientists decided to simply mimic and reproduce this process in the helmet. They inserted an extra liner within the helmet which allows the helmet shell to rotate independently around the head during an angled impact. Just like with CSF, this “sliding” action reduces the transfer of energy to the brain and thus mitigates injury. The name of this revolutionary technology is MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System).
Sound interesting – but a little confusing? Then watch this short YouTube video from Giro Design for a visual explanation.
If you are convinced to switch to this new technology with your next helmet purchase, keep in mind that traditional bicycle helmets should be replaced every 3-5 years. The material which “crushes” upon impact begins to break down in this 3-5 year window.
Bicycle Garage Indy is dedicated to maximizing the enjoyment AND safety of our cycling community, and towards that end is now offering helmets with this new MIPS technology. We are presently offering MIPS helmets from leading brands including Giro, Bell and POC.