There are so many different types of bike helmets and helmet technologies out there that it can be hard to know what to choose. While there is no right or wrong answer, we outline some of the top technologies below so you can make a more informed decision when buying your next bike helmet.
Bike helmets help protect your head by reducing the amount of force transferred to your skull and brain during a crash or fall. Measured in g, the force transferred should be no larger than 250-300 g according to most bike helmet safety standards to reduce the likelihood of significant head trauma or even death.
Most helmet standards address linear acceleration, or the force measured when your head hits the pavement straight on from a certain drop height. But if the impact is off-center, which usually happens in real world crash environments, rotational forces come into play and your brain rotates inside your skull instead of just sloshing back and forth. Many helmet companies believe that reducing this rotational force is the key to added protection from concussions and other minor, yet significant brain trauma. This is what you will find many of the new technologies out there trying to address.
EPS Foam: The majority of bike helmets out there use expanded polystyrene foam. During a crash, this dense foam compresses or breaks, spreading the impact force over a wider area. This lengthens the time it takes for your head to come to a complete stop, usually dissipating enough energy to prevent a skull fracture or major brain trauma.
MIPS: The Multi-directional Impact Protection System is based on the slip plane concept, using two layers in the helmet to help your head rotate slightly on impact. While MIPS helmets perform similar to other helmets in terms of linear acceleration, the goal is to reduce the rotational component of impact. You can now find MIPS in over 200 bike helmet models from 58 brands.
Leatt: The company’s 360 Turbine technology uses small discs made from Armourgel scattered throughout the inside of their helmets. Armourgel is a low profile, energy absorbing material that stiffens upon impact to provide protection. It is super flexible in its natural state — a bit like a big ball of wax — but stiffens upon impact to absorb a large chunk of the force. In addition to absorbing impact force, the discs rotate to reduce the rotational force transferred to your brain when you crash. I mountain bike with Leatt’s DBX 3.0 and absolutely love it — comfortable, breathable, and it fits me well.
POC Spin: Originally a MIPS brand, POC will introduce a new technology in their bike helmets for 2018. SPIN pads placed around the interior of the helmet promote lateral movement of the helmet in a crash. The pads can shear off in any direction, allowing the helmet to move relative to your head in case of a fall and absorb some of that rotational force.
6D: The company’s Omni-Directional Suspension (ODS) is a multi-layered suspended liner system which reduces the transfer of rotational force to the brain. An array of elastic, hourglass-shaped dampers cut down acceleration while simultaneously allowing the inner EPS liner to displace and shear in 3-dimensional space within itself.
Koroyd: Used by Dynafit and Smith, Koroyd focuses on reducing the overall impact force to your head, aiming to keep it well below that 300 g level called for in the standards. Upon impact, the honeycomb shaped core crushes homogeneously, decelerating the energy from the impact and reducing final trauma levels. Koroyd claims testing numbers of around 183 g, significantly less than standard EPS foam helmets. Many Smith helmets add MIPS to take care of rotational forces.
So which one of these is best? That’s hard to say as all of these helmets pass the basic safety requirement or they wouldn’t be on the market. But if you want to go above and beyond basic safety and are worried about concussions, opt for a helmet with one of the newer technologies that focus on rotational impact.
And probably the best advice when buying a helmet, is to make sure you find one that fits you properly. If your helmet doesn’t stay in place when you crash, it won’t protect you. Each brand’s styles and sizing are different, so the best way to find a helmet that fits you right is to go to a store and try on a variety.
And if you crash, replace your helmet. No excuses.