Perhaps more valuable to the consumer is what a safety standard does not tell you. The CPSC and others set minimum requirements based on data gathered in a laboratory. While you may not suffer permanent brain damage with a helmet, most certifying agencies set the failure threshold at 300 Gs — a force, at the very least, likely to knock you unconscious! The standard also does not tell you how far it exceeds the minimum. Finally, a lab is not a trail and I don’t recall the last time I was able to predict a fall from the height, speed, and temperature onto the surface shape of my choosing.
The take home: no certified helmet can guarantee you won’t break yourself upon any impact.
What is MIPS?
From our MIPS primer, “MIPS is a thin layer of material that goes between your head and your helmet…allow[ing] your helmet to rotate on your head in an impact while still wearing it snugly in normal riding.” The slip plane concept makes sense in theory, but if not executed correctly, does no more than jack up the prices on helmets that are just as safe (and cheaper) without MIPS. Here is a more thorough background on MIPS and I’ve summarized the more salient points on why MIPS may be more fiction than fact.
- The slip plane concept requires a full sliding layer that many companies are not employing correctly. The layer interface either doesn’t fully encompass the helmet or fails to provide the appropriate sliding material.
- The scalp (especially coupled with hair, oil, and sweat) is Mother Nature’s MIPS.
- Adding a layer for MIPS provokes companies to decrease the EPS liner, which is more important in mitigating head trauma.
- Overall, there is limited research on MIPS.
- Rounder, smoother helmets may be just as good as MIPS at providing a slip-able plane.
MIPS won’t make a helmet less safe, but don’t lose sleep if your next favorite helmet doesn’t have it.
When it comes to helmets, fit is synonymous with safety, but fit is not standardized under any test. It’s up to you to determine proper helmet fit. The shape of the mold is selected by individual helmet manufacturers, which is why some helmets fit you better than they fit me.