MIPS vs. WaveCel Compared: Does Your Helmet Need Them?

MIPS vs. WaveCel technologies compared

If you plan to buy a new cycling helmet, you will encounter helmets with MIPS and WaveCel (or other safety systems), and without them.

The main difference between MIPS and WaveCel is that MIPS reduces rotational forces only and it’s used on many brands of helmets. WaveCel reduces rotational and linear forces but is used on Bontrager helmets only. There is no objective testing that would determine which one of these technologies is more effective.

While writing my other articles on bicycle helmets, I realized that bicycle helmets safety systems are complex and deserve their own article. So I researched studies and tests to understand them better. I also interviewed Max Strandwitz, MIPS’ CEO, and asked him a few questions.

Spoiler alert: You don’t need a helmet with any of these systems, but they are nice to have!

Continue reading to find out why.

There is a high chance you heard about one of the following three safety technologies – MIPS, WaveCel, and SPIN.

Below, I explain them further and help you understand their benefits.

1. MIPS

MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) is the most popular of all systems mentioned in this article. It was adopted widely by helmets manufacturers like Giro, Bell, Specialized, and many more.

A look inside a Specialized road bike helmet with the MIPS technology
MIPS safety technology

This technology has been in development for more than 20 years. The MIPS technology reduces the rotational forces that arise during an impact and the risk of brain injuries.

How does MIPS work?

The Mips® safety system features a low-friction layer inside the helmet that allows a multi-directional movement of 10-15mm on certain angled impacts, intended to help reduce rotational force to the head. (Source)

You can watch the following video to see the visualization.

How does MIPS work?

MIPS Pros

  • Reduces rotational forces
  • Integrated into helmets of many brands

MIPS Cons

  • Adds about 0.88-1.59oz. (25-45g) to the bike helmet*
  • Does not reduce linear forces

*This estimation is based on the same size and model of a helmet with and without MIPS

I asked MIPS’ CEO, Max Strandwitz, what they plan for the future and if they will also focus on reducing the linear forces like WaveCel with their system. Here are his answers:

We always look for better integration of our product and to develop new solutions to enable integration in even more helmets.
Our focus so far has been to redirect rotational forces that is where we have spent a lot of our research and where our key competence has been.

If you’re wondering if MIPS will develop its own helmet. I’ll disappoint you. According to Mr. Strandwitz, that’s not the direction they plan to go.


TIP: Browse the best road bike helmets on the market.


2. WaveCel

WaveCel is a cellular structure inside a helmet that reduces impacts and rotational forces. (Source)

A look inside a Bontrager road bike helmet with the WaveCel technology
WaveCel safety technology

The WaveCel technology is exclusive to Bontrager helmets, and it also differs from MIPS and SPIN. Its goal is the same, though – to reduce the rotational and linear forces and reduce the risk of a brain injury.

How does WaveCel work?

Trek explains the WaveCel technology in 3 steps:

  1. Flex – reduces the initial frictional forces.
  2. Crumple – reduces the impact forces.
  3. Glide – the WaveCel redirects the energy aweay from your head.

You can watch the following video to learn more.

How does WaveCel work?

WaveCel Pros

  • Reduces rotational forces
  • Reduces linear forces

WaveCel Cons

  • Adds about 1.76oz. (50g) to the bike helmet
  • WaveCel technology is used on Bontrager helmets only
  • Bontrager helmets with WaveCel are more expensive on average than helmets with MIPS or SPIN

3. SPIN (Is Being Phased Out)

SPIN (Shearing Pads INside) is a safety technology developed by a bicycle helmet manufacturer POC and patented in 2017. POC started to use it in its helmets in 2018. (Source)

A look inside a POC road bike helmet with the SPIN technology
SPIN safety technology

MIPS and SPIN are two very similar technologies. Due to the SPIN’s similarity with MIPS, POC had legal troubles.

However, they are currently working together to develop a system that combines the best from both technologies. (Source) Therefore, SPIN is gradually being phased out since 2021.

How does SPIN work?

SPIN uses so-called SPIN pads that reduce rotational and linear forces (MIPS uses an additional layer).

Check out the following visualization.

How does SPIN work?

SPIN Pros

  • Reduces rotational forces
  • Reduces linear forces

SPIN Cons

  • SPIN technology is used on POC helmets only
TechnologyProsCons
MIPS• Reduces rotational forces• Adds about 0.88-1.59oz. (25-45g) to the bike helmet*
• Does not reduce linear forces
WaveCel• Reduces rotational forces
• Reduces linear forces
• Adds about 1.76oz. (50g) to the bike helmet
• WaveCell technology is used on Bontrager helmets only
• Bontrager helmets with WaveCell are more expensive on average than helmets with MIPS or SPIN
SPIN**• Reduces rotational forces
• Reduces linear forces
• SPIN technology is used on POC helmets only
Comparison of the pros & cons of the most common bicycle helmets safety technologies
*This estimation is based on the same size and model of a helmet with and without MIPS
**SPIN technology is gradually phased out since MIPS and SPIN joined forces in 2021.
Sources: mipsprotection.com, trekbikes.com

Other Less Known Safety Technologies

There are also other safety technologies used by other manufacturers. To name a few:

  • Fox Fluid
  • Turbine Leatt
  • Kali Protectives
  • Koroyd by Smith
  • SHRED
  • KinetiCore

All these technologies aim to reduce the rotational and/or linear forces to provide you with more effective protection.


Bicycle Safety Technologies FAQ


Summary

All legally sold bicycle helmets have to meet minimum safety criteria like the ones from CPSC. This means these helmets will provide you with sufficient head protection.

However, systems like MIPS and WaveCel (eventually SPIN, SHRED, etc.) take your safety a little bit further. They reduce the rotational forces that can cause a brain injury.

There are very few tests that compare these technologies under the same conditions. But, it is clear from the available data that they all compete on a similar level and bring the results you expect from a bicycle helmet – improve your safety.

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