MIPS vs. WaveCel: Which Is Better and Do You Even 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.

What’s the difference between MIPS and WaveCel?

The main difference between MIPS and WaveCel is that MIPS reduces rotational forces only. WaveCel reduces rotational and linear forces.
There is no objective testing that would determine which one of these technologies is more effective. However, both provide better protection than helmets without these technologies.

However, there are more bicycle helmet safety systems you should know about. You learn more about them below.

I also interviewed Max Strandwitz, MIPS’ CEO, and asked him a few questions to understand MIPS better.

Let’s dive in.

You may have heard about one of the following three safety technologies:

  1. MIPS
  2. WaveCel
  3. 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 helmet 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 product integration 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.

Grey Giro Agilis MIPS road bike helmet
Giro Agilis MIPS

Also available at rei.com and competitivecyclist.com

Check out more MIPS road bike helmets

Black Troy Lee Designs A1 MTB helmet
Troy Lee Designs A1

Also available at rei.com and competitivecyclist.com

White Thousand Chapter commuter helmet
Thousand Chapter

Also available at rei.com and competitivecyclist.com

Check out more MIPS commuter helmets

2. WaveCel

WaveCel is a cellular structure inside a helmet that reduces linear 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 differs from MIPS and SPIN. Its goal is to reduce the rotational and linear forces and 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 away 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
Red Bontrager Circuit WaveCel road bike helmet
Bontrager Circuit WaveCel

Also available at rei.com

Cyan Bontrager Blaze WaveCel Mountain Bike Helmet
Bontrager Blaze WaveCel

Also available at rei.com

Grey Bontrager Charge WaveCel Commuter Helmet
Bontrager Charge WaveCel

Also available at rei.com

3. SPIN (Is Being Phased Out)

SPIN (Shearing Pads INside) is a safety technology developed by 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 working together to develop a system combining the best of 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 Helmets 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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