Helmet technology has come a long way since the time we started wearing helmets. Innovations like a carbon-fibre shell and an EPS liner with variable density are all inventions that have increased how much a helmet can protect a rider in the event of a crash. A relatively new addition to this list is MIPS, or, Multi-Directional Impact Protection System.
Who invented MIPS?
MIPS was invented by a company called MIPS! It’s a bunch of people who specialise in helmet safety research, and according to them, MIPS has been in the works for over 25 years. They developed this technology in conjunction with the KTH Royal Institute of Technology and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. The first helmet with MIPS appeared in 2007 and up until 2021, they had sold 30 million MIPS safety devices to over 140 helmet manufacturers.
How does MIPS work?
MIPS has a relatively simple concept. In the event of a crash, at the time of the helmet impacting a surface, MIPS allows the rider’s head inside the helmet to rotate slightly, to dissipate energy. Now you might wonder, aren’t helmets designed to make sure your head doesn’t move around inside of one? That’s right. In ideal conditions, your head is supposed to snugly fit inside the helmet and not move.
However, in the case of MIPS, there is an additional low-friction layer between the EPS liner of a helmet, and the comfort layer that comes into contact with our heads. The range of motion that is allowed is first of all defined – that means you don’t have free motion inside. Second of all, the MIPS liner only works in cases of high amounts of energy being pushed through the helmet, something that would only be true in the event of an accident. In fact, this form of protection by rotating the head slightly is something that also happens inside our heads, to our brains. Our brain can move around slightly inside the skull to reduce the damage in case it impacts against something.
Do all helmet manufacturers offer MIPS?
As of now, no. MIPS is a patented technology in most markets, and therefore, the company MIPS is the one that provides the MIPS layer to other helmet manufacturers. In fact, MIPS is not limited to motorcycle helmets. It is also available for cycling, horse-riding, climbing, construction and even team sports. As far as motorcycle helmets go, one of the most prominent users of this is Bell.
Bell sells a number of helmets and a few of them come equipped with MIPS technology. Starting with the MX-9 MIPS, it’s a dual-sport helmet primarily geared towards off-roading. The next one is the MX-9 Adventure MIPS, and this one is an even more off-road geared helmet. For those of you looking at tarmac use, there is the Qualifier DLX MIPS – a street-focused helmet with the same technology.
MIPS is a crucial piece of technology to protect the human brain in case of an accident, and the people behind it keep working to advance it to the next level. In recent times, they have made the MIPS Air Node, which is essentially minimising the footprint of the MIPS technology. The low-friction layer now stays hidden away inside the helmet, until it is needed.