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New helmet test reveals interesting results in battle between competing helmet safety innovations

The Lazer Cyclone MIPS helmet has achieved better results than Bontrager’s new WaveCel helmet technology, which arrived earlier this year with big claims of improved safety, in the latest helmet crash test by a US university.

Last year Virginia Tech conducted safety testing on a batch of helmets using its own impact simulator designed to recreate the most common head-impact scenarios on the road. While it didn’t test every single model on the market, it concluded the Bontrager Ballista MIPs was the best of the helmets it did test, scoring five stars in its rating system.

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The results are based solely on safety and don’t take other factors like temperature and ventilation into account. The university uses an oblique impact drop tower from which a 45° steel anvil, coated with sandpaper, is dropped to produce “normal and tangential incident velocities associated with oblique impacts” and 12 impact conditions are evaluated to achieve the final rating. You can see the full testing setup here 

Since that test the helmet war has become interesting. Bontrager launched its new WaveCel technology with a promise of “setting new standards in safety” thanks to a collapsible cellular material developed by orthopaedic surgeon Dr Steve Madey and biomechanical engineer Dr Michael Bottlang. As well as absorbing linear impacts, WaveCel is designed to reduce rotational motion transferred to the brain in the event of angled impacts.

LAZER-Cyclone-MIPS-Helmet-2019-neroopaco_3427

It has caused quite a stir in the industry. MIPS has said the WaveCel helmets perform far less impressively in safety tests than Bontrager claims, and Koroyd, the brand behind a co-polymer tube structure you see in helmets from Smith and Endura, has also voiced scepticism at the safety claims Bontrager has made.

Find out all you need to know about MIPS

What is needed is some independent testing because consumers are currently choosing helmets based on fit, comfort, style, weight, colour and price, with safety removed from the equation. Far from ideal.

In its latest batch of helmet testing, Virginia Tech has included several of the new Bontrager WaveCel helmets and while the Bontrager Specter WaveCel did marginally outperform the previous best performing Bontrager Ballista MIPS, both have been displaced by the Lazer Cyclone MIPS helmet, which is also about half the price of either of the Bontrager helmets.

Bontrager Charge WaveCel Commuter Helmet - inside detail.jpg

That shows that price doesn’t necessarily buy you more safety, casting doubt on the big claims made by Bontrager for WaveCel and supporting MIPS as the superior anti-rotation safety device. It’s worth adding that the WaveCel road helmets do factor near the top of the results sheet with the same five star rating, though curiously the mountain bike and urban WaveCel helmets are much lower down the list, but still with five stars.

It’s also interesting that Lazer’s £55 Cyclone MIPS helmet scores better than the company’s own range-topping £175 Z1 MIPS helmet (though much cheaper if you shop around).

We’ve not been involved in Virginia Tech’s testing but we’ve no reason to suspect the results haven’t been achieved via properly assessed testing procedures.

You can view the full list and helmets tested here 

You can read our 2014 review of the Lazer Cyclone here. We’ve just requested the latest MIPS version for testing so we can see what it’s like for ourselves, so watch out for that soon. 

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.