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Now you have your brand-spanking-new road bike, it’s time to get it out for a test run – but did you pick up a helmet when you bought your bike? Helmets are essential when cycling, though not illegal. Saying that if you are serious about mountain bike riding, a lot of trails will not let you one with a helmet.
A helmet can take time to get used to wearing; not everyone likes to mess with their hair. On a hot day, a helmet seems like extra insulation that you can do without. Material like EPS foam still forms a bulk of the protection material used to make helmets. EPS is durable and impact resistant. Though new types of material and structural designs are making helmets stronger and lighter than ever. New materials such as polycarbonate, to form the shell of the helmets and using air venting micro-cylinders to replace EPS foam.
A helmet will get soaked in sweat; this is unavoidable. But helmet foams laced with silver kills the odor and fungi that would otherwise give the helmet a short lifespan.
Aerodynamics are more sophisticated, not only to help the rider go faster but to encourage the airflow to draw out humid air. Helmet manufacturers are installing brackets for quick mounting cameras.
What are MIPs Helmets?
MIPS stands for multi-directional impact protection and is the best helmet design for safety. MIPS technology introduces a low friction layer between your head and the helmet. It’s a layer that can move slightly, independent of the helmet, reducing the affect of rotational forces during a crash.
These safety factors combine for increased comfort and reduced weight. The question of whether to wear a helmet should not be an issue. The question is which helmet best suits you, and below are some of the best MIPS helmets out there.
POC is a Swedish company used as the preferred helmet manufacturer by snowboarders and cyclists the world over. Founded in 2004 to cater to snowboarders, the company now makes a range of sports goods, and now their products are recognised worldwide. POC designs helmets with the surgeons that treat the types of head injuries common in sports. POC’s most recent development is its partnership with Volvo to advance bicycle versus car safety. The attention to detail shows through in this iteration of this racing helmet. POC has moved on from the traditional EPS foam to using a new fiber weave inside the shell.
POC use aramid fibers to increase the impact resistance while keeping the helmet lightweight, and robust. Aramid is a synthetic fiber in the same class as brands Kevlar and Nomex. The Trabec comes with an adjustable visor; for more protection from the Sun or tree branches. POC makes MIPS protection that covers your crown, temple, and the back of the head. There are three sizes to choose from. Each size is simple to adjust from the back of the helmet. There are ventilation channels through the skin of the helmet designed to encourage airflow when moving. The helmet comes in red, black, and gloss blue.
Pros: Aramid Weave, Lightweight < 0.7 lb (360 g)
Bell is a well-respected helmet maker owned by the same company that owns Giro. Popular in the motorcycle world for making reliable and robust helmets for reasonable prices. The 4 Forty is made from a rigid polycarbonate shell covering an EPS foam. As with most modern helmets, Bell has used a MIPS bike helmet strap to cope with rotational crash impacts common in bike races. The Sweat Guide pulls sweat away from the temple, keeping glasses and goggles sweat-free.
The 15-air vents in the helmet are much larger than those in the POC, which is both a good and a bad thing. Large vents let in more air, but they also contribute to a weaker structure and offer more spaces for debris to get through. The visor is adjustable to aid in the deflection of rain and branches. The visor is also designed for accommodating goggles and glasses. The helmet comes in 3 sizes, each with an adjustment dial at the back of the helmet for tightening to a snug fit. There is a good range of colors to choose from with contrasting colors following the rim of the helmet.
Pros: Sweat Guide
Cons: EPS Foam
Vista Outdoors owns Giro Helmets, Bell Helmets, and as a result, they share similar designs and technologies. Which is why being one of the least expensive on the list, makes it the best value for money. The helmet uses the same EPS foam as Bell, inside a polycarbonate shell. Quick-dry padding and large vent holes make it a good helmet in warm weather. To compete with other manufacturers, the helmet integrates the same MIPS bike helmet strap technology.
The economising is made on things that you can live without. For example, there is no sweat-wicking. The visor is removable, but it is not adjustable, so those branches and the Sun will have a better chance of greeting your face. The Giro also has large vent sizes; branches will find it easy to make their way through. This is a good helmet and an infinite amount safer than not wearing a helmet at all. The Fixture is simple, and the price is good. The vibrant colors and the simpler style look better than the Bell equivalence. The dial at the back is there for making small size adjustments to fit between sizes. This would be the preferable helmet over the Bell 4Forty.
Pros: Simple, Style.
Cons: Fixed Visor
Smith is another brand that started in the snowboarding world, believing that they would make great helmets. They were right, their ability in the world of snowboarding carried over to bikes better than expected. Large vent holes are areas that projectiles can still do damage. Smith Optics has a simple solution to this. To keep the large hole, they meshed over the gap to keep the hole open for nothing bigger than a raindrop. Smith has incorporated a front and rear airflow control that moderates the cold air running over your head.
The patented AirEvactm system pulls air in through the front vents and pushes humid air out the rear. This venting also pulls humid air away from the goggles and glasses. Rather than using EPS foam, Smith uses Koroyd© Cylinders, designed to absorb the most impact in the smallest volume of material. The tube-like matrix of the material also allows for greater airflow and wicking of sweat that EPS foams. The MIPS bike helmet strap layer inside the outer shell rolls around in any impact to give the best protection possible. This is not a cheap helmet but well thought out. Smith offers a highly creative solution to people that refuse to wear a helmet for lack of comfort.
Pros: Airflow, Koroyd© Cylinders
Bell’s Sixer MIPS has a good range of colors to choose from, jet black to a vibrant pink. The helmet is more expensive than the Smith Session. The helmet has airflow vents front and rear to pull air over the user’s head and away from goggles for glasses. This air vent is not controllable, but that is only of concern when riding in cold climates. The air vents are plentiful, 26 in total with 4-brow ports. The shell is a poly-carbonate mono-bonded mold, over an EPS foam. Though rather than a single stage of foam, the layers get increasingly harder towards the outer shell.
On the inside of the helmet, sweat pads help to keep brows and eyes clear. The helmet uses X-static padding that is a fast wicking and drying material, interwoven with silver that kills odor and fungi. This is a heavier helmet, 0.9 pounds (410 g). The medium weight helmet is over 10% heavier than those made competitors for the same size. It is hard to see why it is so much heavier, and you will notice the extra weight. For the camera enthusiast, they have installed a breakaway camera mount. Even though the vents are not adjustable, the visor is. It could be said that the visor will help to push air through the gap even better. Plus, an adjustable visor is easy to move out of the way before you begin your ride.
Pros: Adjustable Visor, Progressive Layering
Cons: EPS Foam
Verdict: The Best MIPS Bicycle Helmet
Bell and Giro are two separate companies; they have different labs and design teams. Apart from minor differences and the brand name on the side, the designs are too alike to separate them. The Giro Fixture is the favorite budget helmet. Giro has a good range of colors, it incorporates the same MIPS and airflow technology, and it has a visor. The visor is fixed in position, but it is removable. The Bell 4Forty has an adjustable visor, so you may think about whether that is something you would use. The Bell Sixer is an upgrade to the 4Forty, with a camera bracket on top of the helmet. Again, the question is, is a camera mount something you would use?
The POC Trabec is one of the more expensive helmets on the list, but they use an aramid fiber. The EPS foam is still used in motorbike helmets, but EPS can crack. The Smith Session is the favorite on the list, not only for the level of protection it offers but the price. Smith has thought about what a rider needs and made a helmet that looks stylish and performs well. For a hot day, the Trabec has the best ventilation with maximum protection. There are things in life that are worth paying to protect, and the Trabec covers them well.