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Six Advanced Protection Technologies in MTB Helmets

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

Introduction to Advanced MTB Protection Technologies


Mountain biking can be an exhilarating yet risky sport, making helmet protection crucial for riders. But just what are mountain bike helmets made of and how do they work?


In recent years, helmet manufacturers have introduced advanced MTB helmet protection technologies to enhance safety and mitigate the risk of head injuries. This article explores six cutting-edge helmet protection technologies that have gained prominence in the mountain biking community.


EPS foam at the Core


A conventional bike helmet typically comprises a protective polycarbonate shell covering an Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam core.


EPS foam* is a fundamental material used in the construction of almost all mountain bike helmets. It serves as the main component of the helmet's protective liner, providing excellent energy absorption properties and minimising the risk of head injuries during crashes. The foam offers uniform protection by covering critical areas around the head and distributing impact forces evenly. However, it has limitations, including its ability to handle only a single impact and its reduced effectiveness in mitigating rotational forces.


Manufacturers combine EPS foam with advanced technologies like MIPS, SPIN, WaveCel, Koroyd, Leatt's 360° Turbine and 6D's Omni-Directional Suspension (ODS) to enhance overall safety performance. EPS foam helmets must meet industry standards and certifications to ensure their effectiveness. Despite advancements in helmet technology, EPS foam remains crucial for providing essential protection to mountain bikers.


MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System)


Helmet  with MIPS Technology
MIPS Helmet Technology

MIPS is designed to address rotational forces during impacts. It consists of a low-friction layer inside the helmet that allows the head to move independently from the helmet, reducing rotational motion and potential brain injuries caused by angular impacts.


SPIN (Shearing Pad Inside)


Helmet  with SPIN Technology
SPIN Helmet Technology

SPIN technology, developed by POC, utilises silicone pads placed inside the helmet. These pads allow for shearing movement during an oblique impact, reducing rotational forces transmitted to the brain.


WaveCel

Helmet  with Wavecel Technology
Wavecel Helmet Technology

Bontrager's proprietary WaveCel technology utilises a collapsible cellular material lining the helmet's interior. It is designed to absorb both linear and rotational forces by flexing, crumpling and gliding during impacts, thereby reducing the energy transferred to the head.


Koroyd


Helmet  with Koroyd Technology
Koroyd Helmet Technology

Koroyd is a welded polymer honeycomb structure made from thousands of small tubes. It provides impact protection by compressing upon impact, absorbing and dissipating energy while allowing for airflow through the tubes to enhance ventilation.


360° Turbine


Helmet with 360° Turbine Technology
360° Turbine Helmet Technology

Leatt's 360° Turbine technology focuses on reducing rotational acceleration and impact energy transfer during crashes. It incorporates small turbines made from an energy-absorbing material into the helmet's inner liner. These turbines can rotate, effectively mitigating rotational forces and enhancing the helmet's protective capabilities.


ODS (Omni-Directional Suspension)


ODS (Omni-Directional Suspension) Advanced Protection Technology

ODS is the most advanced protection system to date and pushes impact mitigation performance to new levels. ODS technology by 6D addresses both linear and angular accelerations during impacts. It comprises two EPS liners separated by dampers. These liners can move independently in all directions, reducing the transmission of both linear and rotational forces to the brain.


Conclusion


As the sport of mountain biking continues to evolve, so does the technology surrounding helmet protection. MIPS, SPIN, WaveCel, Koroyd, 360° Turbine and ODS represent some of the most significant advancements in helmet protection technologies for mountain biking. Each of these advanced technologies, sometimes used in combination, aims to enhance helmet protection by addressing specific aspects of impact forces, such as rotational motion, shearing forces, or multi-directional impacts.


Footnotes:


* While EPS foam remains the dominant material in mainstream MTB helmets, there are some manufacturers who utilise alternative materials or construction techniques.


Here are a few notable manufacturers associated with the alternative materials mentioned:


Multi-density Foam


Specialized utilises their proprietary EPS and EPP (expanded polypropylene) foams, combined with multi-density construction, in helmets like the Ambush and Dissident.

POC employs a combination of EPS and EPP foams with varying densities in their helmets, including models like the Tectal and Coron.


Composite Shells


Some helmets from Troy Lee Designs and 100% feature composite shells constructed using materials like carbon fibre.



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