American bike manufacturer trek has launched a revolutionary new helmet design that removes traditional EPS foam with layers of cells that mimic the brain’s protective fluid. The helmets use a technology they call wavecel which relies on a honeycomb-style insert that absorbs rotational energy to protect the wearer.
Trek and bontrager company have partnered with wavecel to create a helmet technology that disrupts years of accepted safety standards. whilst EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam has been accepted as the norm in most consumer helmets ever since it was first introduced in the late 1960s, in recent year scientists have drawn attention to its shortcomings.
EPS helmets that can withstand just one protective blow to the head and are incapable of bouncing back any energy received from the blow. EPS helmets mainly intake energy in a linear direction which is not always how a person falls off a bike. instead, their head turns and pivots and its this rotational-style concussion that poses the most danger. in response the brain uses cerebrospinal fluid, a natural cushioning which shifts allowing the brain to move around unprotected, potentially damaging the delicate nerves inside.
That’s why in recent times ‘MIPS’ has become a buzzword when it comes to bicycle helmet design. MIPS, or multi-directional impact protection system, is described as a ‘slip-plane’ technology that works to redirect the impact of rotational forces from angled impacts.
MIPS is a thin liner that when placed between the head and the helmet’s hard shell, creates a low friction layer allowing the helmet to slide back and forth just like your body’s natural fluid cushioning. trek claims its new bike helmets takes that technology one step further creating a MIPS-like slip insert that absorbs rotational energy rather than just redistribute it.
The problem with MIPS is that when a fall reaches high energy impact friction starts to build between the insert and the EPS helmet stopping it from being able to deflect energy anymore. once it reaches that point, the wavecel insert, which just like MIPS moves freely via a low friction surface, works to prevent friction build up by absorbing that energy rotationally as it starts to build up.
The construction of the wavecel helmets still retains some EPS foam, although the volume is significantly reduced in comparison to traditional designs. In addition the flexible wavecel construction also offers a comfortable fit that flexes to individual head shapes.
According to a press release the technology adds approximately 53 grams of additional weight to the helmet but this is a small compromise for the safety gains made. The new helmets come in four designs including the cheapest charge, wavecel commuter helmet and the specter wavecel road helmet at $150, and the most expensive, the wavecel road helmet and the blaze wavecel MTB helmet at $300.