Gearbikesreview is audience-supported. When you buy through links on this site, we may earn an affiliate commission that we use for site maintenance. Learn more

Blog

MIPS vs WaveCel: Which is Safer?

MIPS vs WaveCel
Written by Cobie Brown

Traditional foam-based cycling helmets are a thing of the past when it comes to cycling safety. The main two inbuilt safety systems to choose from in modern helmets are the MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) and the WaveCel (a collapsible cellular structure in a wave formation).

But which is better? This guide is here to help with an educated choice in your helmet!

MIPS

MIPS

Advantages

  • Lighter
  • Cheaper
  • Higher scores in more safety tests according to Virginia Tech
  • 10% safer against rotational impact

Disadvantages

  • No improved protection against linear impact
  • Two-Tone colors can be less visible to other road users

WaveCel

WaveCel

Advantages

  • 48 times more effective than traditional foam helmets
  • Additional linear impact protection
  • One-yearar crash replacement guarantee
  • Sturdier

Disadvantages

  • Heavier
  • Costlier
  • Lower Scores in more safety tests according to Virginia Tech

Mips vs WaveCel: How Do They Differ?

1. Working Mechanism

MIPS

An MIPS system is a non-friction layer permitting natural head rotation between 10-15mm. This will reduce or absorb angled impact energy.

WaveCel

The WaveCel system operates with an outer impact zone that absorbs the energy before it makes contact with the head. This is much like a car’s bumper.

Winner

A tie since these two different systems offer increased safety than a traditional foam helmet.

2. Technology Overview

MIPS

An MIPS system is a slip-plane technology in the helmet that minimizes effects on the brain of rotational movement. Mimicking the brain’s natural self-protect mechanism, the slip-plane technology protects against rotational or angled impact.

WaveCel

WaveCel is a safety system featured on the Bontrager helmet engineered by Trek. It includes a collapsible cell layer within the Bontrager helmets, offering 48 times more protection than the traditional helmets.

Winner

The technology behind both systems is what makes them more effective than the traditional foam helmet. So, both are an improvement and a winner.

3. Helmet Effectiveness

MIPS

When the head is forced to suddenly stop mid-rotation the brain feels a strain that could result in a concussion. An MIPS system assists by reducing the impact and protecting the brain from potential injuries.

Experts state the reduction of force on the brain could be up to 10%. Though this is not a major difference, it does make an MIPS system 10% more effective than a traditional bike helmet.

Since the majority of cycling brain injuries are due to rotational impact the MIPS system is a great preventative measure.

WaveCel

The WaveCel technology has been invented with the aid of experts at the US National Institute of Health. It’s certified by the safety system of Virginia Tech that it is nearly 50 times safer and more effective in protection from all angled impacts.

Whether from the front, the rear, the sides or even the top the WaveCel system will offer more protection to the brain than a traditional foam helmet.

Winner

The WaveCel will protect from a greater variety of impacts and accidents, but the MIPS will offer greater protection from the most common rotational impact injuries. No clear winner as it would entirely depend on what accident you were in as to which was more effective.

4. Safety

It is difficult to say definitively which system is safer. The WaveCel helmets feel sturdier, but the MIPS helmets gave better results in a variety of safety tests conducted by Virginia Tech.

Due to the number of possible variables in a cycling collision, we think there is no way to determine which is actually the safer system without precise data being collected from accidents.

5. Ventilation

MIPS

The MIPS helmet has finger-width ports at the front, across the top, and as an exhaust at the rear of the helmet, making this helmet well-ventilated.

WaveCel

The WaveCel helmet doesn’t have any vents on the front and all vents across the top and rear are slightly obstructed by the WaveCel structure inside.

Winner

The MIPS is the clear winner in this category as it offers almost complete ventilation in comparison to the highly obstructed WaveCel.

6. Weight

MIPS

At 260 grams, the MIPS helmets are only 50 grams heavier than the traditional foam helmets, which is an increase of just under 24%.

WaveCel

Weighing in at a quite hefty 341 grams, the WaveCel helmets have a very noticeable weight increase of nearly 63% from the traditional models.

Winner

This is of course entirely subjective as to whether you prefer to carry a lighter load on your head or whether you like to feel the weight of a safety device protecting you.

7. Colors and Reflection

MIPS

If the style or look is important to you then there is a lot more range of colors for MIPS helmets, including two tone looks.

WaveCel

The WaveCel only comes in solid colors, but the WaveCel structured inlay can give the illusion of a two-tone effect. If safety is your priority, then the solid yellow one is very visible and obvious to drivers of other vehicles.

Winner

This entirely depends on what you value most in your helmet. The solid bright colors also reflect better.

8. Helmet Product Range

MIPS

There are many MIPS helmets on the market, including road helmets, mountain bike helmets, commuter helmets, and a kid’s series. Three of the highly recommended helmets are the Giro, Bell, and Bern.

WaveCel

There are as many WaveCel helmets on the market as there are MIPS and they also have a large range for all needs including recreational helmets and helmets specifically for women. Three of these highly recommended helmets are the Bontrager XXX, Blaze, and Bontrager Charge.

Winner

A tie since both systems offer a similar range of styles and products to choose from.

9. Cost Comparison

MIPS

With an MIPS system helmet you will expect to pay a little more than a traditional foam helmet for the additional safety. MIPS helmets start at around $35 and can go up to around $150.

WaveCel

As the technology in WaveCel helmets also offers increased safety against linear and rotational impact then they are slightly more expensive than a MIPS system. WaveCel helmets start at around $60 for a child’s helmet and go up to $300+ for the premium ones.

Winner

With additional safety features in the WaveCel helmets you would expect to pay more but whether the extra features increase safety from the more common head injuries is unclear, so the cost is subjective to what you are happy paying.

If you got a cheap helmet for $10, would you feel safe?

About the author

Cobie Brown

Born and grew up in Colorado, I chose to work in the field of what I liked most, biking. I’ve been working as a full time mechanic in the cycling industry for over 13 years. I started BMXing when I was just a 6-year-old kid and got hooked from the very first day. Then I started riding and not a single day went by since then that I didn’t touch my bike.

Leave a Comment