Kask WG11 vs MIPS: which cycling helmet technology is best?

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Italian company Kask has long enjoyed a cult-like following for its expansive range of stylish and characteristic-laden bicycle helmets, just one conspicuous omission has been the lack of a MIPS (multi-directional protection arrangement) low-friction liner to assistance mitigate rotational touch free energy during a crash. The engineering science was showtime used in a cycling helmet past Scott near ten years ago, and it didn’t take long at all earlier it found favor throughout much of the rest of the industry amidst a growing listing of brands continually striving to pitch their helmets as offering cutting-edge safety features.

Kask, however, has been a notable holdout. Although there has certainly been speculation that the brand simply didn’t want to pay MIPS a licensing fee, the company has been telling people for years that it only didn’t believe in the efficacy of the concept.

“Subsequently four years that this engineering science is on the marketplace, it is still not proved that it makes the helmet safer. Afterwards various tests done internally and with an external visitor and safety certification agency, we realized that it doesn’t actually add any value to the security of the helmet, while for sure information technology adds weight and provides less condolement to the helmet.”

MIPS has become widely accepted as almost a must-have when information technology comes to cycling helmet safety features, just should it be that way? Photo: James Huang.

That argument was sent to a client in 2016, and in the vi long years that take passed since then, the powerhouse that is the commonage MIPS marketing automobile (bolstered past third-party test results from organizations such equally Virginia Tech – and yes, even media entities such as CyclingTips) has only continued to further cement in the public mind the idea that rotational impact protection is disquisitional to preventing traumatic brain injuries. In the concurrently, Kask’south connected decision non to include MIPS (or any similar engineering science) on any of its helmets has often been taken as stubborn obstinance that has almost certainly impacted their sales figures.

Kask has over the past few months been teasing this long-awaited test protocol – officially dubbed the “Kask rotational touch on WG11 test” – and it’s finally now shining a full-blown spotlight on what it is and why it’s significant.

“In that location has been some defoliation where a helmet without a specific anti-rotational engineering science is defined as an dangerous helmet,” explained Kask product director Luca Viano. “This is not true. A helmet’south protective performance should be judged by the results it tin reach in touch on tests, and not in low-cal of the reason it features or doesn’t feature certain technologies. Since no universal methods exist today to measure the response of cycling helmets against rotational impacts, nosotros designed our own.”

Non surprisingly, Kask says the new WG11 test protocol shows that its helmets do simply fine in terms of attenuating rotational touch energy. But what’s more than surprising is that Kask isn’t exactly saying that MIPS is incorrect.

Making heads and tails of rotational energy tests

By all accounts, the issue of rotational impact energy on traumatic brain injuries isn’t some made-upwardly miracle. Plenty of research seems to widely support the notion that concussions and similar injuries aren’t merely caused by linear impacts, but also past crashes where the rider’s caput is violently twisted or spun when hitting the basis. It’s data that’s relatively easy to produce in a lab and hard to refute (at to the lowest degree in concept), and MIPS proponents have certainly done an first-class job of getting that bulletin across.

Kask isn’t arguing with any of that. Merely in a more than full general critique of the bicycle testing world overall, the Italian company is essentially maxim that we’ve been doing it wrong all this time.

Helmet testing invariably requires some type of headform within the helmet. However, headforms are not all created equal.

The fundamental differentiator of Kask’s WG11 test is the headform that’s used to collect the data. Whereas the so-called Hybrid III headform is more than or less the industry standard when it comes to testing cycling helmets, Kask is instead using a far newer headform called EN960. According to Kask – and its independent examination partner, Newton Laboratory, in Milan – the EN960 headform’s slicker surface is more representative of how the human scalp (non to mention hair) behaves during a crash, interim as a natural shear layer that helps to benumb rotational free energy. You can feel that natural layer merely by moving your scalp across your skull with your fingers, and it’s something skeptics of the MIPS concept have long asked nearly.

In dissimilarity, the more common Hybrid III headform features a safety-like surface that’southward far tackier – most as if you’re attaching a helmet directly to your skull.

The KG11 test itself isn’t anything out of the ordinary. An instrumented EN960 headform is stock-still within the examination helmet, which is positioned on a guided sled situated approximately 2 grand above the impact point. Target impact speed is 6 m/s. The steel bear on anvil is flat, angled at 45°, and covered with lxxx-grit sandpaper to repeatably induce rotational strength upon bear upon. Inside the headform are three linear accelerometers and 3 athwart rate sensors, all transmitting wirelessly to eliminate whatever unwanted effects of an attached wiring harness. Each helmet model is tested at 4 dissimilar affect points.

Among the data nerveless from each round of tests are two key metrics: HIC (Head Injury Criterion) and BrIC (Brain Injury Criterion). A HIC result greater than 1,000 indicates a high probability of skull fracture, while a BrIC score greater than 0.68 likewise indicates a high probability of brain injury.

Needless to say, this is 1 test where y’all’re hoping for lower marks, not college ones.

Exam helmets are first secured to a headform, with bear upon points identified using a laser jig. The helmet and instrumented headform are so placed on the test platform, which is dropped from a elevation of approximately 2 m on to a sandpaper-covered and angled anvil then as to induce a rotational moment.

And then how did Kask’s helmets practice? Kask didn’t provide HIC scores for its helmets, although modern bicycle helmets more often than not do very well there so that’s non a cause for concern. But in terms of BrIC, Kask says none of its helmets take scored above 0.39, which roughly translates to a sub-thirty% risk of surface abrasions or other superficial injuries co-ordinate to the industry-standard AIS (Abbreviated Injury Calibration).

In other words, Kask helmets obviously perform very well when it comes to rotational impacts.

Stacking the deck

Information technology’s important to notation here that Kask saying its helmets are condom when it comes to these sorts of crashes is non the aforementioned equally the company maxim MIPS and similar technologies aren’t effective. Instead, Kask is suggesting that while MIPS and other MIPS-similar devices likely don’t hurt, they don’t offer whatever meaningful boosted safety benefits, either.

“We based the blueprint of our examination on both ECE 22.06 [the latest European motorbike helmet test standard – Ed.] and papers that advise that the use of a headform with a higher coefficient of friction than a human head would overestimate the head response during rotational impact,” said Viano. “Therefore, this behavior could exaggerate the contribution of anti-rotational technologies.”

The biscuit headform at right is the Hybrid Iii, which is very commonly used for testing bicycle helmets. Its rubbery surface is much tackier than the slick surface of the EN960 headform at left, though, which can dramatically affect the results of rotational touch tests.

In other words, Kask isn’t remotely suggesting that MIPS is doing annihilation nefarious like fudging test results. Tests are tests; data is data. Simply Kask is very explicitly proverb that whatsoever headform that doesn’t mimic a homo head’s natural shear layer volition artificially amplify the effects of a supplemental shear layer. In other words, if a helmet can’t slide on a headform like it would on a human being head, a helmet that doesn’t incorporate a MIPS-like feature isn’t going to test well, and any helmet that does include a MIPS-similar feature might appear to offer more of a condom advantage than it really does.

Caveats and questions

If you have Kask’s WG11 exam story at confront value, one key takeaway is that the visitor’s helmets provide excellent protection against traumatic brain injuries despite not incorporating whatsoever sort of defended MIPS-like device. That’south great. Just there are nevertheless plenty of questions, also.

If Kask’s WG11 protocol generates more realistic test results, that’s an achievement that should be universally lauded. Yet, those sorts of tests are also merely genuinely useful to consumers in context, which is why third-party data such as from Virginia Tech has go so powerful in contempo years. In other words, it’due south great that Kask’south helmets perform well according to WG11. But how does Giro exercise, or Bontrager, or Bong, or Specialized, and so on? Kask probable has conducted those criterion tests, but the visitor declined to confirm equally such or provide any data.

The new Giro Eclipse features the latest MIPS incarnation, called MIPS Spherical. Kask’s WG11 rotational impact energy test may suggest that these sorts of devices aren’t entirely necessary, but without additional information, that doesn’t mean they don’t provide additional do good, either.

There’southward also the question of wider industry support for WG11. Currently, beau Italian brands Rudy Project and LAS are on lath with the initiative, and helmets from all iii brands will feature a conspicuous “WG11” round scarlet icon moving frontwards. Neither of those other two brands are especially heavy hitters in the market, though, and so I contacted several bigger brands to come across if they might throw their weight backside WG11; none had still responded by press time. Regardless, Kask has made it very clear that it hopes WG11 is broadly accepted.

Only there’south withal that big yellow elephant in the room.

Let’due south take all of Kask’south claims at face up value for a moment hither, that a defended low-friction liner actually isn’t as critical to brain injury protection as we’ve been led to believe for the terminal ten years. However, how would MIPS-equipped helmets perform on boilerplate compared to helmets without MIPS-like features using that same WG11 protocol? Later on all, the ultimate goal with cycling helmets isn’t to just laissez passer some test, it’southward to ace them with as wide a margin as possible. Put some other way, it’south great that Kask’s helmets practise and so well in the WG11 rotational bear upon test protocol without whatsoever sort of dedicated low-friction liner – but would they do even better if they had them?

That is something I asked Kask directly, and while one might rightfully assume the company has conducted those benchmark tests, Kask wasn’t able to provide that respond.

“Regarding the operation of MIPS if tested with an EN 960 headform, I cannot respond that question,” Viano told me. “You lot should ask MIPS representatives directly.”

And then I did, of course, although I hadn’t been able to coordinate schedules for a conversation by the time this story was published.

I did hear from the folks at Virginia Tech, though, and while they seem to support the idea of the WG11 protocol, there are some questions, too.

“The Hybrid 3 headform does have a loftier coefficient of friction and that certainly makes a big difference,” said Barry Miller, director of outreach at the exam lab. “I don’t know almost the EN960 equally we don’t have that in the lab yet. We utilize the NOCSAE headform that is designed for sport helmets and it is a flake tacky, but much lower than the Hybrid III. Our helmet/head coupling is fairly tight if compared to a full head of pilus. Obviously, a full caput of hair and scalp provides a natural slip airplane and thus helps reduce friction and improves the decoupling of the helmet and caput. It is difficult to say if MIPS or other rotational technologies would enhance performance over and to a higher place a full caput of pilus, but [they] likely tin’t hurt.”

And while I may not have been able to talk near WG11 directly with MIPS however, a recent journal commodity co-authored by MIPS co-founder Peter Halldin and published just terminal month provides some intriguing insight in the meantime. Among the primal excerpts is this lilliputian nugget (accent mine):

“Our results suggest that [moments of inertia] and [coefficients of friction] take meaning effects on headform rotational kinematics, and consequently encephalon deformation, during the helmeted oblique touch.
Futurity helmet standards and rating methods should use headforms with realistic MoIs and CoF (eastward.g., the Cellbond headform) to ensure more authentic representation of the head in laboratory impact tests.

This is getting interesting, folks.

I desire to believe

Simply as some have been content to question claims regarding MIPS and like technologies, others will certainly exist skeptical about Kask’s WG11 initiative, perhaps dismissing it equally some marketing-driven ploy to justify the company’southward refusal to play ball. I mean, of grade, the company would prefer to non pay MIPS a licensing fee for its applied science, correct?

All the same, go on in mind that it would have been far easier for Kask to just hop on the MIPS bandwagon instead of devoting all this time and money to WG11. It could have simply tossed MIPS liners into its helmets similar just nigh everyone else and called it expert. But at present we know why it didn’t, and in my stance, the story seems pretty compelling.

Helmets take certainly come a long fashion, but with a renewed focus on safe in recent years, any advancement in testing should be viewed in a positive calorie-free.

Unfortunately for Kask, perception all too often trumps reality, and MIPS has 1 hell of a caput start correct now. Will any of this turn the tide of consumer perception? Fourth dimension will be the ultimate decider, but this reader comment from my review of Kask’south 3rd-generation Mojito3 helmet is telling:

“It’s almost unbelievable that there have been and then many studies on these skid liners and no one has bothered to consider how skin and hair interact with the helmet. One would think that this would exist as of import as the MIPS liner itself. Of course, information technology’s not surprising that Kask would say that since they don’t offer MIPS helmets (or with similar technologies), which saves them some coin, but all the MIPS hype has been generated by companies who turn a profit from information technology, then information technology’s quite hard to know which stance to trust more.”

More than information on Kask’s WG11 test protocol can be found at www.kask.com.

Source: https://cyclingtips.com/2022/10/kask-wg11-rotational-energy-impact-test-and-mips/