American bicycle manufacturer Trek has launched a new helmet design that replaces EPS foam with Wavecel technology. The honeycomb-style layers of cells are designed to mimic the brain’s own protective fluid that can absorb rotational energy to better protect the wearer.
Trek and Bontrager Co. have partnered with WaveCel to create the helmet technology, said to disrupt years of accepted safety standards. While expanded polystyrene (EPL) 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 mainly intake energy in a linear direction which is not always how a person falls off a bike. Instead, the head turns and pivots, and it is 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.
A multi-directional impact protection system (MIPS) is called 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 redistributing it.
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.