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Bontrager WaveCel Helmet - Improved safety claims questioned

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Bontrager WaveCel Helmet - Improved safety claims questioned

Old 04-29-19, 10:44 PM
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Bontrager WaveCel Helmet - Improved safety claims questioned

Probably some of you have seen stuff about Bontrager's new Wavecel helmets, including their claims of spectacular improvements in concussion-reduction. It sounded too good to be true and now some other folks are saying just that.

https://road.cc/content/tech-news/25...tragers-claims

Perhaps some of the contrary data, coming from competitors (e.g., some data comes from Koroyd), is also not truly independent

I suspect that this also is not the final word and that more data will be forthcoming. It may be that the Wavecel technology is actually some increment better than previous designs, but not to the extent claimed by Bontrager. Or not.

Many of us would be eager to buy a "much safer" helmet if one were available. So I'd be happier if the Bontrager claims were replicated. Stay tuned....
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Old 04-30-19, 04:30 AM
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I broke a cleat while out riding this weekend and stopped in to the local Trek store as it was closest. They had a display for these helmets and we looked it over. One of the sales people was real excited about them and made a sales pitch. They look like they'd be effective but a bit on the pricey side.
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Old 04-30-19, 09:29 AM
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This may be calling out for an independent panel to design test criteria, free of any monetary interest in any products. I don't think anyone is willing to pay for that, however, unless they have a helmet to sell.

Basically, at this point, I think all of the claims are just noise--no one can agree on an objective testing regime, so they're going to cherry pick the method that gives them the best results, not necessarily the most valid.
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Old 04-30-19, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
This may be calling out for an independent panel to design test criteria, free of any monetary interest in any products. I don't think anyone is willing to pay for that, however, unless they have a helmet to sell.

Basically, at this point, I think all of the claims are just noise--no one can agree on an objective testing regime, so they're going to cherry pick the method that gives them the best results, not necessarily the most valid.
There ARE independent researchers, such as those at the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab. And FWIW, I just noticed that at the moment, Virginia Tech's highest rated helmet is the Wave Cel
https://www.helmet.beam.vt.edu/bicyc...t-ratings.html
However, the difference in rating between the Wavecel helmets and other comparatively safe (e.g., MIPS) helmets appears to be small.
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Old 04-30-19, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
There ARE independent researchers, such as those at the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab. And FWIW, I just noticed that at the moment, Virginia Tech's highest rated helmet is the Wave Cel
https://www.helmet.beam.vt.edu/bicyc...t-ratings.html
However, the difference in rating between the Wavecel helmets and other comparatively safe (e.g., MIPS) helmets appears to be small.


Do you know how VT's protocols are different than MIPS? I admit to not knowing much about the subject, but MIPS' position is that there is no industry standard for testing, which would indicate they reject VT's for some reason.
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Old 04-30-19, 10:21 AM
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Does this mean it's not going to change cycling forever?
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Old 04-30-19, 10:35 AM
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...an independent panel...


In 2017 the NFL, GE, Under Armor and the National Institute of Standards and Technology held a competition for helmet technology.

...eager to buy a "much safer" helmet if one were available...


6D walked away with the half-million dollar grand prize.

https://www.6dhelmets.com/atb-1t/
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Old 04-30-19, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
Do you know how VT's protocols are different than MIPS? I admit to not knowing much about the subject, but MIPS' position is that there is no industry standard for testing, which would indicate they reject VT's for some reason.
I don't know. However, one thing that MIPS talks about is that industry standard tests are head-on tests, rather than for an angled impact, and VT does both head-on and angled impact. And not that I know for certain, but whether or not MIPS accepts VTs protocols is not the same as whether there is an industry standard. The first would simply mean that MIPS considers VTs tests to be valid. The second would mean that in fact the industry has banded together and agreed on a standard - not something that MIPS could decide independently - or that one has been imposed on the industry by an overseeing agency. To my knowledge, the only such standard is CPSC which all US helmets meet but that is widely considered to be insufficient.
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Old 04-30-19, 07:20 PM
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Considering the forces involved .... it seems that any impact over about 15 mph is going to result in some serious impact no matter what helmet one wears. I don't buy that Either design is "significantly" better in real-world applications ... a few percentage points different in lab tests, but considering all the variables in real crashes .... plus, as far as I recall, all the helmets showed significant drop-off in protection about 14.5 mph or something .... I am not convinced that a Wave-cell or Mips helmet does a al that much better a job than a $25 Bell on closeout from Nashbar. I am exceedingly slow and even I usually average above 15 mph .... But for those who find peace of mind knowing that in lab tests one helmet performed three percent better than another, go for it. It is likely (IMO) that Eventually materials tech will provide some sort of helmet which really does offer significantly more protection that a Dixie cup in a Solo cup .... maybe mini-air-bags or something, who knows ... but I am not convinced that anything on the market right now is going to help significantly more than something else if I go down hard at 18-20 mph.

If people Really feared head impacts, they'd wear football helmets or motorcycle helmets.
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Old 04-30-19, 07:30 PM
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I bought one. As long as it is not inferior to MIPS, I'm not terribly concerned, but the claims do seem to be a bit over-exaggerated, as Edward Abbey would say.

The problem (which the article points out) is that there are no industry standards for testing. At the time I strongly suspected they designed a helmet to score well on their testing equipment. Notably, if you look at the Virginia Tech results, MIPS is comparable.

The helmet this one replaced (a Bell mountain bike one) was over 20 years old, so hopefully at worst I paid more than I needed to.
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Old 04-30-19, 08:26 PM
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Maelochs, I don't know enough to be sure if you are right or wrong, but I strongly suspect that the differences are more than a "few percentage points" by any reasonable interpretation of that term. For example, quoting from a publication from the Virginia Tech group comparing different helmets tested

"Helmet performance varied significantly between models. PLA ranged from 78 to 169 g at 3.4 m/s (0–2% AIS ≥ 4 brain injury risk) and 165–432 g (10–100% risk) at 6.2 m/s. "*

(PLA is Peak Linear Acceleration and AIS is the "Head Injury Criterion Abbreviated Injury Scale")

*Bland et al. 2018 "Differences in the protective capabilities of bicycle helmets in real-world and standard-specified impact scenarios" Traffic Injury Prevention https://doi.org/10.1080/15389588.2017.1388915

So for the same controlled impact, the accelerations vary about a factor of >2 (or 200% if you prefer).

I am no expert, but the differences in protection seem tangible.
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Old 05-01-19, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
Maelochs, I don't know enough to be sure if you are right or wrong, but I strongly suspect that the differences are more than a "few percentage points" by any reasonable interpretation of that term. For example, quoting from a publication from the Virginia Tech group comparing different helmets tested

"Helmet performance varied significantly between models. PLA ranged from 78 to 169 g at 3.4 m/s (0–2% AIS ≥ 4 brain injury risk) and 165–432 g (10–100% risk) at 6.2 m/s. "*

(PLA is Peak Linear Acceleration and AIS is the "Head Injury Criterion Abbreviated Injury Scale")

*Bland et al. 2018 "Differences in the protective capabilities of bicycle helmets in real-world and standard-specified impact scenarios" Traffic Injury Prevention https://doi.org/10.1080/15389588.2017.1388915

So for the same controlled impact, the accelerations vary about a factor of >2 (or 200% if you prefer).

I am no expert, but the differences in protection seem tangible.
3.4 m/sec is 7.6 mph. 6.2 m/sec is 13.8 mph. Let's talk a more realistic 15 mph or 18 mph and see what's up.

Also ... unless every helmet is tested, how can I know if the helmet I have is at the low or the high end?

Further still ... and this is really my point ... I can spend $30 for a major-brand helmet which has passed all certifications (Bell helmets usually fit my skull-shape) or $300 for the latest tech. Am I really getting two hundred percent improved Real-World protection? I don't care what few specific tests show .... or rather, I don't base everything on those few data. I have only hit my head twice in more than five decades of road riding and neither resulted in concussion, nor was either a rotating blow. Once was at about 5 mph---and my helmet kept me from scraping my forehead---and the other at closer to 20 mph, no helmet, but such a light impact that I didn't even get a lump (my collarbone absorbed all the shock.)

And at impacts over 20 mph .... unless you are wearing a motorcycle helmet or something, your helmet is mostly a fashion object.

I am just pointing out that in my experience a $30 lid offers the same protection ... particularly since A.) NO helmet offers much protection at the kinds of speeds most riders ride at, and B.) Most riders have never hit their heads ... and of all those that have who post here----None were wearing Mips or Wave-cel, and all survived.

When I talk about a Significant improvement in helmet tech, I am talking about something light and comfortable enough to be worn by riders generally, which offers protection in the kinds of impacts where bad stuff really happens.

As I mentioned, if riders were Really afraid of TBI, they would wear motorcycle helmets (or hockey or football helmets.) But riders would find them uncomfortable and unpleasantly dorky-looking ... so comfort and fashion trumps real safety.

I could strap a pillow to my head and get decent protection for a 7-mph fall. Shome a helmet which willkeep my head intact if i hit it on concrete at 17 or 27 mph. Then I might consider spending for a helmet.
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Old 05-01-19, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
Maelochs, I don't know enough to be sure if you are right or wrong, but I strongly suspect that the differences are more than a "few percentage points" by any reasonable interpretation of that term. For example, quoting from a publication from the Virginia Tech group comparing different helmets tested

"Helmet performance varied significantly between models. PLA ranged from 78 to 169 g at 3.4 m/s (0–2% AIS ≥ 4 brain injury risk) and 165–432 g (10–100% risk) at 6.2 m/s. "*

(PLA is Peak Linear Acceleration and AIS is the "Head Injury Criterion Abbreviated Injury Scale")

*Bland et al. 2018 "Differences in the protective capabilities of bicycle helmets in real-world and standard-specified impact scenarios" Traffic Injury Prevention https://doi.org/10.1080/15389588.2017.1388915

So for the same controlled impact, the accelerations vary about a factor of >2 (or 200% if you prefer).

I am no expert, but the differences in protection seem tangible.


But the same VT group says that they recommend any 4 or 5 star helmet on their list, which includes a lot of variation in the relative numbers, and state that cost, comfort and fit are also important factors.

There's a major difference between statistical significance and real-world significance.
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Old 05-01-19, 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
But the same VT group says that they recommend any 4 or 5 star helmet on their list, which includes a lot of variation in the relative numbers, and state that cost, comfort and fit are also important factors.
I don't follow your point. The quantitative comparison I highlighted (200%) was the difference between the best and worst helmets that they tested (i.e., those that were given 2 stars), and was a response to Maelochs claim that there's only a few percent difference between the best helmets on the market and the worst. When challenged on this point, he doesn't defend it, but rather returns to his point that in a serious crash, we don't know if a "better" helmet really makes any difference. I didn't say that there are large differences among the better helmets.

Look guys, science isn't perfect and as a laboratory scientist myself (though not in anything close to this field), I am well aware that the lab and what you call the "real world" (a misnomer IMHO, all of it is "real", but the controlled variables are not all the same) have differences. Science is an imperfect approximation that tries to move towards an improved understanding. I'll go with that rather than "we don't really know anything perfectly, so I'll dismiss the insight we might be able to get from what we can measure." To that end, I'll seek out one of the "better" helmets with the understanding that that an incremental improvement of my odds is better than hearsay.
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Old 05-01-19, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
I don't follow your point. The quantitative comparison I highlighted (200%) was the difference between the best and worst helmets that they tested (i.e., those that were given 2 stars), and was a response to Maelochs claim that there's only a few percent difference between the best helmets on the market and the worst. When challenged on this point, he doesn't defend it, but rather returns to his point that in a serious crash, we don't know if a "better" helmet really makes any difference. I didn't say that there are large differences among the better helmets.

Look guys, science isn't perfect and as a laboratory scientist myself (though not in anything close to this field), I am well aware that the lab and what you call the "real world" (a misnomer IMHO, all of it is "real", but the controlled variables are not all the same) have differences. Science is an imperfect approximation that tries to move towards an improved understanding. I'll go with that rather than "we don't really know anything perfectly, so I'll dismiss the insight we might be able to get from what we can measure." To that end, I'll seek out one of the "better" helmets with the understanding that that an incremental improvement of my odds is better than hearsay.
I don't think we're really arguing here, but my point is that these numbers are too flimsy to make really fine-grained determinations as to which helmet is "best", which VT is really acknowledging by lumping in a very large range of helmets into the "recommended" category. They list 53 helmets as tested, the large majority of them fall into the 4 or 5 stars "recommended" category. To @Maelochs point, it's interesting to note that the $18 Schwinn Intercept (recommended non-MIPS) outscores the $250 Scott Cadence-Plus (recommended MIPS) and the $75 Triple 8 Dual Certified MIPS (not recommended).

Major point being that I think VT is being clear that their data don't justify rushing out to dump your current adequate helmet and laying out big bucks for the latest MIPS or WaveCell tech.
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Old 05-01-19, 10:17 AM
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My communication skills may be weak, but Livedarklions' powers of discernment are superior. That is pretty much exactly my point" ---the testing doesn't support (IMO) buying the latest/greatest high-dollar helmet .... the benefits are possibly negligible.

I am sure there are crappy cheap helmets, and lots of them. I am not sure that buying the latest (and exceedingly expensive) helmet tech is going to save my life.

I make no recommendations for the actions of others.

Funniest part of all this---No one will know if his or her helmet really worked, or worked better than a much cheaper or much more expensive hat.

Even funnier---most of us will die in bathroom accidents, not bike accidents, statistically. And none of wear helmets in the shower.
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Old 05-01-19, 11:08 AM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
I don't think we're really arguing here, but my point is that these numbers are too flimsy to make really fine-grained determinations as to which helmet is "best", which VT is really acknowledging by lumping in a very large range of helmets into the "recommended" category. They list 53 helmets as tested, the large majority of them fall into the 4 or 5 stars "recommended" category. To @Maelochs point, it's interesting to note that the $18 Schwinn Intercept (recommended non-MIPS) outscores the $250 Scott Cadence-Plus (recommended MIPS) and the $75 Triple 8 Dual Certified MIPS (not recommended).

Major point being that I think VT is being clear that their data don't justify rushing out to dump your current adequate helmet and laying out big bucks for the latest MIPS or WaveCell tech.
Fair enough.

As to dumping old helmets, we should probably remember that the protection that a helmet offers does not last indefinitely. My current Lazer MIPS helmet is 3 years old and it's never been in a crash, but there are small cracks in the foam (EPS foam, I believe). Maybe these are from times I dropped the helmet in the parking lot or something and maybe the rest of you aren't so careless. But I suspect that most of us should be in the market every few years, for one reason or another. I have no intention of buying the highest rated helmet on the VT list (unless it happens to fit other criteria I may have), but there is a nice selection of styles and price points in the higher echelons of their ratings. So the ratings are a helpful guide.

As I said in my original post, I'd love it if the Wavecel technology really was a great leap forward in helmet safety, but unfortunately the evidence is not there. The new Bontrager helmets are probably among the safer ones on the market right now, but it seems that others are comparable.
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Old 05-01-19, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
Fair enough.

As to dumping old helmets, we should probably remember that the protection that a helmet offers does not last indefinitely. My current Lazer MIPS helmet is 3 years old and it's never been in a crash, but there are small cracks in the foam (EPS foam, I believe). Maybe these are from times I dropped the helmet in the parking lot or something and maybe the rest of you aren't so careless. But I suspect that most of us should be in the market every few years, for one reason or another. I have no intention of buying the highest rated helmet on the VT list (unless it happens to fit other criteria I may have), but there is a nice selection of styles and price points in the higher echelons of their ratings. So the ratings are a helpful guide.

As I said in my original post, I'd love it if the Wavecel technology really was a great leap forward in helmet safety, but unfortunately the evidence is not there. The new Bontrager helmets are probably among the safer ones on the market right now, but it seems that others are comparable.
I tend to pay no more than $50 for a helmet and replace it every 2 years or so. I drop them a fair amount, so my logic on the need to replace is about the same as yours. Keeping the price point down makes it easier for me to think of them as consumables.
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Old 05-01-19, 12:41 PM
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...and now the WaveCel helmet has already been knocked off the top perch on VTech's rankings by the Lazer Cyclone MIPS with its $75 MSRP.
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Old 05-01-19, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by surak View Post
...and now the WaveCel helmet has already been knocked off the top perch on VTech's rankings by the Lazer Cyclone MIPS with its $75 MSRP.
That's sort of cool. It wasn't there yesterday. I guess the site is updated pretty regularly.

$75 is the list price. Sierra.com has it for $35. Hey livedarklions, there's yer next helmet.
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Old 05-01-19, 07:10 PM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
That's sort of cool. It wasn't there yesterday. I guess the site is updated pretty regularly.

$75 is the list price. Sierra.com has it for $35. Hey livedarklions, there's yer next helmet.
Interesting. Safety is getting affordable.
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Old 05-02-19, 06:26 AM
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There is enough data to suggest that the new tech is potentially better and it doesn't really cost much more than I might normally spend in any case. The $30 v. $300 comparison isn't really relevant to me. I'm not likely to buy a $30 helmet anyway and you don't really need to spend $300 to get the latest tech. If I was in the market for a new helmet, I would certainly opt for the latest in protection technology. And hope I never find out if it's really any better.
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Old 05-02-19, 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
TSierra.com has it for $35. Hey livedarklions, there's yer next helmet.
Thanks! I just clicked your link and ordered it, getting free store delivery. No hurry so don't mind the 2 week wait for that price!

I'll report back on the fit, etc. I like that it matches the color of one of my bikes.
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Old 05-02-19, 12:40 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by jon c. View Post
There is enough data to suggest that the new tech is potentially better and it doesn't really cost much more than I might normally spend in any case. The $30 v. $300 comparison isn't really relevant to me. I'm not likely to buy a $30 helmet anyway and you don't really need to spend $300 to get the latest tech. If I was in the market for a new helmet, I would certainly opt for the latest in protection technology. And hope I never find out if it's really any better.
Well, I just bought a $35 MIPS helmet that Virginia Tech says is safer than the WaveCel helmets. There really doesn't seem to be any correlation between price and safety.
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Old 05-02-19, 01:57 PM
  #25  
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I question any claim that is trying to encourage me to buy a new product.
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