Innovative materials, integrated sensors, and Bluetooth tech are making the latest bike helmets safer than their ancestors.
1. Bontrager Blaze WaveCel Mountain Bike Helmet
This helmet’s honeycomb inner lining is made from a new material called WaveCel. On impact, the collapsible structure flexes and crumples, basically moving in all directions, depending on the angle and force of the crash. This means the helmet, rather than your head, will absorb the direct and rotational impact. Bontrager’s parent company, Trek, claims this design is 48 times more effective than a traditional foam helmet in preventing concussions. The claims seem plausible given Trek’s reputation, and I did find the WaveCel to be so breathable that my noggin stayed cool on long rides under the hot Arizona sun.
2. Sena R1 Smart Cycling Helmet
A few years ago, the motorcycle-helmet brand Sena adapted its Bluetooth four-way intercom system to road-cycling helmets. When paired with the company’s mobile app, riders can listen to GPS directions, answer phone calls, or even chat with buddies up to half a mile away using the R1’s built-in mic and speakers. I took calls from kids and car mechanics while on the trail; the voices on the other end were clear, as noise-canceling tech filtered out the buffeting wind. The system might make it easier to call for help in a bang-up, but the foam helmet liner could use a safety upgrade—Sena says future models will be lined with impact-mitigating MIPS tech.
3. Specialized Ambush With ANGi
With what we now know about the cumulative effects of head injuries, it’s a good idea to attach an ANGi sensor to the back of your helmet. These lightweight modules measure the forces—direct and rotational—that rattle the brain during a crash. When connected via Bluetooth to Specialized’s mobile app, it’s a crash detector, location tracker, and safety beacon. On a recent trail ride, I simulated a sensor-tripping wreck. An alarm blared, a 30-second countdown began, and, when I let it end without pressing the stop button, the app alerted my emergency contacts via text. The Ambush also includes a MIPS Brain Protection System. This low-friction layer between the outer shell and the liner allows the helmet to slide relative to the head, deflecting impact from the brain.
Styling by Audrey Taylor
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