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Bontrager launches new safety technology WaveCel into helmet range

Sam Challis
19 Mar 2019

The unique structure replaces part of the EPS shell and claims to protect against rotational impact forces better than MIPS

Today Bontrager, the apparel and components arm of bike manufacturer Trek, has announced an exclusive partnership with WaveCel, the makers of a unique polymer structure the claims to protect against the forces experienced in a crash better than any other safety technology currently on the cycling market.

Bontrager claims the new technology is 48-times more effective at preventing concussion in common cycling accidents than standard EPS foam, and even outperforms the well-regarded MIPS slip-plane technology in direct comparative testing.

The material was developed by Dr Steve Madey and Dr Michael Bottlang, who have collaborated for the past 25 years and pioneered advances in fracture care, thoracic and pelvic trauma, and head injury prevention.

The creation of Bontrager WaveCel helmets is the result of a four-year partnership between the pair and Trek and Bontrager’s Research & Design teams.

The collapsible cellular structure supplants a significant portion of a Bontrager helmet’s EPS shell. On impact, the polymer structure moves independently within the helmet - flexing until the cell walls crumple then glide against each other, absorbing the direct and rotational energy that would otherwise be transferred to the rider’s head.

Trek’s Tony White was the lead engineer on the WaveCel project. ‘Over 4 years ago I was given the task to find the best partner for cycling helmet safety. During that research phase I learned about WaveCel through their published academic papers and National Institute of Health grants. We realized how much potential there was with this technology and have been working with them ever since.’

White explains that the benefits of WaveCel’s inclusion within Bontrager’s road, city and MTB helmet ranges extend beyond just safety.

‘What’s been fantastic outside of the protection benefits has been the fit,’ he says. ‘The complicated shapes on the interior of most EPS helmets can cause pressure points for some as the helmet rests on your head. Because the WaveCel forms a “dome shape” within the helmet, it naturally forms and fits your head.’

Bontrager is also claiming that, despite the close-knit waffle-like appearance of WaveCel, ventilation is similarly improved over conventional helmet designs.

‘WaveCel necessitates the removal of a lot of EPS from the helmet’s shell,’ says White. ‘EPS is also a fantastic insulator, so WaveCel is effectively giving your head space from that insulation and replacing it with a very porous structure that allows heat to escape from the rider’s head.’

The incorporation of WaveCel typically adds around 50g to the weight of a helmet, but White explains that Bontrager believes the slight increase in weight - which amounts to no more than a couple of gel sachets - is well worth the increase in safety.

The helmets have been impartially tested by Virginia Tech University in the US and awarded their highest rating for safety. Further, Bontrager says if one of its WaveCel helmets is impacted within the first year of ownership, the brand will replace it free of charge.

The WaveCel technology will be initially included in four models: the £199.99 XXX and £129.99 Specter road helmets, the £199.99 Blaze MTB helmet, the £129.99 Charge Commuter helmet.

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