Current State of Helmet Tech, pt. 1: Sweet Protection (Ep.149)

In our new GEAR:30 mini-series, we’re talking to key designers in the world of snowsports and bike helmets to get a current state of helmet tech and helmet R&D. Today we talk with Ståle Møller of Sweet Protection about the pros & cons of the two different safety certifications; advances in materials & our understanding of head injuries; ventilation; the unique challenges of designing helmets for various activities; and how to know when you ought to replace your helmet.
Sweet Protection Trailblazer, Grimnir TE, Falconer, & Ascender helmets

Today we are launching a new mini-series on GEAR:30, where we talk to key designers and product people in the world of snowsport and bike helmets to stitch together a current state of helmet tech and helmet R&D — specifically as it relates to snowsports and cycling.

To get things started, we are talking with Ståle Møller, the co-founder and hardgoods designer of Sweet Protection, about the pros and cons of the two different safety certifications; advances in materials & our understanding of head injuries; ventilation; the unique challenges of designing helmets for various activities; and how to know when you ought to replace your helmet.


  • History of Sweet Protection (4:11)
  • Safety Certifications: European vs North American standards (10:00)
  • Rotational forces (16:12)
  • Weight & Volume (26:35)
  • Sweet’s New System: 2VI (32:10)
  • Snow vs Bike helmets (32:55)
  • Kayaking helmets: different challenges (36:31)
  • Road bike vs. Mtn Bike Helmets (43:52)
  • Sweet’s Trailblazer & Trailblazer MIPS mtb helmets (46:51)
  • Sweet’s Falconer road bike helmet (49:23)
  • When should you replace a helmet? (51:39)
  • Sustainability (57:37)


6 comments on “Current State of Helmet Tech, pt. 1: Sweet Protection (Ep.149)”

  1. Great episode and especially looking forward to listening to the subsequent episodes on this topic. I’m a mountain biker and a skier and, unfortunately, I’ve sustained a few hits to the head over the years. I’m now to the point where I pick helmets exclusively on the Virginia Tech Ratings and was surprised/disappointed that this wasn’t discussed in this episode. While I completely understand that it’s not a perfect system, it’s certainly better than anything else that a consumer can see today. It’s also eye opening.

    I believe the Virginia Tech Ratings probably deserve their own, dedicated episode perhaps with the folks from Virginia Tech on the line. A rating system like this is a huge step forward for consumers like me that want the very best head protection they can get. I would love to hear more about it. Thanks.

  2. Really interesting episode. Man, I’m probably gonna end up buying that Arbitrator helmet, it looks so awesome.

    I’m a MIPS skeptic. I’ve heard and seen the explanations, but they conflict with what I’ve experienced. Have you ever crashed and got up with your helmet in the same position it was before the crash? No, it’s always crooked, and here’s my reasoning: If you’re wearing the helmet ‘comfortably’, the chin strap isn’t super tight, and whatever circumference adjustment isn’t either. I’m guessing that when helmets are tested in a lab they’re adjusted much more snugly than anybody actually wears them. Also, your hair or beanie is relatively slick and shifts around to allow motion. So, rotationally, there’s a relatively large range of motion just from practical reasons. Now go look at how much range of motion the MIPS liner gives – a few millimeters, compared to the multiple centimeters of shifting the helmet does normally. One exception to my skepticism is on a full face helmet. I think in that case MIPS *may* give some additional protection because of the much more limited natural slippage. And I wear a full face with MIPS.

    I’m certainly open to being proven wrong. But I think the correlation of lab testing to real life at this point is very weak. And it’s not too likely that we’ll ever be able to ever devise a test with real life variability. MIPS has done some great marketing, and I can certainly understand the idea that if there’s a chance it might give you extra protection why wouldn’t you pay extra for it. But I don’t buy the marketing, and MIPS isn’t a consideration for me when I’m looking at helmets.

    Looking forward to more of this discussion!

  3. I hope companies like Sweet Protection talked about fit more. I have an odd shaped head, and am not the center of the bell curve; however, I now take an old spoon, heat it up and burn/melt out places in the foam to fit my head. Ski and bike helmets. Which sounds kind of ridiculous until you consider how much attention to fit with ski boots, and what people do to make them fit. I wish there was a less janky way of doing this with helmets. I could go large and then pad, but then the helmet feels like I’m wearing a diaper on my head. Quality rarely sways me on a helmet buy (though I do care…no cheapies), but get me a helmet that feels good and I’m buying it. I tried a SP helmet for skiing. No doubt this is a company that cares about quality, but I sent it back because the fit seemed so wrong. You’re starting to see more “Asian” fit helmets for skiing, I’m waiting for the day they make an “alien” fit for people with long, skinny heads.

  4. What about molding ski helmets to fit the shape of your head similar to how ski boots are custom fitted to feet? Perhaps only the inner helmet component would be molded leaving the outer component in it’s stock shape thus preventing the “alien” look.

  5. Thinking more about helmet technology and fit issues, what if SP or another helmet manufacturer developed a helmet having a liner containing pockets of a thermoformable material that molds to the users head after heating in The Helmet Oven (think Zip Fit or Atomic Mimic materials)? The liner anchoring system and ventilation would need to be sorted out but if solved could result in a custom fit helmet as is now done in ski boots.

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