Trek and their accessories wing at Bontrager are making bold claims about revolutionizing bike helmet safety with the debut of their new WaveCel crumple zone tech today. Calling it the “biggest advancement to cycling helmets in over 30 years” WaveCel was developed to make cyclists safer with it collapsible internal cellular structure.

Bontrager WaveCel helmet promises safer construction

Trek says WaveCel “works like a crumple zone that absorbs the force of an impact before it reaches your head”. That’s pretty much exactly the role of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam in a conventional helmet…

So what is so different about the new WaveCel tech?

Bontrager WaveCel helmet technology promises safer helmets for cyclists
courtesy Trek

WaveCel seems to work by making up a grid of cells that continues to offer protection even as it is being compressed in varying directions, and in fact continues to disperse the force of an impact, redirecting it to a greater area of the helmet as it crushes.

Bontrager WaveCel helmet technology promises safer helmets for cyclists

That works with a 3-step change in the shape of its boxy grid of cells. As they compress, the cells flex & flatten for the first reduction in force. Then they actually crumple, again absorbing more energy. Lastly, they start to glide to the side, transferring forces to adjacent cells and away from your head until a greater number of cells over a wider area of the helmet act together to absorb the impact.

Bontrager WaveCel helmet technology promises safer helmets for cyclists

Plus, the WaveCel helmet doesn’t get rid of the typical in-molded EPS foam shell we have come to know. WaveCel just adds a new, thin liner that disperses energy right before it gets to your head. Think or it something like a lighter weight Koroyd liner oriented to slide around your head, instead of just to offer structure when crumpling under an impact.

Bontrager WaveCel helmet technology promises safer helmets for cyclists

WaveCel was developed by doctors seeking to prevent head & body trauma, then developed into this new Bontrager helmet thanks to a four-year development partnership.

Bontrager WaveCel helmet technology promises safer helmets for cyclists

Working with the testing lab at Virginia Tech, Trek says the new helmet construction has been demonstrated to be “48 times more effective than standard foam helmets at preventing concussions from common cycling accidents”, those where glancing & twisting impacts are more realistic. “Every model in the all-new Bontrager WaveCel helmet lineup received the highest marks in Virginia Tech’s five-star ranking.”

What Bontrager helmets offer WaveCel protection tech?

WaveCel is exclusively offered in the Bontrager line-up with four different WaveCel helmets available now across different disciplines.

Bontrager WaveCel helmet technology promises safer helmets for cyclists

The two most affordable are the new Specter WaveCel road helmet and the Charge WaveCel commuter helmet which both sell for $150.

Bontrager WaveCel helmet technology promises safer helmets for cyclists
Specter WaveCel road

The Specter WaveCel looks pretty much like any conventional vented road helmet, with the addition of the WaveCels peeking through the large open vents. It features Boa retention, Fidlock magnetic buckle, reflective detailing, and comes in three sizes (341g for size M.)

Bontrager WaveCel helmet technology promises safer helmets for cyclists
Charge WaveCel commuter

The Charge WaveCel is a much more closed design with a multi-part in-mold shell & visor completely wrapping the standard EPS liner, and only a small glimpse of the WaveCels through a single continuous vent cut all the way around the helmet. The 428g Charge (M) also gets a Boa dial closure, Fidlock buckle, and includes a rear Blendr mount to attach a taillight.

Bontrager WaveCel helmet technology promises safer helmets for cyclists
XXX WaveCel road

Stepping up to a more premium lid, the $300 XXX WaveCel road helmet is a more premium vented aero road design, optimized for decreased drag. The XXX is said to be the choice of Trek-Segafredo men & women pros and uses Boa closure, lightweight adjustable straps, with a claimed 352g (M) weight.

Bontrager WaveCel helmet technology promises safer helmets for cyclists
Blaze WaveCel MTB

The $300 Blaze WaveCel mountain bike helmet is a premium open trail helmet with detachable visor, large open vents, and lower protection over the rear of the head.  It also gets Boa closure, a Fidlock buckle, and front Blendr mount to attach a light or GoPro. A size M helmet claims a weight of 420g.

Bontrager WaveCel helmet technology promises safer helmets for cyclists

All four new helmets come in a wide range of colors (with different color WaveCels too), and are available now from Trek & Bontrager accessory dealers and online.

Bontrager.com

38 COMMENTS

  1. If the testing result are accurate, I am disappointed that Trek didn’t do the right thing and introduce at least one model under $100, as well as a youth/kids helmet.

    Oh, and why do companies think commuters don’t want ventilation?

    • Generally speaking, new materials and techniques are expensive to deploy- even if we ignore the need to recoup development costs, it takes time for new processes to become efficient enough to make their way to lower price points. I don’t have any inside info here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if in early days a $100 helmet with something like WaveCel could lose money or so much closer to a $30-50 helmet in terms of weight and features that it wouldn’t sell.

      $150 in 2019 dollars is $99 in 1999, which was what I paid for a Giro Hammerhead at the time. We’ve really come a long way.

        • Were there any US-made bicycle helmets available in 1999? Or even earlier?
          It’s an honest question: nothing comes to mind- though there could have been a few with Italy as the country of origin.

  2. very interesting idea, with two concerns – will ventilation be up to traditional helmet standards? Also, these helmets are about 90 gram heavier than the standard models. Could be a literal pain in the neck…

    • Agreed. I never thought about helmet weights until I started getting more neck issues. Every extra gram you have dangling out there over your handlebar is just more your body has to hold up through your ride.

      Interesting trek didn’t address the “ventilation” and if this tech makes the helmet hot or breathe better. I guess if it did they would have said so…

      • RCSpeed, watch the video. They talk about ventilation. Not with any quantifiable data, but explain how the material is very breathable because it’s 3D mesh.

        And personally I think the extra weight is a moot point. Any issue with weight is an individual problem that affects a minority. We’re only talking about a few ounces at most. As mentioned in another comment, mtb helmets weigh more and it’s not an issue. Add sunglasses, hats, head and taillights, GoPros, etc…No one is making it an issue.

  3. Mountain bike helmets are heavier as well. Especially when a light is thrown on it. I’m not concerned about the extra weight. Ventilation is reportedly on par with the Ballista helmet. Even if it is not, I think it would certainly be worth a few extra sweat droplets.

  4. I look at those helmets and the first thing I thought about is a bee or yellow jacket getting stuck in there and dying, or any bug for that matter. How do you get them out?

  5. I own one of these- the specter. Its very breathable. Its not noticeably heavier. It’s actually the most comfortable helmet I have currently. I love it. I’m using it for road and commuting. Buying the mtb helmet soon as well.

  6. Interesting and glad to see Trek investing in advancing the science behind helmet safety. Regarding the extra weight… for most users, 90g or so extra isn’t a big deal, but for somebody who has done a lot of ultra-endurance stuff, any extra weight on the head (and therefore neck) becomes a very big deal after 15 or so hours. But, that is a super-small minority of bike rides.

  7. If people want to use safest helmet, they must use full face helmet.
    but in reality, design and weight also very important factor to choose.
    I think giro aether is better idea for safety and design, lightness. (but I using met trenta 3k lol )

    • Looking into it, it sounds like Trek learned of the technology before it was fully viable and sort of co-developed it into a helmet technology. Naturally they are protecting their investment at this point. If you go to the Wavecel website there isn’t even company info or contact, just Bontrager product.

    • Exactly, “48x safer” just makes no sense. It’s exaggerated to makes one feels insecure and buy stuff. I mean the tech might be legit but the advertising is just wrong.

      • Disagree. This is the cycling industry and industry known for dubious claims lead by marketing. Should have been 480% safer.

    • You hit the nail square on the head. There are so many false narratives in this ‘press release’ that is all over the cycling world.

      First, I do not at all buy into the theory that you are “X” percent safer with a helmet than with out “in a crash”. I have been part of many crashes, seen many more. The terminology should be “X percent safer in a crash that involves a head strike”. Then we have a real comparison.

      I remember racing when we had to ‘start’ with a helmet (and no one wore it by the time of the finish). I am more than certain that deaths and other massive injuries have not gone down since the early 90’s in the peloton. With or with out helmets, the broken bones have stayed the same (or an impact was so serious that the helmet made no appreciable difference – Tate Meintjes).

      To my point, I recently purchased two helmets – cost was not at all a concern. The weight was….so, the comparison turned into MIPS or not MIPS….-NOT- MIPS, thank you. Lighter, more air flow, lower cost…Aeon!

      If I wanted -more- safe helmets I would get one that is DOT and with a full face (chin) guard. No thanks. Besides, if I wear the best helmet and crash, if like most folks, I will leave the scene with road rash, a broken clavicle and a pristine helmet.

      • I just assumed that people in the market for a helmet will realize that “the helmet on my head will not prevent my leg from getting injured in a wreck.” Maybe I am just naive that people have a little common sense.

        I too remember the olden days when many people thought that it was safer to not wear a seat belt in a car so that when you were in a crash you would be safely thrown clear of the danger. So folks still think this way.

        As to your last point, of the 4 bike commuters from my office that have been in crashes, no road rash, no broken bones, 3 concussions – all regular “old fashion” EPS helmets. YRMV

        • A ‘concussion’ diagnosis is almost as valid as a Fibromyalgia diagnosis…a simple ‘go to’ these days. I take it all with a HUGE grain of salt.

          We could, I suppose bring in studies that say that Football (the game with the oblong ball) would be SAFER with out helmets as the players no longer have a propensity to protect their heads….but, that is an entire different scenario.

          If we collectively believe all of the gloom and doom and safety fools out there…we would never leave the home and when we did we would all be in the center of a Zorb (Google Zorb) – and then would probably wonder if the plastic was a carcinogen.

          • Your probably right, I didn’t have a “concussion.” Having a head ache for a few weeks, having trouble with balance, not being able to concentrate, that’s just normal after you whack your head. And my coworkers having similar issues after their wrecks, that was just a coincidence.

    • Which part? Where they mention the independent testing results from Virginia Tech? Let’s Remember that Trek did not invent WaveCel, they are just the first ones to integrate it into a helmet, Wavecel is an independent company.

    • if you head over to the PR release on trek’s website, they actually have a link to the peer reviewed white paper where they tested against traditional EPS helmets (both MIPS and non-MIPS). It’s not the actual test data itself, but its a start. I had the same initial skepticism for those claims as well, but they are at least providing some data to back them up.

    • Koroyd is similar at a high level but a very different structure that does not have the flex/slip component this material has. Koroyd also needs to be shaped where Wavecell can be made in flats sheets, which is a huge advance for helmet costs (or profits).

      It seems like a nice step forward in helmet technology.

  8. Sorry, but I need my new helmet to be 100 times safer. I want to meet the crash test dummies for the concussion results.

  9. It might be good but I just can’t tell through all that marketing drivel. MIPS was supposed to be soo much better then it came out that it isn’t.

    • Nowhere does anyone say that “MIPS wasn’t so much be better.” Feel free to peruse the UVa Helmet Lab test results to see how many MIPS helmets are in the top rankings.

    • I’ve always heard that MIPS benfefits were inconclusive, but here was the theory, buy it if you want to. That’s how we sold it, and it helped sell some helmets.

  10. The Virginia Tech helmet testing lab gave very similar scores to both WaveCel equipped helmets and certain other helmets only equipped with MIPS. In several instances, certain MIPS equipped helmets were given a higher score than Bontrager WaveCel helmets. The “Bontrager Blaze WaveCel” appears 11th on the list of highest rated helmets by Virginia Tech. It does seem that Bontrager created a safe helmet, but releasing this blanket statement that WaveCel helmets are “48x more effective than standard foam helmets in preventing concussions” seems misleading.

    https://www.helmet.beam.vt.edu/bicycle-helmet-ratings.html

    After reading the testing document (linked below), that was released as evidence of WaveCel’s safety performance, I am confused how testing highly modified SCOTT ARX helmets proves that a Bontrager helmet is 48x safer.

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001457518303713?via%3Dihub

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