Bontrager WaveCel helmet first look

Claims to be 48x more effective than EPS foam at preventing concussions

Helmets News
Bontrager WaveCel

Will Bontrager WaveCel technology change the way we think about helmet safety?

Trek and Bontrager have unveiled a new helmet technology called WaveCel, which they claim has proven to be up to 48 times more effective than standard EPS foam at preventing concussions from common cycling accidents.

These test results, says Trek, are based on AIS 2 Injury (BrIC) at 6.2 m/s test at 45° comparing a standard EPS Helmet and the same helmet modified with WaveCel insert as described in detail in Evaluation of a Novel Bicycle Helmet Concept in Oblique Impact Testing. Here’s the conclusion statement from the study.

Low linear acceleration results suggest that traditional EPS bicycle helmets are highly effective in preventing skull fractures. Conversely, high rotational acceleration results similarly suggest that these helmets have not been optimized to reduce rotational head acceleration in oblique impacts. Since axonal shear strain caused by rotational acceleration is a predominant mechanism of injury in concussions, strategies for improved helmet designs should therefore target mitigation of rotational acceleration. Results of SLIP and CELL group helmets demonstrated the potential that rotational acceleration of a headform can be significantly reduced by these helmet technologies. Differences in the efficacy between these technologies emphasize the need for continued research and development efforts of helmet technologies that provide improved protection from brain injury over a wide range a realistic impact parameters.

Bontrager WaveCel

Bontrager WaveCel technology in action.

WaveCel is a collapsible cellular material that lines the inside of Bontrager WaveCel helmets. It was developed by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Steve Madey and biomechanical engineer 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 Drs. Madey and Bottlang and Trek and Bontrager’s Research & Design teams. Unlike a standard foam helmet, which is designed to protect against direct impacts, WaveCel accounts for how most cycling accidents actually happen—ungracefully, with twists, turns, and angled impacts.

WaveCel absorbs energy in multiple ways. On impact, the layers of the WaveCel material move independently and flex until the cell walls crumple and then glide, actively absorbing direct and rotational energy and redirecting it away from your head.

Bontarger WaveCel

Here are the current Bontarger WaveCel helmet offerings [click image to enlarge].

This three-step change in material structure — flex, crumple, glide — is claimed to be remarkably effective at dispersing the energy from an impact. Nearly 99 times out of 100, WaveCel prevents concussions from common cycling accidents, they claim.

Every model in the all-new Bontrager WaveCel helmet lineup received the highest marks in Virginia Tech’s five-star ranking.

“For nearly a decade, we have been testing and rating helmets across industries to determine the products that will best reduce head injury risk,” said Megan Bland, a doctoral student and graduate research assistant from Virginia Tech. “Helmets that receive higher ratings offer considerably more protection compared to other popular helmets on the market.”

Bontrager WaveCel

The Bontrager Blaze WaveCel MTB helmet comes stock with the Front Blendr mount system that easily integrates with GoPro cameras or Bontrager light accessories.

“We are cycling enthusiasts on a mission to help more people enjoy the benefits of biking and to do that with the most advanced protection possible,” added Tony White, lead engineer on the project. “WaveCel represents a significant leap forward for all types of riders, and we are proud that this technology is exclusively available in Bontrager helmets.”

Bontrager WaveCel Helmets
  • XXX WaveCel Road Helmet ($300) – buy now
  • Blaze WaveCel MTB Helmet ($300) – buy now
  • Specter WaveCel Road Helmet ($150) – buy now
  • Charge WaveCel Commuter Helmet ($150) – buy now
WaveCel FAQ

What is WaveCel?
WaveCel is a collapsible cellular material that lines the inside of your helmet. It’s designed to lessen the motion associated with brain injury through a three-step change in material structure. Check out trekbikes.com/wavecel to see it in action.

Bontrager WaveCel

The Boa System lets you easily secure and adjust helmet fit with just one hand.

Who created WaveCel?
WaveCel was created by a team of doctors, researchers, and engineers who have been studying head injury prevention for the last 15 years. During this time, they’ve received multiple National Institute of Health (NIH) grants to support their work. Learn more at wavecel.com.

What sorts of safety testing have been performed?
First and foremost, this helmet passes all the current required safety standards. You can find additional information in WaveCel’s peer-reviewed scientific journal paper found at trekbikes.com/wavecel. If you don’t want to take our word for it, Virginia Tech, a third-party helmet review institution, has assessed WaveCel helmets with their own test criteria and awarded all WaveCel helmets with top honors. You can see those results at https://www.helmet.beam.vt.edu/bicycle-helmet-ratings.html.

How does a helmet with WaveCel compare to a normal helmet without WaveCel?
Every impact to a helmet is different, so it’s impossible to say whether or not an injury will occur while wearing any helmet. That being said, significant research has been done to understand the most likely causes of brain injury. In a peer-reviewed academic paper, a helmet with WaveCel was up to 48 times more effective in preventing concussions caused by common cycling accidents. Read the full study at trekbikes.com/wavecel.

Bontrager Charge

The Bontrager Charge WaveCel helmet caters to all your commuting and/or storm trooping needs.

Does it prevent concussions?
There is no helmet on the market that can prevent concussions 100% of the time. Every crash is different, but WaveCel has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of concussion and traumatic brain injury. Nearly 99 times out of 100, WaveCel prevents concussions caused by common cycling accidents.* The edge of a WaveCel helmet has an EPS ledge and the ledge area will have impact characteristics similar to EPS.

Is a standard foam (EPS) helmet unsafe?
Standard foam (EPS) helmets pass the current required safety standards. They’re designed to protect against direct linear impacts and skull fractures. WaveCel is designed to protect against the way most cycling accidents happen: ungracefully, with twists, turns, and multiple rotational impacts to the head. But any helmet is safer than no helmet.

How is WaveCel different from other honeycomb systems?
Some cycling helmets use honeycomb shaped materials but primarily address linear impacts to prevent skull fractures. These systems usually include a slip liner to the helmet to address rotational forces. WaveCel addresses both linear and angular impacts but also flexes to make a uniform dome shape that wraps mostly around the inside of the helmet.

Bontrager WaveCel

Bontrager XXX WaveCel road helmet.

Bontrager WaveCel

Can it sustain multiple impacts?
No. WaveCel is designed to absorb the energy from an impact through crushing and shearing. If a WaveCel helmet is impacted, it must be replaced.

How do I know when to replace it?
Your helmet should be replaced any time it is impacted in a crash. Even if your helmet is not involved in a crash, helmet parts lose strength over time. As with all Bontrager helmets, WaveCel helmets should be replaced every three years.

Does WaveCel change the fit of the helmet?
During our testing, we received consistent feedback from users about how comfortable it feels. Standard foam helmets have a hard, rigid shell which produces pressure points. WaveCel is a flexible dome inside the helmet that naturally conforms to different head shapes for a more comfortable fit. Give it a try!

Bontarger WaveCel

Plenty of ventilation up top.

How does it affect breathability?
WaveCel changes the way air flows through the helmet. It channels airflow throughout the entire helmet, allowing for better ventilation than standard EPS foam. Because a WaveCel helmet has less insulating foam material, it lets out a lot of heat and allows air to flow through it easier.

Is it heavier than a helmet without WaveCel?
This revolutionary safety technology adds only 53g on average to Bontrager helmets—an amount you’re unlikely to notice. That’s less than your favorite nutrition bar, 1/3 of a banana, or about two ice cubes. Yes, WaveCel adds a little weight, but nothing outweighs safety.

Why isn’t anyone else using this in the industry?
WaveCel is exclusive to Bontrager helmets. We began working with WaveCel in their early stages of development and have collaborated with them every step of the way. With our combined knowledge, we’ve created a game-changing product. You will likely see many other industries adopt this groundbreaking technology soon.

Bontrager WaveCel

Safety and style.

Can I buy just the WaveCel (and put it in my regular helmet)?
No. WaveCel material is not sold separately—and you can’t remove it from a Bontrager helmet.

Should I be concerned that some of the cells are deformed in parts of my new helmet?
You may see some regions that have a higher density. That’s totally normal. This is the nature of the material. However, if there’s any damage or deformation due to an impact, you should replace your helmet.

Should I be concerned with hair getting stuck or material causing abrasions to my head?
The results of the tests we performed during the early stages of development have shown a very low risk of skin abrasion from the WaveCel material. For further protection, we put a layer of coating on the inside of the helmet.

Bontrager Specter WaveCel helmet

Bontrager Specter WaveCel helmet

Bontrager Specter WaveCel helmet

What happens if it gets too hot, too cold, or if it rains?
All WaveCel helmets went through an extensive variety of protocol testing in hot, cold, and wet conditions. WaveCel passed all tests with flying colors.

Do UV rays affect how safe the material is?
WaveCel is designed to withstand UV exposure during the lifespan of the helmet. We are required to test all helmets with UV exposure, and these helmets passed all tests.

I sweat, like, a lot — will that hurt this technology?
Nope! Sweat won’t hurt this technology, but it’s a good idea to clean your helmet regularly if you’re a heavy sweater. In select models, additional NoSweat pads with a silicone channel come included to help you manage perspiration.

What can render the helmet un-usable?
Like all helmets, WaveCel helmets must be replaced if they’re impacted. Additionally, compounds such as bug spray, solvents, oils, paint, and aerosols can degrade helmet materials. See the owner’s manual for a complete list.

WaveCel is available exclusively in Bontrager helmets sold online and through authorized Trek and Bontrager retailers. For more information, visit trekbikes.com/wavecel.

Bontrager WaveCel Helmets
  • XXX WaveCel Road Helmet ($300) – buy now
  • Blaze WaveCel MTB Helmet ($300) – buy now
  • Specter WaveCel Road Helmet ($150) – buy now
  • Charge WaveCel Commuter Helmet ($150) – buy now

About the author: Mtbr

Mtbr.com is a site by mountain bikers for mountain bikers. We are the best online resource for information for mountain bikers of all abilities, ages and interests.


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