Trek sent ripples throughout the internet earlier this month, after launching a vague online advertisement that included this rather cryptic message;
“Cycling’s most important change in 30 years. On 20 March, we’re unveiling something that will change cycling forever.”
That bold message was accompanied by a suitably vague, washed-out, light green image of a repeating geometric-shaped pattern. In his weekly news wrap, Andi hypothesised about what clues might lurk within the image.
Perhaps it was some new form of eco-friendly carbon fibre? Some kind of super material to take high-tech composite frames to a new, unheard of weight territory, with incredible strength properties that would revolutionise the bicycle industry?
It was a big stretch, but given that Trek launched its first full carbon fibre road bike exactly 30 years ago, who are we to be blamed for getting excited about a vague commercial with enormously bold claims like that?
Well, we now know what Trek is talking about. And sadly, it’s not some sort of ultra-carbon-wunder-fibre. But it is still really interesting.
No. It’s Not Carbon Fibre
As you’ll no doubt already know, Trek owns Bontrager. And Bontrager makes a range of components, accessories and rider gear, including helmets.
It turns out that WaveCel is actually a new helmet technology, which Bontrager is implementing in four new high-end helmets.
Err, what the heck is WaveCel?
According to Bontrager; “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.”
So it is a new material, though it’s one that’s designed to form an internal helmet layer that offers unique properties when it comes to absorbing impacts. And Bontrager is very excited about it.
Aesthetically, WaveCel looks a lot like Koroyd technology, which we’ve seen used in helmets such as the Smith Forefront and Endura MT500. Those fluoro-green Koroyd straws have their benefits, but their main goal is to provide direct, vertical impact protection. Usually helmets that feature Koroyd panels also incorporate a MIPS liner, which is designed to handle rotational impact protection.
What a WaveCel helmet does then, is aim to combine direct impact protection, with the ability to absorb rotational forces too. In that sense, it’s kind of like combining Koroyd straws and a MIPS liner, into the one cellular structure.
WaveCel Flex, Crumple, Glide
Under an impact, the cellular walls of the WaveCel material are able to flex independently. If the force is high, the walls will then crumple – much like EPS foam does in a hard strike. This crumpling stage is where impact energy is absorbed as the WaveCel helmet material deforms.
The third and final stage of the change in material structure sees the WaveCel helmet walls ‘glide’, which allows the helmet exterior to rotate around the rider’s skull. This movement is similar to what other brands are attempting to achieve in dealing with rotational forces. MIPS is the biggest name in this sphere, though you also have Kali’s LDL system, and Leatt’s 360 Turbine technology.
No MIPS Then?
Because of WaveCel’s three-stage material deformation, Bontrager states it functions to handle both rotational forces and direct-strike impacts. That means a WaveCel helmet doesn’t require an additional MIPS layer.
Currently, Bontrager is the only brand to feature WaveCel technology. The US brand says it has worked closely with WaveCel to bring the concept to life, and so it’s an exclusive partnership for now. That said, Bontrager states we’re likely to see WaveCel popping up in other industries in the near future.
WaveCel Helmet Range
Starting at £129, there will be four Bontrager helmets launching with WaveCel technology. There’ll be two road helmets, a commuter helmet, and the £199 Blaze mountain bike lid.
The Blaze shares some similarities with the current Rally helmet, with reasonably broad coverage around the entire shell, an adjustable harness, removable padding, and a magnetic bracket for attaching a light or GoPro.
All four helmets feature a generous layer of WaveCel to cover a decent portion of the rider’s noggin. That’s complemented by an external layer of otherwise conventional EPS foam, and a hard plastic, in-moulded PC shell.
We’ve just had a Bontrager Blaze helmet turn up at the office, so keep your eyes peeled for our first impressions coming soon.
In the meantime, head to trekbikes.com for more info.