Bontrager made some big claims with their WaveCel helmet technology when they released it in 2019, namely that the material is up to 48x more effective than standard helmets at preventing concussions during bike accidents.
According to Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, Andrew Glancey of Staatsburg, New York, is the lead plaintiff in a class-action suit against Trek for $5 million for making misleading claims. The lawsuit says that the claims are “false, deceptive, and misleading.”
The suit also claims that Trek’s studies which found the results that led to their marketing claims are financially incentivized. The suit says that the study didn’t use actual Bontrager helmets, but rather, a Scott helmet modified with WaveCel.
Trek told BRAIN, “Trek believes in and stands behind our Bontrager WaveCel helmets,” and “This lawsuit is without merit, and we will vigorously defend against it. The plaintiff has not made an allegation of physical injury. Trek will continue to responsibly promote and improve this innovation in helmet technology.”
Glancey is far from the first person uneasy about Trek’s claims. When WaveCel debuted in the spring of 2019, MIPS and Koroyd took aim at Trek’s findings. MIPS took a WaveCel sample and tried to replicate the study.
“Preliminary test results of WaveCel helmets by MIPS cannot substantiate these claims. While further testing is warranted, MIPS cannot see that the helmets perform in a way that the claims Bontrager/WaveCel makes in the comparison between WaveCel and other helmets/technologies.”
WaveCel is made to act in three ways: First, the cells flex and reduce initial friction forces, then they crumple “like a car bumper on impact,” slowing linear forces, and next they are made to glide, to reduce rotational forces. The WaveCel liner fits under a standard foam helmet, keeping the helmet light and supposedly negating the need of a slip liner like MIPS.
Though Bontrager made somewhat convincing claims with their studies and marketing, Virginia Tech found that it still didn’t outperform MIPS in VT’s own annual testing. Even the MIPS-equipped version of the Bontrager Rally helmet ranked much higher than Rally WaveCel. On the mountain bike helmet ratings, 13 other helmets with MIPS ranked higher than the first WaveCel helmet Virginia Tech included.
We will keep an eye out for how the lawsuit unfolds.