Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.
May 28, 2019: Specialized has updated a couple of key elements related to its Angular and G-Force indicator (ANGi) safety device. The original story (published November 29, 2018) below details this technology, which is now open for use with just about any cycling helmet on the market. Additionally, Specialized has cut the annual subscription model, removing any reoccurring expenses of the device — instead, purchase of the device includes the one-off membership activation code.
Finally, the accompanying “RIDE” app has been revised, offering a more streamlined and easier user experience. Consult the ANGi installation manual if you’d like to know whether the device will work with your helmet.
Now back to the original feature…
It is not unusual for a large helmet brand like Specialized to launch a new model on a regular basis. Indeed, it’s almost something that consumers have come to expect as the industry moves forward with a steady stream of innovations and refinements. For 2019, though, Specialized is taking the bold step of updating all of its helmets with two safety features: one is the addition of MIPS, and the other is a safety sensor, dubbed ANGi.
Neither feature is new. A variety of brands have been incorporating MIPS into cycling helmets for several years while the technology behind ANGi originated with ICEdot in 2012. So while Specialized isn’t doing anything innovative with its helmets on this occasion, there’s plenty of room for the company to argue that both features have a sound track record.
ANGi: improving safety in the aftermath of a crash
While a helmet can do a lot to protect a rider’s head during a crash, it will only go so far towards preventing serious injury. Losing consciousness remains a very real risk, as does injury to other parts of the body, and that’s when timely medical attention can make a difference to the eventual outcome.
It’s an uncomfortable prospect for any cyclist to face, yet it’s just as difficult to dismiss. Those riders that spend any part of their journey on their own are especially vulnerable, regardless of their experience, as we saw for Steven De Jongh recently. In that instance, Strava was used to locate his unconscious body, but a safety beacon would have ensured a much quicker response.
This was the exact scenario that prompted the creation of ICEdot in 2012. Comprising a helmet-mounted sensor and wireless communication with a smartphone, the system was designed to send out a call for assistance whenever a crash was detected. In this regard, the system was akin to other medical alert services, however that it was tied directly to input from a helmet was a crucial distinction.
Specialized acquired ICEdot in 2017 and the technology, as well as the company’s founder, Chris Zenthoefer, now sits at the core of ANGi (Angular and G-Force indicator). In essence, ANGi can be considered a re-badged version of ICEdot, so many of its features will be familiar to anybody that has used ICEdot. Nevertheless, it has been updated with particular emphasis on better integration with the helmet.
Integrating a safety sensor into a helmet
The ANGi sensor comprises an accelerometer and gyroscope just like the original ICEdot, but rather than a USB-rechargeable battery, ANGi is powered by a CR2032 battery. The case is sleeker, and a purpose-built mounting pad was created so that sensor could be integrated into the design of the helmet. Every Specialized helmet in the 2019 catalogue sports this mounting point, though its position varies, depending on the model.
A selection of 2019 models (see below) will ship with an ANGi sensor in situ, and once activated, buyers will enjoy a
12-month subscription to the alert service for free. The sensor is attached with a simple adhesive, so it won’t be difficult to remove, however Specialized advises against trying to re-mount it. Installing an aftermarket sensor on an ANGi-ready helmet should be just as simple, though it remains to be seen just how well the adhesive will be able to resist sweat, rain, and cleaning agents.
Interestingly, while the addition of MIPS (more on this below) has created a bump in cost for all of Specialized’s 2019 helmets, there is no obvious premium for an ANGi sensor, which promises to add value, at least for those shoppers that are interested in the service. In contrast, an aftermarket sensor will also be available for US$50 (international pricing TBC), but that will include a
12-month subscription valued at US$30/AU$43/£30.
A new app drives ANGi
Activating ANGi requires pairing the sensor with a smartphone via Bluetooth, which is managed by the Specialized Ride App. This is where users nominate their emergency contacts as well as decide the parameters for issuing an alert. At the same time, the app can be used to collect and share ride data, and it will automatically upload this data to Strava.
The Ride App runs in the background when the helmet is in use, and upon a sufficient insult (like an impact), the ANGi sensor will initiate a countdown (15-90s, as elected by the user). If the user is unable to stop the countdown, then all emergency contacts will be notified of a possible crash complete with GPS coordinates. This system can also be used for live tracking.
Immediate notification of any crash will, of course, depend upon a network signal. For those riders that know they will be heading out of range, they can set up the Ride App (while they have a signal) to automatically send out an alert if they fail to check in by a preset time. This will happen regardless of whether they have a signal, so it won’t be as reliable or as immediate as live ANGi communication.
The Ride App also allows multiple sensors to be paired to the one phone and account, which will help riders that use more than one helmet. Only one sensor can be active at a time, though, which means only one person can be monitored.
MIPS and the promise of a reduction in rotational forces
The research that led to the development of MIPS dates back to 1995, when an engineer teamed up with a neurosurgeon with the goal of designing something — anything — that could prevent traumatic brain injuries. It was an ambitious project, to say the least, and in absolute terms, the low-friction layer that arose from this work only goes part of the way to fulfilling this goal.
Nevertheless, the results from a variety of lab tests are clear: rotational forces are reduced when compared to a helmet without MIPS. Just what that means for the individual at the point of impact will ultimately depend upon the circumstances, but there is the promise of less injury. Moreover, it’s a consistent feature for all of the helmets that have scored highly in independent safety tests carried out by Virginia Tech.
Dozens of helmet manufacturers seem to agree, so it’s a little surprising that it has taken Specialized so long to embrace MIPS. For 2019, that won’t matter anymore, because every helmet in its catalogue will be available with MIPS. That includes models like the MIO and Shuffle for kids, the full-face Dissident, as well the Prevail II and Evade II.
In every instance, the price of the helmet will rise US$15-30/AU$20-40/£15-20, which is in line with the kind of increases seen for other brands. Importantly, the design of the layer will vary between models, with Specialized introducing an exclusive refinement (for now) dubbed MIPS SL.
Up until now, the MIPS layer has always been formed from a single piece of plastic with holes of various sizes to improve comfort and ventilation. MIPS SL breaks that layer up into several discrete segments that underlie each piece of padding in the helmet, and small elastic bands to hold the two parts together. Each segment retains the same amount of rotational freedom (i.e. 10-15mm) as a conventional MIPS layer.
According to Specialized, MIPS SL affords the same level of protection as any other MIPS layer, which makes for a fascinating development in the life of MIPS. As a result, there is no obvious downside to a design that promises some extra comfort and weights savings for the rider.
MIPS-SL will be incorporated into four of Specialized’s premium helmets for 2019 where the extra ventilation and weight savings make sense: S-Works TT, S-Works Evade II, S-Works Prevail II, and Ambush.
Three cheers for safer helmets
There was a time when the appeal of any helmet was determined by the number of vents, its weight, or aerodynamics, but there has been a subtle shift in the marketplace over the last several years, at least where road helmets are concerned. Safety has come back into focus, which is heartening to see, since that is the primary function of any helmet.
That Specialized has opted to overhaul its entire helmet catalogue with two new safety features supports this shift in focus. Neither feature is going to transform the capabilities of any helmet but the promise of a little extra protection is still there, both at the time of impact, and in the moments that follow.
Specialized 2019 helmet range