Smart Bicycle Gear: Lumos Bike Helmet Review

I have been riding bicycles longer than I have been using computers. I have been riding the same recumbent for over 30 years. Yet it wasn't until the announcement of the Lumos Bicycle Helmet ($179.99) that I have been this interested in a bicycling accessory in a long time. This helmet combines bicycle safety with smart illumination to inform those around you of your direction and speed intentions. Read on to find out if this high-tech helmet was worth the wait.

Being the technology enthusiast that I am, I once stitched LED strips into the left and right sleeves of an old jacket and connected them to an Arduino, a battery and a toggle switch. By manually toggling the switch left or right, the respective LED strip would flash, indicating the direction I intended to turn. That solution lasted a few weeks until warmer weather forced me to shed the jacket. I eventually re-provisioned the parts for another project, but secretly hoped that a talented entrepreneur would one day turn my hack into a robust commercial product. That day has arrived.

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The talented designers and engineers at Lumen Labs did one better by combining the LED strip turning signal concept into a helmet that would be worn regardless of weather and outdoor temperature conditions. They also made a turn signal trigger that could be activated either via a wireless Left/Right toggle button or (better yet) by an Apple Watch gesture. This latter solution makes it so much easier and less worrisome (since the wireless toggle needs to be affixed to the bike via elastic bands, occasionally has to be recharged using the custom USB charging cable, and losing it or having it stolen while the bike is locked up would render the turn signals useless.) I am always wearing my Apple Watch, and using simple gestures that can be custom to your signal trigger preferences makes it so much easier to activate the turn signal lighting embedded in the Lumos Helmet. The pairing and gesture training process is simple and fast, as this video clearly demonstrates. While I could have created traditional left right hand gesture triggers, riding a recumbent can sometimes make such exaggerated arm motions difficult. Instead, I customized my triggers to activate the left turn signal when supinating my wrist, and the right turn triggers when I rest my pronated wrist on my lap. A shake of the wrist turns off either signal.

Lumen Labs has also provided an app that can be used to walk you through this simple gesture configuration as well as track and sync fitness data with either Apple Health or Strata. It is also used to update the helmet's embedded firmware. What I really like about the app is its ability to automatically initiate a ride data capture as soon as the helmet is turned on (via a button press on the back of the helmet). 

In addition to the LED strips (containing a total of 48 individual LED's throughout the helmet), battery and circuitry to control the lighting, the helmet also contains an accelerometer that activates all rear headset lighting when braking (as shown in this quick video clip), further alerting other nearby road travelers that the head and body beneath the helmet are coming to a stop. Even with all these embedded smart electronics, the Lumos Helmet maintains its international CPSC, ASTM F1147, and EN1078 safety certification to keep the rider's head protected.

Using the included USB to custom charging connector cable, the embedded 800mAh battery takes roughly two hours to charge for up to three hours of constant use, and can last a few hours longer if the LED's are blinking instead of kept in a solid, always-on mode. The helmet color is available in white, black or blue but only in standard adult size (54 to 62 centimeter head circumference) at this time.

Final Verdict

If you want to see the Lumos Helmet in action, check out this YouTube video. I can attest that the commercial isn't hype; this helmet is the real deal. If you're an iPhone and Apple Watch user and an avid bicyclist, the Lumos Helmet may be the smartest investment you can make to improve your biking safety.

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Mike Riley is a frequent contributor to several technical publications and specializes in emerging technologies and new development trends. Mike was previously employed by RR Donnelley as the company’s Chief Scientist, responsible for determining innovative technical approaches to improve the company’s internal and external content services. Mike also co-hosted Computer Connection, a technology enthusiast show broadcast on Tribune Media's CLTV.