What's Cool In Road Cycling

INTERBIKE ’16: Great Head in Vegas!

New head gear from Bell, and Lazer. Smart Helmets from Lumos, Sena and Babaali. And sound from Domio. 2016 seems to be the year that smaller and more agile helmet manufacturers all decided it was time to bring cycling head gear into this century.

If there was one category that literally “shined” at this year’s Interbike show in Las Vegas, it was head gear.

Sure the Big Boys came to play and frankly, build quality and key feature sets of safety, ventilation and aerodynamics is still soundly in the hands of companies like Giro, Lazer, & Bell. But it was a flock of companies lesser known to the road cycling masses that will force the needle to move over the next couple of years.

BELL Helmets were on hand with their new range topping topper, the Zephyr.

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This is the type of helmet that gives the little guys fits because it at once advances safety on a couple of fronts, maintains top line ventilation, and holds reasonably low weight that’s critical for performance/competitive cycling.

Perhaps the biggest advance here is the use of multiple foam density that will better protect the head during impact.

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You can see the split in the levels of foam here and below.

This works as a softer layer sits closer to the head and a more firm layer sits below the hard shell exterior. The first time I noted this tech was actually in football helmets and the purpose is the same. The softer material is more forgiving than the harder EPS foam and the two combine to allow the head to decelerate at a different rate that will, under some circumstances & impact forces, lessen the damage to the head.

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Another feature you can see in the picture above (the slight yellow color between the layers of foam) is the internal skeleton of the helmet that helps to keep the foam together during and after impact.

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The shell, skeleton and layers combine to provide a relatively high degree of impact protection.

Still another feature (or features) comes in the form of an integrated retention system and MIPS system.

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Retention is both height and width adjustable and works as a more effective rotational force reducer than past designs where MIPS was included but not a part of the full retention structure.

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Bell call it the Float Fit Race retention system and the Show sample seemed very effective on the head while adjusted correctly and moved by hand.

The Zephyr MIPS will retail for around $230 and be available hopefully in the next 30-60 days.  You can find more at BellHelmets.com

 

LAZER SPORT were also on hand with their latest Aero-Race lid, the Bullet.

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This latest lid has a relatively narrow profile front to back and is also made with a shortened tear drop shape. The picture above shows a fairly closed profile that’s all about cutting through the wind. The back end is all about leaving with as little noise/turbulence as possible.

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That’s not to say that Lazer have left ventilation off the books though as the Bullet is a bit of a convertible.

A swipe of the hand opens a forehead vent and a stacked set of 4 louvers.

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Good internal design means that these vents are effective at moving air through the helmet and out the back.

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There are no rear louvers as the top back of the helmet (above the existing exhaust opening) is a critical area in maintaining better aerodynamics even when the vents are open.

The overall design is such that you can ride the bulk of the course in relatively well-ventilated comfort and then very easily get down to the business of speed when needed by closing the vents at those critical times.

You’ll see the Bullet in the pro peloton by Spring and in stores hopefully by Summer 2017.

You can catch more at Lazersport.com.

 

The next few helmets were both a joy and a little pain.

They’re fantastic in the sense that integrated lights, cameras, music (presented in a fashion that doesn’t ask you to clog your ears with buds) and more are being added to head gear.

And many of them also fall short in the key features that people buy better quality performance helmets as virtually all of these offerings come in helmets that are heavier and less well ventilated, and in some cases don’t feature key safety systems like in-molded skeletons and MIPS.

The first helmet noted at the show is the LUMOS.

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This was not only the first, but functionally the most refined and well thought of the couple of helmets with similar features.

The Lumos features front and rear lighting that wraps around to the sides so that you get visibility from all angles. It also features a bar mounted remote that activates front and rear flashing lights that are highly visible and flash at an effective rate.

But wait – there’s more. The Lumos also features an accelerometer that senses when you brake and lights up both the rear and turn indicators.

The helmet has an internal battery (3 hrs solid / 6 hrs flashing) and also will communicate with an app to set up the light patterns and monitor the battery.  It meets CPSC / EN safety standards and also FCC/CE electronic standards.

As I said, the show samples were pretty well polished and the units on hand seemed to be well built and well executed for a new maker.

The down side here is that the unit is heavy… 440 Grams. The internal channeling also didn’t have the detailed ventilation design that is standard with higher end performance products. And, when the products creator wears the lid during the media preview, the lights are effective enough to make you not want to look at him when he talks to you.

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But they could be brighter for the amount of real estate they take up on the helmet.

That said, as a commute lid, this makes a lot of sense and it should ventilate adequately in reasonable climates (I would guess I could ride this into the upper 80’s, which will cover a lot of territory for most people). And the real estate taken up by the lights, while they’re not super bright, lend to being able to see this helmet VERY effectively at distance. You won’t use this to see where you’re going, but you’ll certainly be seen (and understood well in the case of the signal indicators).

At $149, this Kickstarter lid is scheduled to ship in October.  See more info at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/819484536/lumos-a-next-generation-bicycle-helmet.

 

SENA have been making good communications equipment that can be attached to Moto and other helmets for quite a while. They’re also action-camera makers.  I’ve used their products in the past and they’re fairly straight forward, durable and have reasonable sound quality.

They’re introduced the Smart Cycling Helmet.

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This helmet has very good sound quality through the speakers. It’s very good relative to any other cycling helmet device for listening to music. And as the speakers are not covering or inserted into your ears, that’s a safer way to hear sounds than ear buds.

I didn’t get to hear the microphone quality on this helmet, but I can tell you that Sena know what they’re doing fairly well when it comes to the microphone on their moto kit and if this is in that ballpark, I would guess you’ll be transmitting at typical bike speeds with good quality sound.

The helmet is Bluetooth 4.1 compatible and you’ll be able to take and send calls with voice prompts for compatible phones.  You’ll also be able to listen to any Bluetooth music (or the built in FM radio receiver) as well as monitor health apps from your phone. All with very good sound quality for a helmet.

There is also a 1080(fhd) / 1440(qhd) res Video Cam built into the forehead. It’s suggested to handle roughly 2 hours of recording.

As a communications and entertainment lid, this is from a company that’s logged a LOT of road / moto miles. The hardware seemed vary sturdy and I have no reason to think this won’t perform.

The biggest down side for Sena is Ventilation… I simply could not ride this helmet for the bulk of the year in Phoenix at any sort of heavy pace. There are too few vents and not enough internal channeling design to make this helmet usable as a performance helmet in all but a cold environment.

It’s also heavy. I didn’t get a weight from Sena, but this helmet is not ready to be worn for hours of hard cycling.

What Sena does well, they do very well. This might be the absolute perfect answer to Ebike commuting, but they’re a ways away from this being a performance road cycling lid.

The helmet didn’t have a set release date and price, but you cancheck in with them for details. This is fully functioning company rather than a Kickstarter crap shoot and I would guess they’ll have this (and or hopefully a lighter / better ventilated option) ready to go.

You can see them at: https://www.sena.com/

 

BABAALI had probably the most refined performance (venting/weight) versions of smart helmets at the show.  The helmet that seemed most ready for hard/hot road use was their ASP-O11.

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This was a front and rear flashing helmet that also featured a bar remote that would switch from full flashing to a single sided turn signal by using the small bar mounted remote.

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A button press will deactivate the flashing lights on the opposite side of the turn and like the Lumos, the lights were large and easy to see.

There was also an accelerometer that sensed slowing and will active a solid rear light for braking.

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And this unit featured a reasonable vent count and a light bit or channeling inside to direct airflow – though frankly it was still lacking a bit.

Babaali had a Bluetooth ready speaker system in another helmet with an easy to actuate chin strap remote.

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They also had an action cam prototype on hand.

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And they have a halo product that actually features the lights, camera and sound capabilities of all three of these helmets.

The helmets featuring sound or lights or camera were all reasonably priced near $150 and some of them are ready now. Babaali are looking for US distribution (as of the show) but in the case they can’t find that, they’ll come to the US direct.

You can find more at: https://www.babaali.co/

 

Lastly, there are still folks making add on products that are ready to attach to your light weight, fully ventilated, top line helmet right now.

DOMIO provide a standard Bone conduction / Micro vibration unit that will attach to the outside of your helmet and turn the entire thing into a vibrating speaker providing sound all round.

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The model they’re working on now is the Domio Plus that will add a microphone to the unit so you can also make calls.

Basically every speaker works by forcing material to vibrate, creating sound. Your home speakers are made from materials specifically designed for the purpose of moving to create clean crisp sound waves.

However, helmets are made to absorb and dissipate impact… It uses foam to damp and spread impact loads (and that counts against vibrations), which is pretty much the exact opposite of what you would want to make speaker material from.

The more solid the helmet, the better the sound, which is why the images on the Domio site are primarily of kids wearing solid x-games type crash lids. The next best thing would probably be to attach it directly to your skull.

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Thanks to Zach at Bikerumor.com for doing what I didn’t dare

Performance road bike helmets are less solid (larger vent openings and more internal channeling) than the multisport lids shown at Domio, but they do still absolutely work. The sound lacks a bit of clarity, but it’s also another example of still being safer than ear buds.

The battery lasts about 8 hours and they’re working on noise cancelling for the microphone to place calls.

You can check out the Domio folks at: https://domio.co/

 

So now what?

This is me begging Sena to get together with someone like Giro/Bell/Lazer…

Now that I think about it, Lazer have been integrating pretty well lately with their Life Beam and rear lights built into top line road race kit. But there’s a lot more that can come of this and the little guys will hopefully push the big guys into making better, safer lids with features that will add convenience and safety and they’ll roll them up into good solid performance helmets that ventilate well and land closer to 200 grams than 400.

Get on it guys.

• Read the PEZ Interbike report #2 here.

Have Fun,

Charles Manantan
[email protected]


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