Review: Light, bright Lumos Ultra bike helmet ticks a lot of boxes
Why just wear a plain ol' bike helmet, when you can wear one with a built-in headlight, tail lights, turn indicators and brake light? That's the thinking behind the new Lumos Ultra, which I recently had the chance to try out on real-world roads. Spoiler alert: I liked it.
At a glance:
- Works as advertised
- Barely weighs more than a regular commuter helmet
- Looks sleek and cool
- Bare foam sections will likely get scuffed
- Still not a substitute for hand signals
First of all, yes, there are now several LED-equipped bike helmets on the market. The Lumos company's original model was among the first, however, and we reviewed it back in 2017. As compared to that version, the recently crowdfunded Lumos Ultra is considerably sleeker, less gawky looking, and just generally cooler.
More specifically, its tail lights/turn indicators are now squeezed into two narrower rows of LEDs, which are still plenty bright due to the use of Chips On Board (COB) technology. It additionally has larger vents, an optional sun visor, IPX6 water resistance (it can resist high-pressure jets of water hitting it from any direction) and the option of MIPS technology for extra protection against rotational injuries to the brain.
When my demo unit arrived in the mail, it initially didn't occur to me that the Ultra I'd been waiting for was in the nondescript shipping box, as it was so unexpectedly light. The helmet itself tips the scales at 443 g (15.6 oz), which may not rank up there with super-lightweight road racing helmets, but is certainly in the same league as many commuting or mountain biking helmets.
It's just as comfortable as your average helmet, and the weight of its battery and other electronic components is distributed evenly. By contrast, conventional helmets with strapped-on third-party headlights and batteries often feel front- or back-heavy.
After initially pairing the Ultra to its iOS/Android app and its included handlebar-mounted wireless remote, activating its lights is as simple as just pressing its rear power button once to turn it on, then repeatedly pressing that button again to cycle through and choose between three different lighting modes.
Utilizing the app, users can program in the flashing patterns for both the headlight and tail lights within each mode, or they can just go with the defaults: fast bursts of three flashes, slower individual flashes, or a non-flashing steady mode. Neither the app nor your smartphone is required after that initial setup.
To activate the turn indicators (which are also the tail lights), you just press an L or R button on the remote. The LEDs on the corresponding side of the helmet will start flashing amber, while those on the other side will steadily glow red. Additionally, the helmet will continuously beep to let you know that the turn indicator is working, with a series of single beeps for left and a series of two for right. To turn off the indicator, you simply press that button again.
The optional fancier Lumos Remote contains an accelerometer, which is used to activate the helmet's brake light – once again, that function is served by the tail lights. Utilizing the app, you can adjust the sensitivity of the accelerometer, plus you can choose whether you want the lights to flicker or steadily glow amber when you rapidly decelerate. Having the brake light enabled does decrease the battery life, though, so it can be switched off via the app. And if you don't opt for the Lumos Remote (and just stick with the standard Remote Lite), you won't have brake light functionality at all.
Battery life is hard to gauge, as it will vary with the mode selected and other factors – the company puts it at four to 10 hours. Based on my experience using the three-rapid-flashes mode, the helmet's 3.7-volt, 1,100-mAh lithium-polymer battery shouldn't require a top-up more than once every several days of typical use.
One of the only potential weak points I noticed was the fact that because the Ultra isn't completely covered in a protective plastic shell, it does have a lot of exposed EPS foam on its exterior. Over time, that material could certainly get gouged and dented.
Additionally, I realized that when you're stopped at an intersection and are looking left for traffic while waiting to make a right-hand turn (or vice-versa), the turn indicator on the right-hand side of your helmet will be turned away from any vehicles coming up behind you – so the drivers may not see it. This applies to pretty much all helmets with built-in turn indicators, though, and is one of the reasons why you should still also use traditional hand signals.
Finally, this may go without saying, but although the Ultra definitely does succeed in making its wearers much more visible to other traffic, it is not designed to illuminate the road. If you're wanting to actually light up the asphalt ahead of you on unlit streets, you might just want to go with a separate high-intensity headlight.
While the initial batch of Lumos Ultras are now being sent to their crowdfunding backers, the company is presently inviting potential buyers of the next production run to register for updates via the link below. Shipping should take place this summer (Northern Hemisphere), with prices starting at US$99.95.
Product page: Lumos Ultra
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If a real model is actually available at $99, that’s a start.