Monday, October 12, 2015

Torch and Lumos LED Helmets

I was just reading about a couple of new helmets with integrated LED lighting that are hitting the market. One is the Torch T2, which was out on Kickstarter a couple of years ago, and is now available for sale through the company's website. More recent is the Lumos, which met its Kickstarter goal in just one day this past summer (and exceeded it many times over before it was through), and I assume it should be ready for sale soon.

The Torch has that skater-helmet look
to it. It also appears to be a bit bulky.
I have a feeling that a lot of readers would expect me to skewer products like these pretty mercilessly, but as a bicycle commuter who rides quite a bit in the pre-dawn darkness, I have to say that I'm at least curious about the things. It seems to me that having a little extra lighting to add to a rider's night-time visibility can't hurt - and if it can be done seamlessly without strapping on more bits and pieces, so much the better.

Between the two, I think I'd be more inclined to try out the Lumos, which looks more like a typical modern road helmet. The light system seems to be pretty well integrated into the design. The Torch T2 has that skater-helmet style, and appears to be a bit bulky, and only has a few small, narrow vents. Of course, it's a matter of preference and taste, but I've never been a big fan of that type of helmet design. In colder weather, the skater-style helmet might be okay, but in most weather, I find that my head generally wants a lighter, more ventilated helmet.

The new Lumos helmet claims to take the light-up helmet idea a little further than the Torch. One of the key features is not just that it has LED lights both front and rear, but that the lights are supposed to function as brake lights and turn signals. Truly necessary? Probably not. But assuming they actually work as claimed, they wouldn't be a deal breaker.

A pair of wireless remote buttons mounted on the handlebar controls the helmet's turn signals.

When braking, the rear lights are supposed to all glow solid red. How does that work? Apparently, the helmet has a built-in accelerometer that senses when the rider slows down. Would that work reliably? I don't know, but again, I'm curious.

Reading more about the helmet on the Lumos site, the helmet's rechargeable battery is built in, and can be recharged with a typical micro-USB cable. One minor worry I'd have is water resistance. The website claims "You shouldn't dunk Lumos into a pool, but Lumos is water resistant so you can take it out with you rain or shine." How resistant is that, should one get caught in a major downpour (where visibility is almost as important as at night), I'd like to know. Also, I'm someone who often rinses out my helmet after a sweaty ride, to clean up the straps and internal pads -- and that doesn't exactly involve dunking my helmet into a pool, but it probably isn't far off. Hmmm. . .

Some thoughts:

While having some extra lighting to add to a rider's visibility is probably a good idea, I don't think people should get the idea that either of these light-up helmets is a substitute for a set of good quality bike-mounted lights (and from what I've read, neither company claims that they are such a substitute).

As far as the turn-signal and brake-light functions of the Lumos, I don't know if those are really necessary. If those features work as they're supposed to, they might be fine -- but if they don't, they'd be a serious annoyance. Also, they add to the cost, and could become just another thing to go on the fritz. On the whole, I'd probably be just as happy ditching the added complexity and simply having static non-flashing lights for visibility.

This morning on my ride to work, in that early morning darkness, I did find myself contemplating my visibility to the drivers on the road. I've looked into some of the helmet-mount lights that are available, and have even tried a couple, but I've never been really happy with the fit or the look of those lights. So, while these light-up helmets might not be for everyone, it seems that - at least for regular commuters - they might be some technology worth looking into.


  1. I'm curious what you consider to be adequate lighting for a in-the-dark commute on roads with busy auto traffic. It seems to me that good, bright reflective surfaces are at least as good as adding lights, and that a reflective helmet might be a better bet (especially since it would be decidedly low tech by comparison to those you describe) than a helmet full of LED technology waiting to be outmoded or to go on the fritz. (I imagine a helmet with brightly reflective Viking wings ...).

    Me, I have main head- and steady tail-lights, backup battery head and tail lights, ankle reflector on left ankle and either a reflective Sam Browne or a rear triangle.

    1. For headlights I'd want lights that let me see, as well as help me to be seen. The lights on these helmets are more in the latter category than the former. So that's what I mean when I say that these helmets would not be a substitute for good on-the-bike lighting. I have a good, bright rechargeable headlight that I like well (though a nice hub-generator system is something on my wish list), and a couple of LED taillights, similar to you.

      I agree that the added complexity of built-in LED lights are potentially another bit of tech to go bad -- or if they don't work as they're claimed, they'd be a real annoyance. But then, I said that in the article. It's just something that I see could be at least worth looking into, or keeping an eye on to see how it develops. I'm not an early adopter, but I'm interested enough to want to know more. If it can be workable and bug-free, I would think it could be more visible in some situations than reflectors.

      That said, I have a fair amount of reflective tape on my commuter (on the fenders, for instance), and a bit added to my helmet. It may be perfectly adequate -- but it's hard to know since I can't necessarily tell what it looks like to drivers in the dark.

  2. I like what you said about: more visibility good, and if it's a no-brainer even better. One thing I like about a lit helmet is: when all your lights are on the bike, what happens when you get a flat or other mechanical and you get off the bike? Then you're standing in the curb and the cars don't necessarily see you. An illuminated helmet could help that.

  3. You can get a better feel for the T2 at since the image used was a concept rendering from early 2012.

  4. My T2 Torch has been very well received by other riders and even motorists. It's just enough "to be seen". A bit closed helmet for the warm months, but works in this post-Daylight savings.