Bicycle safety is paramount, and manufacturers have used technology to make riding safer in a number of ways. Bike helmets have undergone numerous changes, but you may want to avoid a new smart bike helmet. The tech can be impressive and many helmets allow their riders to stay connected. That s not necessarily a good thing, however, and one of the biggest reasons to steer clear of this type of helmet.
What is a Smart Bike Helmet?
Smart bike helmets are unique but different from motorcycle helmets with a brain. While many are still designed with communication in mind, they don t have quite as bells and whistles as helmets designed specifically towards motorcyclists.
Want to make a phone call while riding your bike to work? That s an option, and so is listening to music. A Bluetooth connection allows riders to sync to a mobile device and access playlists or podcasts. There are even helmets with speakers and intercom systems.
These features may sound appealing, and they are with many cyclists. They are not without their downsides, however. They could actually cause an accident or end up being a significant waste of money.
Reasons to Avoid a Smart Bike Helmet
A well-designed smart bike helmet can be useful to an experienced cyclist, but a problem with others riders because of distractions, pricing, and quality.
Cycling has long been regarded as an activity where people enjoy the scenery and can escape from life s daily problems. It s a great way to get exercise and get where you need to go, but having a helmet that s too smart can complicate things.
Do you want to get a call from the office while you re riding around the block? Probably not, but it may be hard to ignore when your helmet s connected to a smartwatch or phone. It can be an even bigger problem if you forget to adjust the ringer volume and get an unexpected call that startles you. Distractions are the biggest problem with smart bike helmets today.
Even if you avoid a helmet that can take calls, other types of tech can cause distractions. Helmets with large LED panels are unique and can even have turn signals built in. They can also make drivers become distracted by unique or unfamiliar patterns. Many car wrecks have been caused by gawking, and a cyclist with flashing lights on his head will come as a shocking sight to some.
High-tech motorcycle helmets can be incredibly expensive, and bicycle helmets with embedded technology aren t too far behind. These helmets can range from $80 to $300, which is considerably more expensive than a great MIPS helmet from Giro or Bell.
You can pick up a safe bike helmet with excellent safety ratings for well under $50. Even if budget isn t a concern, some of those features come with limitations. Want to talk to someone you re riding with? They ll need a smart bike helmet as well or at least one with a compatible intercom system. Pricing may not be an issue for everyone, but consider what you re getting for your money.
There are plenty of premium traditional bicycle helmets that cost as much as if not more than the best smart helmets. With that in mind, would you rather have a helmet designed to protect your brain or one at the same price with turn signals and Bluetooth?
Smart bike helmets have proven popular with certain types of cyclists, but it s not an area some of the bigger brands are interested in. While that may change down the line, for now, consumers are limited to a handful of familiar names and dozens of smaller companies.
A high-tech helmet from Kickstart may seem like a fantastic idea, but you ll want to do your due diligence with the companies that make smart bike helmets. It s easy to trust a name like Bell, but how about brands like Smart4u, DKONI, or ALMARIX?
You can pick up smart helmets with dash cameras and other wild features, but you won t find half of those perks on helmets from larger brands. That s partly because they are gimmicky, and many of the top manufacturers prefer to concentrate on safety and comfort not quirky features.
Alternatives to Smart Bike Helmets
Now that you can see why smart bike helmets may not be the best choice, it s time to talk about the alternatives. While nothing beats a traditional helmet, you can pick up bike helmets that have useful technology instead of features that cause distractions. If you re more interested in enjoying a ride on your bike than talking on the phone, you ll appreciate these helmets.
Best for Commuters: Giro Escape MIPS Urban Helmet
Giro has produced helmets for outdoor adventurists since 1985. While they have dozens of options that would fit our list, the Giro Escape is the best option for cyclists that want to ride safely in urban environments.
This helmet utilizes a MIPS or multi-directional impact protection system. It s designed to reduce damage if there s an impact while moisture-wicking padding helps to keep things comfortable. The company s Roc Loc system ensures a perfect fit and there are reflective accents on the helmet to improve visibility.
Giro used 15 vents in this helmet which has an ABS shell. It s stylish with an attractive design and has LED lighting on the front and rear. The red taillights are 40 lumens while the front white headlights are listed at 75 lumens. The lights are rechargeable through a micro USB port and consumers have had no complaints when it comes to battery life.
The only downside to the Giro Escape urban cycling helmet is the price, although it s well worth it if you re concerned about safety and want a comfortable helmet you can trust. The Escape is available in three standard sizes and three matte colors including black, chalk, and graphite.
Best Budget: Schwinn Beam Bike Helmet
Whether you ve been riding bikes for decades or haven t ridden since you were a kid, there s a strong chance you ve heard of Schwinn. Our favorite smart helmet from the company won t cause any distractions, but it will keep you safe day or night.
The Schwinn Beam bike helmet has a built-in LED light on the back along with high visibility strips on the top and sides. That light isn t rechargeable, but you can remove it if you want to shave a few grams off the helmet or swap out the batteries. Heat won t be a problem thanks to 18 vents on this colorful helmet.
As for safety, the Beam has two microshell layers and full coverage through EPS foam protection. It s not a MIPS helmet, but it is highly adjustable. The one-size-fits-all approach works for adults thanks to Schwinn s 360 fit system. It also has a low-profile weather visor that you can remove or attach as needed.
Schwinn s helmet isn t full of high-tech features and it doesn t break any new ground with design or style. It s well-built, however, and CPSC 1203 certified. This helmet is only available in one but comes in three colors including two high-visibility hues in Viz Yellow and Gloss Pink.