Lumos: The Kickstarter for a smart bike helmet
London’s roads can be terrifying for cyclists. Running the gauntlet of inattentive drivers, rush-hour HGVs and absent-minded pedestrians dissuades many from cycling in the UK’s capital. And, when the sun goes down, the stakes only rise – at night, the real battle for cyclists is being seen.
On my evening commutes through the Big Smoke, I’ve seen fellow cyclists armed with everything from impotent, pound-shop lights to multi-LED monsters that would send the average searchlight into a jealous rage. Others don high-vis outfits reminiscent of a 1990s rave. But, all too often, I see riders armed with nothing at all. No lights. No reflective jacket. Nothing.
Occasionally, that’s understandable. Lights do run out of battery power. I know I’m not the only one to have had a light blink out unexpectedly, far from home and without a backup close to hand. To be honest, it’s easy to forget to put them in your bag at all. We’re only human.
Let there be LEDs
Eu-wen Ding has taken a delightfully simple approach to the perennial problem of improving cyclists’ visibility at night. His brainchild, Lumos, ingeniously combines a bicycle helmet with LED lighting by embedding an array of lights in the shell. As long as you have your helmet, you have lights. And much more, as it turns out.
Indeed, this is not a helmet with some lights chucked in for good measure. For starters, the Lumos helmet features a motion-activated brake light. It also has a pair of indicator lights that can be toggled on and off using a handlebar-mounted wireless remote.
The design is simple, but refreshingly well thought out. The helmet I saw was very much in the prototype stage, but its bank of AA batteries and exposed wiring are set to be replaced by a sealed lithium-ion battery pack and hidden internal wiring. According to Ding, the final versions will provide around three hours of battery life.
This might not sound very impressive, but charging will be via a micro-USB connection, so it shouldn’t be hard to keep it topped up. The micro-USB connection adds extra flexibility when you’re out on the road, too: armed with a fistful of gaffer tape and a USB battery pack, you should be able to boost the battery life considerably. Perfect for those taking part in long distance rides, like the slightly bonkers 112-mile Dunwich Dynamo.
For those more averse to such Heath Robinson arrangements, however, there may be a neater solution. Ding said Lumos is looking into providing official clip-on battery packs to increase the run time.
The helmet’s design isn’t going to please two-wheeled fashion aficionados. It lacks the high-end allure of Lazer or Catlike’s road-centric ranges. But it isn’t overly chunky or frumpy, either. Weight doesn’t feel like it will be an issue, even if the batteries and hardware do make it quite a bit heavier than the Lazer Helium helmet I use on a day-to-day basis.
However, the Lumos makes my Lazer Helium’s single, rear-facing LED look entirely underwhelming. A phalanx of white LEDs span the front brow, accompanied by an array of red LEDs arranged in a large triangle on the rear. The LEDs are powerful enough that they remain visible in daylight, and while they’re nowhere near enough to light up the road ahead at night, they’re plenty bright enough to warn drivers of your presence.
Press a button on the handlebar-mounted remote and the arrow-shaped LED arrays at the rear of the helmet flash amber to indicate a left or right turn; a further strip of LEDs on the forward edge of the helmet signal your intentions to road users ahead. Come to a stop and accelerometers in the helmet automatically illuminate the rear of the helmet in bright red.
It’s clever stuff, but since the helmet was too small for my giant cranium I didn’t get to test the braking function first-hand. Ding also mentioned that final units will provide an audible tone, or buzz, to let you know when the indicators are on.
There are other neat design touches. A pair of small, see-through strips on the helmet’s front lip allow you to see when you’re indicating. And, importantly, they do so without dazzling you in the process. The amber glow above each eye is subtle, so you’re aware when the indicators are on without being distracted from the road ahead.
Staying in gear
Lumos is being funded on Kickstarter, with a funding deadline of 13 August. That’s little more than a formality, however: the project smashed through its $125,000 target on its first day and, at the time of writing, 3,711 backers had pledged $476,535 in total.
If Lumos has caught your attention, then take my advice and head on over to the Kickstarter page and get involved sooner rather than later. The concept has proved immensely popular with the cycling community. To give you some idea of how popular, all the “super early bird” $85 pledges have gone, each of which will receive a final production helmet, as have the $99 pledges.
I’ve seen all manner of crazy cycle-safety ideas in recent months, but it’s refreshing to encounter one that keeps it simple, frill-free and concentrates on the most important thing for any cyclist: being seen. I can only hope they make one big enough to fit my outsized head.