A bicycle helmet is meant to perform one primary, and very essential, task: protect your head in the event of a crash. Design, aesthetics and other features are secondary to this task, at least in the traditional sense of the bicycle helmet. With this in mind, a quick glance at the market of sport and commuting-oriented cycling helmets in 2021 will show that there is no shortage of helmets on the market that perform this task very well. The differentiating factors are often in aesthetics, comfort and, in the case of the helmet we have on hand for the purpose of this review, smart features.
Lumos is a maker of innovative cycling helmets with a number of features you wouldn’t expect to see on your typical bike helmet. The driving force behind Lumos’ innovation seems the recognition of the vulnerability of cyclists in urban environments, or as they say on their website that they “…always felt like [they] were putting [their] lives onto someone else’s hands every time [they] went on the road”.
What is it?
The Lumos Ultra is one of five models in Lumos’ range of helmets, with a set of features designed to make cycling a safer experience on busy urban roads. The signature feature of the Ultra, and that of the entire Lumos range, is the set of LED lights integrated in the front and rear of the helmet shell.
In the front there is a single centrally-positioned white LED, while the rear sports two red LED lights on either side of the helmet. The rear lights act as turn signals which can be activated using an included bar-mounted remote or an Apple Watch. The Ultra has Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity and is even compatible with Strava! Back to the helmet’s primary function: head protection. The Lumos Ultra has the following certifications: CPSC, EN1078, AS2063, F1447 and is offered in a MIPS version to boot (which is the version I received). Before we look at any other features, at least we know this helmet has proof that it offers very good protection.
In the box
The packaging the Lumos Ultra came in is worth commenting on at least briefly. It is a simple brown cardboard box with subtle Lumos branding. No unnecessary plastic or excessive filler material. Just enough to protect the helmet and accessories during transit. Besides the helmet, the box included the USB-C charge cable, handlebar turn signal remote and various sizes of mounting O-rings and additional helmet padding. There was also a little envelope with product manual and a mysterious scratch card with “One more thing” written on it (we’ll come back to this one in a minute).
Admittedly, prior to using the Lumos Ultra I thought the concept of a “smart” helmet with integrated lights to be superfluous and gimmicky. When it comes to smart features and connectivity, I have a really good bike computer with Strava integration and phone connectivity. I own several sets of fantastic front and rear bike lights. I want my helmet to 1) protect my head and 2) look good on my head (as good as a goofy chunk of plastic and foam can look, anyway!).
I have to say, when I took the Ultra out of the box I was pleasantly surprised. The helmet has a clean and streamlined shape akin to many aero road helmets on the market, including some of the ones I personally own. The lights are well integrated into the shell, and there is a large button located between the two rear lights which is used to turn the lights on/off and cycle through the flashing modes.
Weight compared to traditional helmets
If you are used to ultralight road or XC racing helmets, one thing you notice with the Ultra is a bit of additional weight, but for what Lumos designed the Ultra to do, this little bit of extra mass doesn’t matter. It certainly didn’t weigh any more than my mountain bike helmet (which doesn’t have lights or Bluetooth!). The Ultra is offered in five colorways.
Fit & comfort
I have an oval head that sits on the cusp of medium and large in most brands. One thing I hate with many helmets that looked really good on a store shelf or in online pictures is the “mushroom head” look they gave me once I put them on. Once out of the box, I adjusted the (generously long) straps on the Ultra to size, put it on and found the nearest mirror in my house, dreading the “Toad from Super Mario” look many helmets seem to have. Not with the Ultra. The design language is that of a classic road helmet DNA, yet with modern sleek lines. I was an instant fan of the look, even if I still felt a little self-conscious when I was about to go on my first ride with lights flashing at the front and read on my head. The weight is evenly distributed and you don’t feel any hotspots. There is ample room for a cycling cap underneath.
Lumos App, connected features & “Boost Mode”
Lumos has an Android/IOS app (I used the Android version) to which the Ultra painlessly paired to, offering up a number of cool connected features. You can change the light modes and flashing patterns for the front and rear LED modules. The app is intuitive to use and performs what it is designed to do very well. Once you have this initial setup done, you’d have no reason to use it again beyond switching up flashing patterns.
Remember this scratch card that came in the box? It has a code that activates “Boost Mode”, which is essentially a very bright mode for the integrated lights. That scratch card has a password that you enter in the app to activate that mode. Personally, I found this extra-bright mode very useful considering the busy roads I ride on, even though battery life is decreased with this mode activated, I don’t mid more frequent charging.
On the road with the Lumos Ultra
My first ride with the Ultra was picking my son up from daycare in my bike trailer. The trailer I own has a fabric back without a secure mounting location for a rear light. The trailer also partially blocks the lights mounted on the rear of my bike, especially with the cover rolled up on warm summer days. In this scenario, Ultra was an instant winner in boosting my visibility to drivers and subsequently enhancing my safety, and that of my 3-year-old son in the trailer. With the lights being high on my head, I am certainly more visible to drivers (especially with Boost Mode activated!). Remember: the lights on the Ultra are for being seen, not to see with. The handlebar-mounted turn signal remote was an added bonus, which I found myself using often.
I never thought I’d like what I always dismissed as gimmicky: a helmet with smart features and integrated lights. The Lumos Ultra is a well-designed, comfortable helmet that offers good head protection and increases rider safety with the integrated lights and a number of useful connected features. I am a fan of what Lumos has done with the Ultra, excited to try some of the other models in their range and to see what else they are going to come up with in the future.