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New Helmet Tech for 2020

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

The bike helmet hasn’t changed in a very long time. Today, it is still essentially a plastic-covered foam shell that is fitted snugly to the rider’s head and secured in place by a chin strap and an adjustable ratchet.

Over the past few decades manufacturers have made helmets sturdier to increase rider safety, reduced its weight, provided greater ventilation and improved aerodynamics. In addition, with the so-called digital revolution, connectivity has been added to some helmets, to provide some of the benefits connectivity provides to the mobile phone user. In 2020, the helmet basically stays more or less the same, with manufacturers continuing to tweak the product in an attempt to find a competitive edge. They have made it lighter, or more aerodynamic, or even sturdier.

However, one helmet, which was showcased in January at the 2020 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, promises to be different. One important reason is that its target audience is not road racers, but those consumers who use the bicycle as an important part of urban mobility, such as commuters. According to the manufacturer, LIVALL, its BH51M Neo is “a quantum leap forward in safety and protection for cyclists.” It is a “smart helmet” in that it provides connectivity via the rider’s smartphone and, through that connectivity, offers a number of features that will please leisure riders and commuters who prize safety. But it is not made for cyclists who want a light, aerodynamic helmet, since it weighs in at slightly less than a half-kilo, 480 grams to be exact.

Because it’s got more bells and whistles than an old dog has fleas, it’s also not very aerodynamic or well-ventilated. That’s because it’s not built for speed or even comfort, but primarily for safety. First of all, the helmet is equipped with lots of lights. Its front warning lights and 270° taillights will be illuminated when the helmet’s built-in gravity acceleration sensor detects a significant deceleration, as when you hit the brakes. This is intended to warn vehicles ahead and behind, as well as pedestrians, that you are slowing down.

The “Smart Lighting” feature integrates adaptive technology to ensure that the rider is visible when it gets dark – which means it lights up automatically when daylight fades. It also offers wireless LED turn signals that are activated by remote controls located on the handlebars. One feature of the BH51M Neo I particularly like is its fall detection alarm. In case of accident and injury, the system will kick in automatically and send your GPS location to your emergency contacts. (This also makes it suitable to wear, for example, when you are going out drinking with friends and planning a long night – even if you’re not taking your bike.) Just make sure you fall in an area with mobile network coverage.

Livall BH51M Neo costs around 170 Euros.

The helmet also comes equipped with stereo Bluetooth speakers and a windproof hands-free microphone, which makes it easy to answer calls while you’re on the bike and gives you a decent sound if you happen to like listening to music, audiobooks or podcasts. And it has a PTT walkie-talkie so you can communicate with cycling buddies.

There is more, but you get the idea. This is almost certainly the wave of the future. I can imagine other connected features eventually being added, such as a camera that takes both photos and videos while you cycle and downloads them automatically to your phone. And why not even an integrated SIM card? The sky appears to be the limit.