The 6 Best Smart Bike Helmets
What Is A Smart Bike Helmet?
Exactly what functionality you want to invest in will largely determine the available options for you.
If you’ve been riding a bike for any length of time, especially if you grew up in certain townships that legally required kids to wear specific protection, you’re probably already familiar with the bike helmet. This simple, elegant item is often the only thing standing between the curb and your cranium in a given fall. It’s a wonder that so many adults still ride without one, and with harrowing statistics on bicycle fatalities more available than ever online.
Fortunately, there’s a new kind of helmet in town, and it might just make converts out of those few daredevils out there who prefer to ride without a lid. It relies on some of the same technology that’s fueling certain aspects of home automation and the ever-growing internet of things. We’re talking here about smart helmets.
Now, if you’d unroll your eyes, please, we’d like to point out that smart helmets aren’t just using the ‘smart’ moniker as a branding gimmick, like smart water or smart car (seriously, how smart can it be if it doesn’t know there are humans in existence larger than five feet six inches?). Smart helmets owe their intelligence to convenience of Bluetooth connectivity, the power and durability of LED lighting, the audio clairty of bone conduction, and even the capabilities of small action cameras. If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is, and not every smart feature is included on every helmet model.
At its heart, a smart helmet is essentially any helmet that leverages modern technology to provide riders with functionality you wouldn’t find on an ordinary bike helmet. Exactly what functionality you want to invest in will largely determine the available options for you.
What To Look For In A Smart Bike Helmet
So, your interest has been piqued by the idea of a smart helmet, but you’d be forgiven for not knowing precisely which features out there appeal to you the most. Let’s go over the benefits of each, so you can get an idea of what to look for.
With a model that does connect to your smartphone, you’ll be able to answer calls and listen to music to your heart's content.
Bluetooth connections are very common in smart helmets, but not all of them are meant to connect to your cell phone. With a model that does connect to your smartphone, you’ll be able to answer calls and listen to music to your heart's content. Of course, that could take your ears away from the road, which could put you at risk for an accident. That’s why a lot of smart helmets use bone conduction headphones instead of traditional ear buds. These send vibrations through your upper cheekbones, instead of through your ears. That way, you can enjoy your favorite tunes and still hear that jerk coming up behind you without respecting the bike lane.
As a caveat, even bone conduction headphones are dangerous in that their audio — be it a call, a song, or a podcast — creates a distraction. And just like distracted driving, distracted cycling is extremely dangerous. If you find yourself getting too wrapped up in a conversation or your favorite jams, it might be wise to cut the connection.
If safety is your number one concern, you’ll be rather pleased with certain models of smart helmet that incorporate LED head and tail lights, as well as turn signals in some cases. It would be too clumsy to have you reach up to your helmet to activate a turn signal, however, so how does a helmet get the message? Well, remember our friend Bluetooth? He works here, too. Some of the safest smart helmets on the market come with Bluetooth controllers that attach to your handlebars and let you wirelessly activate signals that flash on the backside of your helmet.
Finally, there are smart helmets on the market that are equipped with cameras, and these are great for the more adventurous cyclists out there. You can even have these models pull double duty as skating helmets, as well, allowing you to capture all your tricks from a first-person perspective, no matter what you ride. A camera can also come in handy if you happen to meet the misfortune of a bicycle accident. If you were recording, you’d have evidence for your insurance company to use.
Other Bike Safety Accessories
Riding a bike safely starts with a helmet. It’s a must, and if you ride without one, you’re courting disaster. For the safety-conscious out there, there are more bike accessories designed to protect you and your bike than ever. Riding with these won’t guarantee that you’ll ever get hurt, but it’ll drastically reduces your chances.
Just because it isn't a car that doesn't mean you have free reign to hop on your bike after a few too many beers and go pedaling around town.
For starters, and I know this isn't a commodity you can purchase, but ride sober. Just because it isn't a car that doesn't mean you have free reign to hop on your bike after a few too many beers and go pedaling around town. You might not cause the same harm that you could behind the wheel, but you're still a huge danger to yourself and other drivers.
Then, after investing in a good smart helmet, you should think a bit about visibility. Many of the helmets on this list work to increase your visibility, but you’d be wise to add things like head and tail lights to your bike, and to wear reflective clothing whenever possible.
When you’re out for long rides, a flat tire would be devastating. Before heading out, make sure you’ve got a sturdy backpack or bike pouch that can hold a replacement inner tube, a patch kit, and a small CO2 pump. These could mean the difference between a leisurely ride home and a 15-mile walk.
Finally, it’s important that you stay hydrated while out riding. While fitting your water bottle in your backpack might sound like a good idea at the time, its inaccessibility may result in you taking in too little water. It’s better to have a bottle mounted to your bike frame, or to invest in a hydration pack that you can strap to your back.