The Lumos Ultra Helmet is the latest Kickstarter from the eponymous company. Not to spoil the ending, but read on to find out why the baby Lumos is actually the best yet!
Lumos Ultra Helmet Prototype Review
Given the opportunity to stretch their existing designs, or rebuild from the ground-up Eu-wen Ding and team decided to start afresh. As a result the Lumos Matrix helmet has been 2+ years in coming to market. I was lucky enough to have a sneak preview in 2018 of their “black bag prototype” but was sworn to utter secrecy a the time – from my perspective it’s great to see the full featured helmet out in the wilds now
The Lumos brand has been able to successfully bridge the gap between cycling helmet and smart gadget, but crucially a smart gadget people want to buy. There have been other attempts to market from the inclusion of a cycling helmet came, through the integrated Bluetooth headsets, but it is the Lumos helmet which has been the critical success with the original and MIPS version ending up both on Oprah’s Favourite Things and the Apple Store – I’ll leave it to your own discretion as to which is the greater accolade!
Since then the new Lumos Ultra Helmet prototype has arrived, I’ve been spinning around Nuneaton getting to grips with the fit, form and function. Thankfully from a testing perspective, whilst COVID-19 has shut down and completely changed many parts of our lives, I’m still able to cycle to work, so have been giving the Lumos Ultra a good test
Colleagues in the various practices that I work at are used to me turning up in a variety of different helmets, and of the three different types of Lumos helmet there is little doubt that they prefer the styling on this the most
If I’m being honest I think the Lumos Ultra has the best styling yet possibly as it looks the most “normal” of the three Lumos cycle helmets. Now that might sound an odd comment with regard to a product designed to keep you visible, but if we used the Lumos Matrix as an example from the other end of the spectrum, the Matrix is just too “out there”. When a friend had previously forgotten a helmet, and I offered them the Matrix to borrow, they did accept the offer, but stated that they felt very conscious of what they were wearing. By comparison many people have said “Yes! That looks great” when referring to the Lumos Ultra
Which ever way you look at it the new Lumos Ultra helmet is both a refinement and a simplification of the original Kickstarter helmet. But that design refinement has also mean the shaving down of features in order to hit the $99 price for the non-MIPS version. That seems a reasonable point to deep dive into the Lumos Ultra design
Lumos Ultra Helmet Review – Design
Again, this unit is a prototype version, but I honestly hope that Lumos keeps the box as it is. Simple cardboard and simple printing. If we compare to the Lumos Matrix box, I honestly don’t need to have such a fancy box for a helmet, and would have preferred Lumos to put the savings towards further environmentally friendly packaging, such as alternatives to the plastic protective filling inside.
So what is in the box? We have got the Lumos Ultra Helmet, the handlebar remote and mount for controlling the signals, a micro USB charging cable and the quick start guide.
Whilst it is easily to complain about things being trimmed and slimmed in the pursuit of a lower price point, especially as often the quality deteriorates. With the Lumos Ultra the remote system has actually improved with the slimming down. We have a considerably simpler remote, less parts, non-rechargeable, a single rocker switch as opposed to two buttons… and the remote is all the better for it.
Part of the change in remote was required due to the swap to micro-USB as previously the remote was charged via the same cable as the helmet. Now the Lumos remote is battery powered]. Personally, and I appreciate that other beta testers feel differently, I prefer the new control unit. Yes there is no longer an LED confirming the direction being indicated, but we have a much more svelte and ergonomic remote. The one draw back for myself, is that we’ve lost rechargeable function to a CR203 battery instead
Another considerable alteration we seen in the Lumos Ultra Helmet, is to the cooling. There is a good discussion within the world of race helmets, that it isnt the number of vents which matters, but what you do with them.
I have no way to objectively measure the airflow between the Lumos Ultra and the Kickstarter model, but the newer helmet felt cooler when cycling along. Maybe it is psychological relating to the lighter weight, 370g vs 444g for the MIPS version I normally commute in.
Perhaps it is also related to the much larger rear vents?
Whilst I have never found the Lumos Matrix helmet a good fit, it just feels a little lose – something I feel must have come up during development of that unit, as Lumos provides different thickness of padding in the box.
With the Lumos Ultra helmet things fitted nicely from the outset, but if there is a problem, then adjustor from the Kickstarter unit has been carried over unchanged
At the back of the helmet is one of the bigger changes when it comes to interaction with the Lumos helmet. When it comes to getting out of the door in the morning, well, let’s just say that I’m not a morning person, so it’s not unusual for me to first junction on my way to work, press the indicator remote… and nothing. Nothing as, yet again, I’ve set off without turning my helmet.
With the Lumos Kickstarter helmet the power button is firm, and nicely recessed meaning you can easily find the switch with the helmet your head, and switch it on even in gloves. Whilst the Lumos Ultra as a larger button, it is harder to find, meaning if I do set off without powering up, I’m more likely going to need to stop to find the power button
If you already have a Lumos, previously you have been able to continue using the existing proprietary cables if you have purchased further helmets, but the great gods of open standards have finally smiled – not only has the Lumos Ultra moved away from a the proprietary connector, but the product version will be charged via a USB-C charge port. Although the prototype I have here is using the slightly older micro-USB charger
On the current Kickstarter fundraiser, the Lumos Ultra is available to order in both regular and MIPS flavours. Something I am exceptionally pleased to see, as I firmly believe in MIPS. Even if the improvement is less than the 10-20% reduction in force, a reduction is still a reduction and I feel it is worth while paying for. If you are interested I wrote about MIPS in much greater detail when Lumos first incorporated the technology HERE
There have been a few additional points to be cut to get to the desired price. One element which has gone, that I really don’t mind is the “eyebrow indicators” so as the rider you know which way the helmet is indicating. I have just never found this useful.
I appreciate that the COB system is brighter… but I can’t help but feel the larger spread of lights was better, particularly as the triangle also had a brake-light function. But as ever, the Lumos Ultra is considerably cheaper
Similarly we also have a pared down front end. The forward facing lights have been consolidated into a single roughly trapezoid shape. Now I have found that I tend to use the Lumos front light for me, getting into bike locks, finding keyholes etc in the dark, so the consolidated light suits me well. Similarly I don’t mind the loss of front indicators. As a driver, I’m not really looking in my rear view mirror at the direction a cyclist is going to turn, and on a round-a-bout, as long as the cyclist is well illuminated, when driving, I’ll be able to tell their intended direction by their line in the road.
With that last statement, as a cyclist I do put a lot of weight on how I am seen as a car comes up to me from behind, I appreciate that the COB lights will be effective as indicators, but I wonder if it would be possible to have broadened their area a little more?
For example (and yes the picture example isn’t great, but it does illustrate the point) – even if Lumos were not able to make the lights bigger, a 3M reflective triangle, keeping the Lumos style would easily fit on the rear of the polystyrene, giving car lights something extra to reflect off.
Lumos Matrix Helmet – Specifications
- Battery life: 10hrs
- Battery Capacity 1800mAh
- Lights Front: 30 white COB LEDs
- Lights Rear: 34 Red and 34 orange COB LEDs
- Weight: 370g non-MIPS, 390g with MIPS
- Small (S): 51- 55 cm
- Medium to Large (M-L): 54- 61 cm
- Extra Large (XL): 61- 65 cm
Lumos Ultra Helmet – Using the Device
As mentioned I’ve largely been commuting to work in the Lumos Ultra, as I’ve not really had much time to do anything else. From a simple get on a ride perspective the helmet is comfortable, in seemly to make my head less sweaty when I arrive at work.
I honestly don’t know if it is that I’m riding in the sun now, or that the Lumos Ultra is a little more discrete than the companies previous helmets, but generally I feel that people have commented on the helmet less. Although there are also fewer people about given the lock down.
I’ve been quite happy with the included flashing patterns on the Lumos Ultra, but if you DO want to get deeper into the helmet then you’ll need the Lumos App – iOS Lumos App, Android Lumos App -which allows for custom flashing patterns and also to adjust the front light brightness
Here is a slightly crude attempt to show the differences between max and min brightness, unfortunately, I couldn’t lock the camera AF/EF down, so there is a difference in surrounding light, but you get the idea!
On the slightly more mundane side of things the app allows you to check the battery of your helmet and remotes – It will also allow you to choose when you are notified about the battery level, – I have it set to power on, and power off. If you have a smart watch, the app can also inform you on that about the battery level
I cannot stress enough that this is a prototype unit. As a result, my front light housing in 3D printed
I raised this point, as there will be several small changes and refinements as the helmet moves to final production form. One area which is being adjusted is the charging. Not only moving to USB-C, but also having an improving charging light and protection cover
Lumos Matrix Helmet Review – Conclusion
As I’ve mentioned, I am a BIG fan of the Lumos helmets. Their MIPS unit is my daily commuter, and frankly as a “cycle to work” helmet, I genuinely don’t think it has any competition to worry about… but the existing Lumos helmets almost felt a little too commuter focused
I genuinely think that Lumos has created something special here, largely due to balance of price and features. I feel that the Lumos Ultra is now a helmet that most cyclists could use. No qualifications on commuting, or particular types of riding. Previously my Lumos unit has been pretty much exclusively for commuting, but in MIPS form, I can easily envisage the Lumos Ultra being purchased by a much wider range of cyclists, and surely that is good for everyone!
The Lumos Ultra Kickstarter campaign has 51 days to go as of the writing of this post. Given the Kickstarter offers at the moment, if you are even considering a new helmet in the near future, I’d strongly suggest you take a look
Plus with this helmet they have a much wider range of colours, including team options to keep everyone happy.
Whilst the Lumos Ultra is only a prototype here, and the design is going to have further tweaks, I don’t feel it is fair to give a TG star rating until I can “kick the tyres” on a production version. That said, I have no doubt at all in saying that this Kickstarter prototype easily earns a Recommended