I should confess that I use headphones while cycling. I should also confess that the most recent entry into my Google history is, “Is cycling with headphones illegal?” (It is not.) In my defence I just use the left bud to keep the ear on the side of passing traffic open, but it’s a set-up that suits me well, so this smart helmet which pipes sound into your open ear would have to be really something to persuade me to switch. Unfortunately, it falls short on that front and most others – including fit, additional smart features and other safety features.
The fit issue deserves a caveat: I probably would have been better served by a different size. I won’t accept any blame, however. For one thing, the only sizing chart I could find online was this (opens in new tab) on an Australian bike retailer’s website. For two, there’s a centimetre or so’s crossover between sizes and I found myself in that crossover range and decided to plump for the large over the medium. If you find yourself in the same situation I’d advise you to size down since the design is a bit bulbous. Ideally, the sound cannons should rest against your face at the top of your jawbones, and the larger size combined with my narrow face meant they didn’t sit snugly. Attempting to do this meant overtightening other areas, so it was all a bit uncomfortable.
This fit would have also affected my experience of the sound, although pressing and holding the cannon in the right place let me know what I was missing and it wasn’t much. Anything melodic was passable, but attempting to listen to bass-heavy dance music was a total bust. I also found podcasts would get drowned out by the sound of traffic. I really couldn’t wait to get back to one earphone.
There are a couple of other smart features. There’s a windproof microphone so you can take a call and give commands to your linked phone’s smart assistant. The mic picked up my commands just fine but a test call was cut short when the person on the other end of the line complained about the roar of traffic in her ear. This was at 8.30pm on a B road in south London with just a few cars passing me by.
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You can also control the helmet and music on the connected phone using a handlebar-mounted remote. There are five buttons, four of them bi-directional, and pressing and holding them triggers different functions. In other words, it’s not very intuitive, which made it even harder to control when riding in the dark as I struggled to keep my eyes on the road and remember which button did what and where it was.
The other smart feature is automatic crash detection, which will send your location to up to three pre-selected contacts. Thankfully, this was not a feature that was triggered while I wore the helmet. I suppose it may come in useful if a contact knows I’m riding in the dead of night, but otherwise I’d trust passers-by to do more for me than someone in a different location. Can you imagine the panicked, confused 999 call they’d have to make?
In terms of safety, the helmet obviously meets the legal safety standards for sale, but it lacks MIPS (and its equivalents) – the technology that essentially dissipates rotational forces which may help in certain types of hits to the head. It’s by no means the be-all and end-all of safety, but I’d suggest the £105 the SafeSound costs would be better spent on a bike helmet with MIPS and a pair of wireless headphones (you can currently get the Jaybird Tarah, which I use, for £50 at John Lewis (opens in new tab)).
Jonathan Shannon has been the editor of the Coach website since 2016, developing a wide-ranging experience of health and fitness. Jonathan took up running while editing Coach and has run a sub-40min 10K and 1hr 28min half marathon. His next ambition is to complete a marathon. He’s an advocate of cycling to work and is Coach’s e-bike reviewer, and not just because he lives up a bit of a hill. He also reviews fitness trackers and other workout gear.
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