Innovations in cycling often feel like buses. Nothing for an age and then a whole flurry arrive at once. Except the truth is that once you’ve cleared the wheat from the chaff much of what is labelled up as ‘innovation’ barely passes as anything more than a fad too oftencloaked in the wealth of a middle aged investor facing an existential crisis.
Real innovation requires the fulfillment of two key criteria. Firstly; it must solve or at least address an actual problem. If it doesn’t solve a genuine, deeply seated user experience problem then it’s not innovation it’s vanity. Secondly does it move the trajectory of progress forward beyond incremental marginal gains.
The inventions of the plough, the refrigerator, the mobile phone were all innovations which significantly enhanced the user experience towards the common good.
Of course to be a useful innovation there must also be a depth of quality to the user experience. The infamous Sinclair C15 of the 1980‘s may have presented as a potential for modal shift in the mobility of single occupancy vehicles but their inability to overcome issues of safety and reliability left Sinclair dead in the water.
Having built up an extensive blog readership we get sent lots of kit marked ‘cycling innovation’ attached to a small note requesting a kind and generous review. In order to minimise offense most of it goes in the; “Are you taking the p**#?” pile.
Late last year we received a small yellow box courtesy of FedEx. Inside the box there lay a neatly packaged Lumos helmet, control panel, charge lead, fitting bracket, simple instructions and that’s about it.
I’ve been riding a bike for the past thirty six years and I have mixed views on helmet use. I certainly don’t support any claim that it should be mandatory so to receive a helmet claiming that the value of its innovation lies in an enhancement of the users safety didn’t exactly get me excited. What did immediately impress me was the slick aesthetics and obvious attention to build quality.
Attention to build quality should not be overlooked. In crude terms it is what costs any design innovator tens of thousands of dollars. Money they often do not have.
However detailed the CAD drawings there are few designs which enter the market following their first product run, very few, like nil! The first product run is simply a real tangible means of bringing otherwise unidentifiable problems to the surface. On identification of problems those standing behind any innovation have one of two choices. Engage deeper until all issues have been rectified or accept the apparent imperfections as a necessary compromise and move on. Spiraling costs and a loss of reputation due to production delays meaning late product arrival mean that many manufacturers simply opt for option umber one, loosely committing themselves to resolving any issues in further product development. When a company deliberately pursues the latter options they are gambling high production costs against a product so significantly superior to its rival that it will merit a price sufficient to off set this commitment. Nerves and a lack of confidence in the consumer market thus locks many products in a painful and relentless race to the bottom. Not so with Lumos.
Lumos arrived late to the market. If you helped fund their crowd funding campaign that may have felt like an annoying delay but Lumos pursuit of perfection has landed one hell of a return on your investment. The technological and design brilliance of the Lumos were ratified earlier this year when Lumos won ‘Beazley design of the year’ from the Design Museum. To put that into context the transport category shortlist included the Tesla Model 3!!
Remember however that the technical brilliance of the Lumos Helmet does not equate to a compromise in design aesthetics or the comfort of its user experience. This is not geek for the sake of geek. The Lumos looks great, feels great, functions great. While it’s available in a range of colours ours came in matt black and looks every bit as stealthy as we could have hoped for. Attention to detail means the helmet benefits from more than adequate ventilation providing a comfortable rider experience what ever the weather.
While the helmet is unlikely to capture the imagination of the racing fraternity this should not put the rest of us off. The Lumos is light, comfortable and offers a fantastic user experience. How do I know. Because I gave ours to the person I care most about in the universe. My son. And he loves it!
Riding to and from school every day and through the depths of both British winter and a dense urban jungle means I worry about his safety. Not because he’s not a great rider, he is, but because I know he shares valuable road space with moronic idiots in large metal boxes; all of which takes us right back to Lumos primary innovation the inclusion of smart LED lighting within the body of a helmet.
Fitting the thumb operated indicator control panel to the handlebars of his bike took my fourteen year old son approx 30 seconds figuring out how to use it another 30 seconds. I admit that it may have taken me a fraction longer.
So here’s a little secret. My son is also hugely forgetful, and I mean hugely! He has often gotten to the end of the road returning home thirty seconds later because he’s forgotten his coat, left shoe, homework, phone the list goes on and on but most significantly includes forgetting his bike lights. Lumos eradicates this possibility as he belongs to a generation for whom wearing his helmet is just a no brainer. His helmet is the one thing he never forgets. So as long as I make sure it’s charged we’re all good.
Traveling behind my son gives me a close up sense of just how good the Lumos really is. While the front and rear lights (10 and 16 respectively) provide ample light what really stands out is the Lumos indicators not because of their brightness, although they are bright, but because I feel suddenly aware that a flashing amber light is just about the only indication other road users are aware of. No form of indication should be seen as replacingthe need for a head check before altering road position but the Lumos indicators do assert presence and intent. Similarly the Lumos smart ability to sense when you’re slowing down and lock all rear lights into bright red mode seems to be a universally accepted means of stating “I am stopping!”.
The Lumos helmet is what happens when skilled engineers set their sights on a problem solving product and refuse to compromise as they make their way towards that goal. Too much of what is considered innovation is simply driven by marketeers keen to make a quick buck. Not so with Lumos.
Is the Lumos an innovation? Yes, yes and yes.
In a crowded market we hope Lumos are able to make their mark, cycling needs them, urban design needs them, public safety needs them.
For more info on Lumos Helmet go to https://lumoshelmet.co