Saturday, January 24, 2015

Review: Life-Beam HRM Helmet

Over the last 12 years I've had perhaps three helmets, none of which cost more than $50. The first I threw away after quite a few crashes. The second I still have, but the padding keeps falling out and the adjustment strap is literally held together by duct tape. The third I'm officially retiring this week. All the plastic bits inside have broken, so it now moves all over my head, much like a colander helmet:
Count on Top Gear to come up with a colander helmet.
By all rights I should be buying a cheapo replacement, but in keeping with Max' advice to buy quality I've decided to go a bit more upscale. During my search I stumbled upon this DC Rainmaker review of the horribly named "Life-Beam smart helmet" (they also make a $100 hat). Honestly it's not very smart. Basically it's a Lazer Genesis helmet with a built-in heart-rate monitor (The DCR review is of an ANT+ model; the current version that I have supports both Bluetooth 4.0 and ANT+). At $229 or so it's not cheap. But the Lazer Genesis on its own is about $130, so the HRM premium is only about $100.

I've tried HRMs in the past, but I can't deal with the chest-straps. They've never worked consistently for me, and getting them to work at all is sufficiently finicky that I never bothered. In fact when I bought my PowerTap it was largely because an HRM did not seem to be in my future.

So the idea of a helmet with an integrated HRM is intriguing. As is, honestly, the idea of a nicer helmet. Will it be more comfortable than my bargain basement Giro Athlon?

The helmet arrived nicely packaged yesterday. It comes with both a hard case and a soft bag, which I assume are provided by Lazer.
The case looks kind of like Max' Aliens TT helmet.

The helmet itself is white, which is a new helmet color for me. So that's exciting.
The little logo on the lower right is the Life-Beam logo

Of course like everything bicycle related these days, it needs to be charged. It uses a standard mini-usb plug, than goodness. There's a blue LED in back that shows when it's charging. It also pulses in time with your heart-rate when you're wearing it. Just kidding, but that would be pretty cool if you could see how hard the guy you're drafting off of was working.
All charged up and ready to go!
Here's the helmet on one of our staff male models, trying to figure out how to take his first selfie.
I have a few open spots in my modeling schedule. Contact for more info.
Adjustment is handled by a rotating knob on top of the helmet. It's a very smooth action, and you can insert a little blinky into the rotating knob. I have no idea how good of a blinky it is. But the helmet fits snugly.

So how does it work? Well, I don't really know how accurate it is. But in my limited experience HRMs either work or they don't. If the HRM says my heart rate is 150BPM, that's probably what it is. If the HRM says my heart rate is 30BPM, then I'm a bit more suspicious.

Now I haven't done the requisite threshold testing to get all my zones right and so on. Like I said, I just got the helmet. So really all I've got is the data I grabbed on my Garmin today.

The data looks completely reasonable. No mysterious dropouts. My heart rate rises on climbs, and drops on descents. So the HRM aspect seems to work fine. The helmet fits me well (I got the large model), and having the HR sensor against my forehead wasn't really noticeable after the first minute or two.

So far, after a single ride, I'd say it's pretty good. Is it worth the money? Well, if $230 is a lot of money then probably not. You can get a cheap helmet and a cheap HRM for a lot less. But for me, if I want HRM data, then yes it's definitely worth it.

If I had to nit-pick, it bothers me a little bit that the transmitter is right at the base of my neck. As we all know from falling skies, this is exactly where you transmit if you want to control someone's mind.

But really, I'm not the paranoid type. I'm sure the signal is very low power. The helmet weighs a little more than a super lightweight helmet. At about 400G, it's maybe 100G more than my Giro Athlon, and 200G more than a fly-weight helmet. That's close to half a pound more, which isn't trivial. But I've never had issues with helmet weight and don't see that changing now.

Lastly, there is the obvious concern that we now have one more thing to plug in. I can imagine a future where the aliens have destroyed our power plants, and all we have for transportation is bicycles. But oh no, my helmet is battery powered so I can't ride my bike! That would be a problem. But the battery life is about the same as my Garmin, so I just need to charge them both at the same time and it shouldn't be a problem.

So I guess what I'm getting at is if you are in the market for a premium helmet with a HRM, then this is a good option. In fact it's the only option. It seems to work great (with one data point), and the helmet is a perfectly fine one.

I'm not sure what rating system we use here at HBC, so I'll give the Life-Beam 9/10 I'm taking off 1 unit of goodness because of the price.

1 comment:

Max said...

I am intrigued! It's a good-looking lid, which is half the battle. Curious what the bluetooth feature accomplishes -- interface with your smartphone? So it will feed heartrate to your Garmin as well as to your Samsung?

Lazer seems to have captured the premium helmet market. Which is funny for an enterprise founded by somebody who can't even spell. Just saying.

And in closing, I'm amused that in this very forum I have been accused of being the cause of your buying cheap (Forte tubes, if I recall) and now dear (Melon-mounted computer).