Unless you like to flirt with danger, wearing a helmet while cycling through busy streets is a must. A wave of smart helmets and cycling wearables are emerging on the scene to not only protect you while you are on your bike, but to add features that will give you one less thing to worry about while you're out on the road weaving through the traffic.
Livall is one startup that is fast becoming a big part of that connected cycling push. Having already launched helmets for cyclists and skiers, it's back with another instalment for the two wheelers with the BH51M smart helmet.
Read this: Livall BH60SE review
Its latest model is firmly aimed at urban cyclists, packing many of the features we've already seen through Livall's current crop of smart headgear, and we've been putting it to the test to find out if this is one of the top smart helmet you can buy. Read on for our full verdict on the Livall BH51M.
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Livall BH51M: Design and fit
When it comes to helmets, its essential to find something that you feel comfortable wearing; there's no point investing big money unless you genuinely don't mind strapping it to your head every day during your ride. You also don't want something on your head that's too bulky, naturally.
With the BH51M, Livall has opted for an old-school, commuter look - this isn't a performance helmet by any stretch of the imagination. The body is made from a hard plastic shell, with four perforations along the top and eight smaller ones sitting at the back of the helmet.
Tucked in around these gaps are three separate LED strips, while the front of the helmet features a leather peak. This adds a bit more personality to the overall design, but, unfortunately, it also means the device does appear to resemble an equestrian helmet. We'd definitely opt for Livall's more sporty looking BH60 and BH62 range over this hat-and-peak design.
The look of something is always subjective, of course - maybe you don't mind the BH1M's design - but something which is clearer to quantify is the fit. Fitting heads between 57-61cm, the BH51M does sit comfortably. Four adjustable velcro pads are fitted within the shell, while wearers can also adjust the tightness of the helmet through the support given at the back of the head - similar to how you can adjust the fit of a VR headset. Things should be feel pretty sturdy once you've got things tweaked to your head, but you can lock the fit in with the adjustable chin strap, of course.
We'll come onto the in-built smarts and wider features in the section below, but overall the look of design of the Livall BH51M is a bit hit-and-miss. While the fit is comfortable enough (even on longer rides), the design is one that we're not overly fond of when compared to other helmets on the market.
Livall BH51M: Features, app and in-use
While you may or may not like the look of the BH51M, the real draw here is its connected smarts. The wearable's Bluetooth smarts mean that cyclists are able to stay in touch with calls and music when riding, while a remote control resting on the handlebars allows you to control the smart lights sitting in the back. But how does it all work in the busy streets?
Well, like with any smart device, the BH51M comes with a companion app to help get you started. Available for iOS and Android, Livall Riding will prompt you to connect the helmet and Bling Remote Controller to your smartphone - both of which we found extremely straightforward. If you want to attach even more equipment through the app, cadence sensors and heart rate monitors are also searchable, though we were focusing strictly on Livall's toys here.
Also available through the app is the Group feature, which allows for communication between a number of riders when out on the streets. It's a handy feature to have available, sure, but we can't imagine it's one that hordes of users will be tapping into very often.
Read this: Cycling with Hövding's wearable airbag
However, it does use the same microphone and speakers embedded into the device, which helps the user to access calls and listen to music; something that we do believe could be a selling point for this smart helmet. Like with the Livall helmets we've tested in the past, it's not the richest audio sound you're going to get pumped into your ears, but it's certainly strong enough to hear voices clearly and enjoy your morning playlist - even in traffic. We've also experienced no issues with regard to cut-outs or lagging.
The concern we have is not with the quality, but more with the overall premise. When your head is on a swivel on a busy street, it's not ideal to have music blaring above either temple, even if you can still make out the sounds of the traffic and pedestrians flowing around you. Some will definitely find it distracting, and we had more than a couple of instances when it felt necessary to pause things at a junction in order to concentrate.
If you're not easily distracted, or the roads you cycle on aren't that busy, this process is also made immeasurably safer by the Bling Remote Controller shown above. Not only does this let you pause/play music with the red button, but you can also turn the volume up/down by hitting, well, the up and down buttons on the dial. If, on the off chance, you also fancy taking a snap while on your ride, the top button will also allow for that, while the group speak feature is also handled through the bottom button. Again, there's no delays with any of this, and it means you can safely tuck away your phone in your bag and not have to reach for it until you're off the bike.
The same can be said for indicating your direction through the BH51M's lights. What Livall offers works very well - even allowing you to customise how the lights flash when you push the remote to indicate and working amply in daylight - but you do have to place an element of trust in drivers that they're watching your helmet and intuitively picking up that the lighting indicates your next movement. What we're saying is, maybe don't ditch the arm signal just yet. Also, you'll know yourself whether the device is flashing, with a repeating beeping sound from the speakers for roughly 8-10 seconds before you'll have to push it again - a helpful addition.
Another feature offered through the device is SOS functionality, detecting if an accident has occurred and sending an alert to an emergency contact, if paired with the smartphone. Thankfully, we weren't able to test this out on the road, though the Livall's three-axis gyroscope and feature does kick in if you throw it up in the air and then catch it, somewhat replicating a crash movement.
Livall BH51M: Price and battery life
Livall's BH51M may be bringing you additional smarts, but that doesn't mean things come cheap. Roughly in line with the rest of the company's range, the device retails for $199.99. That's not cheap, but it's also not completely out of whack relative to the rest of the market. If you want these kind of smarts built into your helmet, you almost always have to pay the premium.
In terms of battery life, Livall claims you'll receive around 10 hours of standard use with the BH51M, with that coming down to 3-6 hours when you're blasting music and taking calls. Whether you find that enough, of course, will primarily come down to how you use the helmet. But given that this is being targeted at commuters, we think it's a solid amount. Charging only takes a couple of hours, meaning you can easily boot things back up through the day at your desk or overnight with the rest of your smart gadgets.
Using the device consistently and playing music on every journey, we were only forced to recharge things after five days, meaning that Livall's estimations are about right.
- Smart lighting works a treat
- Comfortable fit
- Good battery life
- Divisive design
- Audio can be distracting