With a walkie-talkie function and visibility lights, the Livall BH51M Neo Smart Helmet is no ordinary piece of bike gear.
The Neo ($249) is a “smart” cycle helmet for commuters containing indicator lights, speakers and a microphone.
It has an app that activates features such as making calls, walkie-talkie mode and playing music, all of which can be controlled with a small remote that fits snugly to your handlebars. Without the app it’s just a regular bike helmet. The stand-out new feature is lights at the front of the helmet to make you more visible at night.
I was keen to check out the walkie-talkie function, so I paired the new Neo with the older model we trialled and set out for a trail ride with my partner. It doesn’t transmit by radio, rather it appears to make a recording of your soundbite and transmits it via Bluetooth to the other helmet. This means a limited range of less than 30m and there’s a short delay before it reached my ears. Now most of the time when you’re riding you can kind of hear your mate already, so the delay made things a bit harder to comprehend and there was no way you could have a normal conversation.
We were riding into a headwind and most of our attempts at communication came out as garbled rubbish. The microphones are supposed to be windproof, but a Wellington northerly easily overpowered them. To get our message across clearly, we had to slow down and ended up calling each other using our phones via the helmet speakers. It was much better, since there was no delay or range issues that pop up with Bluetooth, but wind noise still bugged us.
Is it worth buying a Neo helmet for the exclusive reason of walkie-talkie riding? Probably not, wind affects the microphone too much and the audio quality while riding just isn’t up to scratch. However, the other features more than justify the cost for me. Having extra lights on your noggin makes you more visible at night, and you need all the help you can get in that department as a cyclist. Being able to play music from your phone through the speakers built into the helmet really clinch it for me as a worthwhile purchase, though you need to be prepared to pull over while riding to take a call or you’ll be listening to or transmitting a lot of wind noise.
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This Livall BH51M Neo was loaned to the writer by Livall.