Livall BH51M Neo Smart Helmet
In New Zealand and Australia we are compelled to wear a helmet and most of us will have a few for different purposes, so let’s not pretend that a helmet has to be fit for all purposes. This Livall BH51M Neo is an urban commuter helmet. It’s a dome style with a nifty little peak that will stop drops of water running down the front. Livall also make the BH60 that I reviewed three years ago which is better suited to drop-bar riding. It is no lightweight but that isn’t an issue for upright-style riding – and the BH60 is there for the go-faster-must-be-lighter set.
Compared to the earlier BH60 Livall has improved the brightness of the lights markedly, so the indicators are now very useable. There is a further indicator light at the front that isn’t as bright. Other features include a periodic flash of the lights while riding along. In my testing it seemed to act as a vehicle repellent, which is really what you want it for.
Then there is it’s great differentiator, the ‘smart’ features. It has speakers and a microphone built in so that you can take phone calls hands free or listen to music streamed via Bluetooth on your phone. The speakers are quite ‘tinny’ so listening to music isn’t particularly joyful, but you do retain all your auditory faculties compared to headphones. Remember, keeping you safe is the helmet’s job. It isn’t practical to make a call from the helmet as there isn’t a Hey Siri or OK Google assistant, but receiving a call is easy with a press of the red button.
I found that the indicators had their desired effect. There is an audio beep that lets you know they are on which is inaudible when moving at speed or in a strong breeze. I wish I could adjust the volume as the speakers are capable enough. I also found the handlebar remote a bit fiddly – while it is nicely engineered, there is too much going on there. I preferred the minimalist approach that Lumos took with theirs (with remote buttons so you don’t even need to move your hands). Where is was useful is for those going-around-corner situations where you don’t want to take a hand off the bar to signal.
The helmet is comfortable (unless you have a large occipital bump in which case this style isn’t for you). The one I had is 57-62cm which is L, and probably a bit large for my 56cm noggin. It is easily adjustable though and still fitted snugly, although a bit too low on my medium brow.
My comments about the BH60 (frustratingly) remain – the app contains too many extraneous features as does the remote, and I’m still trying to find why I’d want to talk through my helmet. The battery seemed to last about an hour (two commutes for me) at which time it started to constantly nag me through the speakers. Not sure what it was expecting me to do about it while I’m riding. There is also a dedicated button on the remote for taking a picture. Not sure how useful this is. Even if your camera/phone was on a handlebar mount, you are only ever going to get a picture of your front wheel and the road. I don’t value that, thanks.
Overall, this is a useful helmet that needs a lot of editing to make the good bits great and the not-so-good bits gone. I’d love to them to add cameras front and rear in the style of Cycliq Fly cameras. That would be useful, and since you are charging one device at the end of the day, you may as well manage them all together.