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I wrote about bone conduction technology last year, when I was given a pair of Trekz Titanium headphones to review. Now that same technology is available in a new Bluetooth helmet, called the Linx. Bone conduction headphones transmit sound through vibration in your upper cheek, leaving your ears free to hear what’s going on around you while you’re biking.
I met with the people behind the Linx at the Consumer Electronics Show in las Vegas last month, and they sent me a helmet to review. Just as a bike helmet, the Linx is great. It’s available in two sizes, and comes with pads to help you get a secure fit. It has a dial in the back to tighten or loosen the helmet around your head. It also comes with a Velcro pad to put around the chin strap, but I didn’t use it – the chin strap felt fine, and it would have been annoying to get it on and off each time. The helmet is aerodynamic and well ventilated. It’s everything you would expect from a really good bike helmet.
Now here’s where it differs from a regular helmet: On each side of the chin strap is a little bone-conducting speaker that sits in front of your ears, against your cheek. You “hear” the vibrations from these speakers through the bone structure of your head, instead of with your eardrums.
[bctt tweet=”This Bluetooth helmet sends sound through your cheekbones, so you can bike safely!” username=”AmyOztan”]
There’s also a microphone in the front of the helmet where it sits on your forehead, shielded from the wind.
In the back of the helmet there’s a little recessed area with a cover for charging the helmet and turning it on and off. It charges with a regular micro USB cable, which is included. Even with all of the tech inside of the helmet, you can still use it in the rain without a problem.
Here in NYC it’s illegal to use earbuds in both of your ears or cover both ears with headphones while biking (one is legal, just not two). Still, people do it all the time. I never did, though. I didn’t feel safe with even one ear blocked. A mom of three was killed in our neighborhood riding a scooter with headphones on – she had the right of way, but never heard the emergency vehicle that sped through the red light. So I never used to listen to music while biking, and would print directions out and check them at red lights. My Trekz headphones changed all that, and now the Linx Bluetooth helmet has made it even better.
I connected my phone to the helmet via bluetooth, and paired the helmet to the smart remote. This was all very easy. I added my husband as an emergency contact in the app, and if the helmet detects an impact he’ll get a text.
I was going to try out the app’s GPS features but couldn’t figure out how. I checked around on the Coros site, but couldn’t find anything about it. I’m not sure that part of the app is working yet. Based on screenshots it looks like someday it will track your ride and give directions. I opted to use Google Maps instead, which is what I’m used to using on my bike. I started navigation and music from my phone, then put my phone away in my bag.
Attaching the smart remote’s holder to my handlebars was easy, but it was harder to get the remote in and out of the holder without pressing the buttons accidentally. The more times I did it the better I got at it, but it does take some force. Operating the helmet with the remote was really great – much easier than trying to operate my Trekz while biking. The remote allows you to adjust the volume of the speakers, advance to the next track of whatever you’re listening to, and answer or hang up on a call. There’s another button for connecting to other people near you with a walkie-talkie feature, but it isn’t available yet.
As far as I can tell, there’s no way to make a call using just the remote and the helmet – you have to get your phone out for that. At a red light I called my husband, and then got back up to speed before telling him that I was on my bike. It was a very windy day and I was going fairly fast, but he said it sounded like a regular cell phone call. And he sounded very clear on my end.
The only time I had any real trouble was when I was behind a bus for a few blocks. The bus was really loud, and I could barely hear my music, even when I put the volume up all the way. If I’d been on a phone call or trying to hear directions it would have been impossible. I don’t know if it’s a limitation of the technology or just for safety reasons, but I wish the speakers could be louder.
Despite having the volume up all the way, I had no trouble hearing everything going on around me, from cars and other bikers approaching from behind to people talking on the sidewalk.
I barely used any battery on my 20-minute ride. According to the company you’ll get more than ten hours of use from one batter charge, but I haven’t tested that.
The price might be a stumbling block for some people, but I think it’s totally worth it considering what you get. The Linx sells for $199, which is exactly what I would have paid for my Nutcase helmet ($70) and Trekz Titanium headphones ($129) if purchased separately. Plus, the Linx helmet is more convenient for biking than a regular helmet and Trekz headphones separately, and the microphone in the Linx is designed to be used in wind.
I would definitely buy this Bluetooth helmet with my own money, and would recommend it to anyone who bikes. If you’re an avid biker who already uses headphones when you bike, buying a Linx is a no brainer. For anybody on the fence:
- Comfortable, good-looking helmet
- Easy to listen to music and directions
- Can still hear what’s going on around you
- Good call quality, even in wind
- Smart remote is easy to use
- More than ten hours of use on a charge
- Good price considering it’s a quality helmet and expensive headphones in one
- Emergency alert system with impact sensor
- Volume needs to be a bit louder
- Remote is difficult to get in and out of holder
- Not much documentation online yet
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