COROS LINX Smart Cycling Helmet
Review by Coy Starnes
I ride for my health and because I enjoy it. It is also a great way to escape the daily grind of my job and other adult responsibilities along with dealing with email and other modern “technology and or entertainment”. Having said that, I do use some of the modern technology afforded by my smart phone, mainly tracking my rides with an app but also being able to get in touch with someone if I get into trouble and receive calls from others. This usually means I have to stop and pull off the road. Enter the COROS LINX Smart Cycling Helmet, which is designed to integrate several of the features I have come to depend on as well as others I haven’t really considered. Besides the phone call receiving feature it will allow me to listen to music, hear turn by turn navigation and communicate with other cyclist who have the same helmet, all without earbuds, which basically block out surrounding sounds like cars approaching from the rear or other riders relaying important ride information. The helmet is paired to an ISO or Android phone by Bluetooth which basically lets the helmet function much like the hands free phone system built into most modern vehicles. I say hands free, but to answer a call I must press the center button on the Smart Remote which is mounted within easy reach and can be operated without removing my hands from the handle bars. To listen to music I can start it before hopping on the bike but I can also start and stop it while riding by pressing the same center button on the remote that I use to answer calls.
The other part of the system is the free bike app which uses the GPS capability built into a smart phone. For the record, I’m using an iPhone 6+. I just went to the Apps store and did a search on Coros Helmet. It was the only choice that came up. Downloading was just like any other App. The ride app is not much different than what I was already using and I have already verified that it keeps up with my average speed, top speed and distance very accurately. It showed less than a tenth of a mile difference over a couple of 10 to 15 mile courses I ride regularly. My other app will change a little from ride to ride. My average speed was almost identical and it too changes from ride to ride. My fastest speed varies depending on the wind but was right there with what I had previously recorded. It also post the average speed including stopped time in big bold letters while the moving average is much smaller (see photo below).
However, I am noticing a huge discrepancy in the altitude rise and decline. Edited to add, it has since been fixed but when I wrote this it was a problem. They should be close to even at the end of a ride that starts and ends at the same location (altitude). However, it is not predictable which will be the most. And by drastic, I do a short ride fairly regularly and the altitude gain on this 11 mile ride is usually around 500 ft. On my Coros app it showed I gained 6030 ft and lost 8110 ft. So not only are the totals way high, the difference in loss is over 2000 ft more than what I gained. This may not be important if you ride in a relatively flat area or are not interested in knowing this type information but many riders do keep up with stats like altitude gained, some for bragging purposes and others as a training aid. I personally like to look at a route and see how much elevation is gained over how many miles to judge whether I am capable of finishing the route. On a side note, the altitude max and min are good. For example, on this ride it varied between 1063 ft and 1253 ft. Yes, I live in a hilly area.
Since the mapping app works pretty much like what I’m already using, the real reason for using a helmet like the Coros goes back to being able to safely listen to music or answer calls. To preface, I normally ride in rural areas and ride solo or with a very small group of riders. I have also ridden without a helmet. I use a mirror to see traffic but there are times when a car approaching from behind will surprise me and I hear it before seeing it in my mirror. I don’t want anything that will take away that ability. The Coros uses bone conduction speakers so there is nothing over my ear to block out the sounds of my surroundings. I checked to see if I could still hear a car approaching from behind and really don’t think there was any difference than with the music off. And even with the music all the way up I don’t think it made more than a few feet difference in when I first heard the car. So that’s great!
I also asked my wife to call me while I was riding. The music stopped playing as I heard the call coming in. I pressed the center button on the remote to answer. I was peddling along at about 12 MPH and was able to hear her just fine. She said she could easily hear me but it was a little noisy. I was riding my ElliptiGo which makes more noise than a regular bike. A few days later I was on my regular bike and had her call me again. This time I was on a downhill section and going about 25 MPH and she was still able to hear me just fine, noting that she could hear a little wind noise. I did have to listen closely and have her repeat a few things but I was still able to take the call. I soon started up an incline and it was back to very clear hearing on my part.
I should also note that the music sounded great up to around 20 MPH but I did notice it was not quite as good when I was going faster than that. The music is not real loud either, even when turned all the way up, I’m sure the reason is so that I won’t be tempted to crank it up so loud that it would interfere with being able to hear my surroundings. I do like to listen to classic rock pretty loud but I would compare this to normal TV listening volume. Speaking of classic rock, I have this set on Pandora and used it for my music on a couple of rides. I also used my music from my phone which so far is limited to an ELO greatest hits album and some U2 music Apple apparently put on my phone. The helmet seems to play my downloaded music by default but if I stop listing to Pandora it will come back to the same channel I listened to last. It goes to my stored music if I have turned the phone completely off.
The smart remote is pretty simple to mount. It comes with a rubber piece that goes between the bar and the cradle and has a + like pattern that faces the cradle part of the remote. The other side is slightly curved to match the shape of the bar. There were 4 rubber bands, 2 small and 2 large to accommodate different sizes bars or even the top tube if preferred. Just be sure to use 2 rubber bands of the same size…. The rubber bands fit in little groves on the cradle and pass under the bar and connect in identical groves on the opposite corner on the other side. The cradle is slightly oblong and can be mounted horizontally (same direction) or vertically (across) on the bar. The remote itself then snaps into the cradle. I used the larger bands so mine is not super tight on the bar but it is very secure and I can mash the buttons without it moving. I do this so that I can swap the cradle from one bike to another. HINT…offer extra cradles so that I can swap the remote from bike to bike more easily.
I’m not all that tech savvy so I think it worth mentioning that I was able to get the remote, my helmet and my phone all synced and working correctly in just a few minutes and without really even reading the directions. For that same reason I’m not going to dig into the technical aspects of what makes this thing work, but I will touch on a few key stats I feel are important. The range of the Bluetooth is stated as 10 meters (30 feet). I found out I could walk about 150 steps or about 450 ft before I started hearing static and 170 steps (about 510 ft) before completely losing the signal. I then turned around and walked back towards my phone and almost immediately heard the music again. I did walk into a building about 200 ft from my phone and lost the connection but got it back as soon as I walked back outside. So I’m here to say, the 30 ft is way lower than what I found. The fully charged helmet is suppose to last about 10 hours. I’m finding that is about right since I’ve ridden about 4.5 hours, listening to music the whole time and with a few short phone calls and it is at about 60%. The app shows helmet charge percent as long as they are paired. The charge time for the helmet is listed at 1.5 hours but that will depend on the charger I use. The helmet comes with a micro-USB cord but no wall adapter. No biggie since I own several wall/USB chargers. I plan to use my iPhone or iPad wall adapter but the iPad charger will charge about twice as fast as the iPhone charger charges…if a wood chuck would chuck wood…
Just a few more random observations. I see no way to make a call using the remote. I tried holding down the call answer button similar to how I would use Seri but all that does is start and stop my music. The helmet bag has long strings connected to the lower side. I wondered why, then it occurred to me that it might be for carrying the helmet like a backpack. Which is kinda pointless to me because if I have my helmet with me I’m going to wear it. Then I remembered that not everyone rides in rural areas and might want to stop and go into a store or something. I could see needing to take an expensive helmet inside.
The ride app lets me view my map as a regular road map or with an aerial view. I normally just use the road map view but knowing the terrain can be useful, say I was off road and lost and needed to know where I was in relation to the edge of the woods and any nearby houses or roads.
The ride app keeps track of the top 10 riders. I’m not sure if this is reset occasionally at headquarters or if a few riders deleted their accounts because when I first noticed it (after my 2nd ride) I was in 5th place. The top rider (a Chinese) had 347 miles. I quickly moved to 2nd place without even riding when the Chinese guy and second place rider (Paul) both disappeared. After two more rides I passed the new number 1 guy (KenP). So for now, with only 45 miles to my credit…I’m king! Also notice that I added an Avatar to my name (Coyboy)
The helmet is waterproof. The directions for care say to clean it with mild soapy water. The instructions also say that no attachments should be made to the helmet except those recommended by the manufacturer. However, I don’t see a list, so, can I mount a camera like a GoPro, or even a mirror.
I can use different voice feedback and or notifications. Right now I’m using time and distance plus the speed. However I will turn off speed if I cant figure out what it means. I think it may be the max speed over the past mile but it sure isn’t current or average speed. It said I hit 38 MPH once even though my max speed on that ride was recorded as 31 MPH. I have the latest update but this seems like something a software update might fix.
The online sizing guide seems pretty accurate. I measure my head a 22.75 inches which is just under the 23 inch maximum listed for a medium. I chose a medium, and while it fits great, it probably won’t work with a boggin (watch cap or scull cap) under it. The helmet is only available through kickstarter right now.
The last think I’ll mention is that the helmet will notify someone (you specify the person/number) via text message if the helmet detects a crash. It is supposed to also send out a GPS coordinate of the crash location. This is kinda scary because I assigned my wife as the notification contact. She got a conformation email acknowledging it within a minute of me setting it up. However, if I crash but am not hurt she might still panic until I can notify her that I’m OK. Then she will probably fuss for months to come for worrying her if it is not serious. And besides, I try to keep any crashes a secret. The first thing I do is look around to see if anyone was a witness. But all kidding aside, I think this is a great safety feature, just one I hope I never use.
Update: December 5, 2016
I used the Coros LINX helmet a lot during October, mostly while riding my Elliptogo. In fact, I rode most of my 112 mile total over a 3 week period in October. In November we had a couple of weeks when riding was almost impossible due to smoke from all the southeastern forest fires. Starting the last week of November and into December we finally got some much needed rain so I ended up riding much less. Now the temperature is dropping big time so I’ll ride even less but I really need to get back to riding to drop the weight I gained over Thanksgiving.
The helmet has worked wonderfully, both as a way to safely answer incoming calls and for listening to music. I still wish I could push a button on the remote and use it as a call out device, either as voice activated or maybe only a few numbers available using the buttons in certain patterns. As it stands, I still need to stop to call out but can still use the helmet once the call is made. In other words, if I want to continue riding I can once the call is made, while the phone is back in my pocket or wherever I need to keep it. The volume is still an issue for me, especially at higher speeds. I can hear better on my bike because it is quieter in general than the Elliptigo. However, to be fair, my hearing is probably not the best. I can hear normal conversations OK but if I had a dime for ever time my wife has walked into a room when I’m listing to the radio or watching TV and asked me if I was deaf I’d be able to retire.
The phone app has improved tremendously since I first used it. I’ve updated it each time an update has appeared which was three times IIRC. After the first update I really didn’t notice any difference. After the next update I noticed the altitude gain and loss was pretty accurate. For example, on this 7 mile ride (see photo) it showed a gain of 324 ft and a loss of 308 ft. Or put another way, the data appears to be accurate compared the same ride using other tracking devices. The 16 ft differences is also very close, it should be 0 but I’ve never seen it match exactly with any of my other ride apps. I also like the new graph that overlays elevation and speed but it appears the speed aspect needs some tweaking. I also disabled the speed announcement at each mile completed because I still haven’t figured out what speed it is giving. It’s not the average and my best guess it that it’s the max speed during the last mile completed but it is not very accurate. I know I’ve been well over 20 mph near the middle of a mile and it would say something like 12 mph, then the next update would give a good max speed reading.
My last update came today 12/5/2016. I was glad to see one improvement made was the ability to share rides on social media. It is raining so I haven’t tried it yet but hope to soon. I still haven’t figured out exactly what happens with my ride history. All my rides from previous months are missing so apparently it removes them at the end of each month. I do have one ride I saved but none of the data is available. I see I can start that ride and I think it would give me turn by turn directions. I plan to find out ASAP. When I look at my ranking the total is still correct. However, I keep seeing different riders each month. I’m wondering if it finds riders with similar distances and compares them. All I know is I’m smoking Porkchop (JK).
Thats all for now. Stay tuned for my final update which should be around mid January.
Final Update: March 14, 2017
I was hoping to have a lot more miles under my belt (0r lid) before submitting my final update but alas, I discovered I am a fair weather rider. I did not ride any in December and since then I’ve only managed 6 rides. However, I continue to be impressed with the Coros Linx smart cycling helmet. The app is much improved since I first started using it, especially the altitude function. All my recent rides were the same 6.5 mile neighborhood loop that I start with each spring to get in shape. In looking at the ride data they all recorded almost identical elevation gains and losses.
I thought the music function would be the feature I valued the most but it turns out I only listened to music occasionally. The feature I really appreciate is the phone answering one. I used it on nearly every ride. In the past I would stop for a break to see who called and call them back but with the the jawbone ear pieces and the built in mic I could easily answer calls on the go. The only time I couldn’t talk was when I was speeding down a hill or out of breath on a hard climb.
I know I mentioned not being able to call out in my previous update but honestly, I can’t remember a time that I needed to make a call while out riding. And I actually prefer not to be on the phone at all, it was just nice to be able to answer calls as they happened. For one,my daughter claims she worries when I don’t answer my phone immediately. I though this was only a parent problem…
I have really enjoyed using the Coros Linx smart cycling helmet. I liked being able to listen to music when I was in the mood and being able to take calls on the fly was really convenient. The app function improved with each update and is now on par with any other free biking app that a casual rider like me would need. I would like to thank Coros and 4alloutdoors for this testing opportunity!