Extending the safety envelope: Lumos Ultra MIPS helmet review

At their most basic, cycling helmets help dissipate the energy of an impact that would have otherwise gone to our heads and brains in full. Us humans being who we are, we can’t leave well enough alone, and the past decade has seen us try to improve upon and extend the basic design in a number of ways, such as with the introduction of MIPS and improving ventilation and/or aerodynamics.

We’ve tried to get helmets to do things other than their main functions, too. I’ll be talking about one such helmet today: the Lumos Ultra.

While Lumos may not have the same brand cachet as, say, Giro, Bell, or Kask, the company has been around for quite a while. Their first helmet, which has evolved into its present guise as the Kickstart model, integrated LED lights front and rear into the expanded polystyrene (EPS) shell, and made the rounds among reviewers as far back as February 2017. That name is no accident; the Kickstart was successfully crowd-funded through popular site Kickstarter. At present, the company now offers five models, most of which have a decidedly “commuter” slant to them, but now their Ultra model is perhaps the closest they’ve gotten to addressing the road cycling crowd.


  • Size tested: M/L (54-60 cm with MIPS, 54-61 cm without)
  • Integrated front and rear COB LED lights
  • Turn signal capability via handlebar-mounted remote
  • Bluetooth 4.0 radio for connectivity to smartphones; compatible with Strava
  • Battery: 3.7V lithium polymer, 1100 mAh; 4-10 hours claimed run time depending on settings
  • Charging via USB Type C cable
  • Claimed weight 370 g; actual weight 414 g
  • Price: $115 without MIPS, $150 with MIPS


A nice throwback to Lumos’ early days – and a sobering reminder that very few crowdfunding campaigns see the finish line.

The Lumos Ultra helmet comes in packaging that will please the environmentally conscious among us. Underneath the front flap is a thick little envelope that contains the documentation, which is a neat way of doing it. One of the cards inside the envelope even has a QR code, which when scanned should lead you to an online version of the user guide. There is clearly more going on here than with a regular helmet, which should be expected considering it’s packing more tech.

USB Type C charging cable, handlebar remote, elastic mounting bands, and CR2032 battery

Apart from the helmet, the box contains an interesting mix of parts. Lumos throws in an optional bug net that attaches to the inside of the helmet via additional Velcro patches; except for Rudy Project, this is something nobody else does. Bundled is a very red USB Type C cable for charging, a huge step up from the proprietary charger of days past. Lastly, the sole white plastic baggie contains the handlebar remote, which you will need to use to trigger the turn-signal functionality. Lumos provides you with a CR2032 battery to power this thing, as well as an assortment of elastic bands for mounting.


That custom livery sure looks nice. To the right is the optional bug net.

This particular helmet was loaned to me by my buddy Brian Sy, and he had his done in this custom “Laban Pilipinas!” colorway reminiscent of the Philippine flag. This was a perk offered for early backers of the Ultra during its crowd-funding phase. It’s really well done, and the Ultra’s design lends itself well to this sort of customization.

The Ultra helmet itself reminds me quite a bit of the MET Manta, which foregoes some ventilation compared to its Rivale sibling in the name of better aerodynamics. Here, the closed-off central portion of the shell is ostensibly a concession to make room for the front-firing white LED emitter and some of its embedded circuitry.

More stuff happens out back. The rear center pod, similar to the Giro Aspect helmet of yore, houses much of the Ultra’s special sauce: the lithium polymer battery, the USB Type C charging port under a rubber flap, the on/off/mode switch, even a Bluetooth radio for communicating with your smartphone via an app. Like most other helmets, cinching up the fit is done via a ratcheted dial on the retention mechanism, and this worked pretty well. On either side of the dial are small rectangular reflective stickers in white.

Animated GIF courtesy of Brian Sy.

Lumos has to be commended: the Ultra as a package is remarkably sleek, discreet, and seamless. Had you not looked closely, you likely would have thought this to be a normal, albeit attractive road cycling helmet. From this aspect alone, I’d say Lumos has already succeeded with the design brief for the Ultra.


At a measured 414 g on my scale, weight weenies will scoff, but it’s a decent weight considering the electronics and MIPS liner. More importantly, its weight is spread out well across the head, with very little of the pendulum effect that would have otherwise prematurely fatigued road cyclist neck muscles.

The retention mechanism does a good job of hiding the MIPS slip-plane liner, and it doesn’t seem to compromise the ventilation of the shell too much. One thing it does lack is vertical adjustment. At 56 cm head circumference, I usually wear “medium” helmets, and this fit me well with no hot spots or pinching.

That charging port cover does well against water splash ingress.

Charging the helmet until its rear status LED glowed green, I dove right into riding with the Lumos Ultra without reading its owner’s manual. I just peeked at how to fire up the lighting system, which is done by a quick press of the rear button from an “off” state. From there, tapping the rear button cycles through the three modes – a quick three-pulse flash, a steady one-second flash, and a steady glow mode. A long press turns the lighting system off.

As far as one-button controls go, this is pretty intuitive.

The foot of the handlebar-mounted remote doubles as the lid of the battery compartment.

Interesting things happen when you play around with the handlebar-mounted remote and attempt a turn signal.

Activating the turn signal with either button overrides the helmet’s current light mode and forces it to go into the steady glow mode. Pressing the “L” button triggers an audible, regular single beep, and makes the left rear bank of LEDs flash amber yellow while the right bank remains a steady red. This doesn’t stop until you manually press the “L” button again, or automatically after ten or so beeps. Pressing the “R” button does the same thing, but in reverse, and with double beeps. An orange indicator LED also lights up on the remote as visual confirmation that there is an active turn signal.

I found this system pleasant to use, with great audio and tactile feedback, even though the handlebar-mounted remote is a more natural fit for flat handlebars. Those beeps are clearly audible on the saddle in most situations, but they’re drowned out by loud motorcycle exhausts.

However, I think the Lumos Ultra’s LED array isn’t going to cut it as your only set of lights. It, and the other Lumos helmets, are best used in combination with your other lights to beef up your “to be seen with” lighting. This is especially true if you ride with daytime lights. While Lumos doesn’t claim a specific light output figure in lumens, the front LED array simply isn’t bright enough as a light “to see with,” nor does it have enough in the optics department to provide a focused, long-throw beam, and none of the modes actually raises the emitted light output.

I still maintain that your front light should output a minimum of 600 lumens to be truly usable. However, the Ultra does put additional light at head/eye level, improving your visual “verticality” and increasing the odds of you being identified as a human being. And any improvement in that area counts.

One other point of contention is comfort and ventilation, which I’ve already mentioned in passing. The Ultra simply isn’t going to be the airiest helmet around, although given its tech loadout, it’s commendable that its cooling performance is roughly equivalent to the Lazer Blade MIPS, if not marginally better. A one-hour late afternoon ride at 32 degrees Celsius heat will yield sweat, which the brow pad is a little lacking to fully address without getting saturated. That said, it’s airy enough at speed and it was easy to forget about wearing the Ultra on my head, which is a good thing.

Finally, there are additional functionalities which make themselves available if you get the confusingly named Lumos Remote. With that, the Ultra should gain the ability to act as a brake light array. While it’s a nice extension of present functionality, I’ll reserve comment on that as I wasn’t able to test it properly.


Adding lights to a cycling helmet, to me, is a sensible innovation and one that extends the basic safety remit. It’s great to see Lumos sticking to their guns with their core philosophy, and resisting the temptation to introduce frills such as onboard audio and calls via Bluetooth. Functionality like that sounds pretty darn stupid to me, and can detract from the hyper-awareness needed to ride a bicycle safely in environs that aren’t cyclist-friendly. (And yes, I’m talking about Metro Manila still; despite the much-ballyhooed 340 km “network” of bicycle lanes, I think most of them are still pretty pathetic excuses of their purpose. But I digress.)

One thing I see that Lumos can improve on is the handlebar remote for the turn signals, which is really a flat-handlebar item in current form. On a drop-handlebar road bike, the current unit is only really operable with your hands on the tops, close to the stem, where most folks don’t really have access to shifting or braking. I feel that a supplementary remote for drop handlebars that can go on both left and right control lever hoods would make the turn signal activation much better.

The Ultra feels like a natural refinement of Lumos’ basic concept, but aimed squarely towards road cyclists. Sure, it can be refined further in future, but for the $150 price Lumos is asking for a MIPS-equipped unit now, it’s quite hard to fault and it’s a reasonably good deal. A similar amount of money can get you, say, a Giro Syntax – and while it’s lighter, it doesn’t have the LED lighting tech that this does, and there are helmets out there that are vastly more expensive than this, but don’t deliver the same value proposition.

For me, the Lumos Ultra helmet itself is very good, and deserves to find a home with cyclists who understand and fit with its designed use case.

Giro Syntax MIPS helmet: In-depth look and review

After an early look at the Giro Syntax MIPS helmet, today I’m going to go more in-depth and give my final thoughts on it. As mentioned before, this thing benefits from the MIPS safety technology becoming increasingly more refined in its implementation over the four years since the earliest MIPS helmets were released.

I really dig this “midnight blue” colorway. Unfortunately there wasn’t any in stock.


  • Ventilation via 25 vents and internal channeling
  • Roc Loc 5 Air MIPS retention mechanism
  • In-mold construction
  • Weight: 290 g for a size Medium (55-59 cm head circumference)


A notable complaint I had with the Lazer Blade MIPS helmet, one such early implementation of the technology, was its relatively poor ventilation. It didn’t suffer from lack of venting, but helmet makers at the time just didn’t figure out how to most efficiently integrate this new MIPS slip liner. In 2015, helmets were essentially just retrofitting MIPS into old designs. On the Blade MIPS, while the liner didn’t block any external vents per se, it had covered up the otherwise well-designed air channeling cut into the inside of its EPS foam, negating much of that benefit and leading to many a sweaty head.

Giro had committed to making all its helmets MIPS-equipped as of 2016. Consequently, it had to thoroughly rethink how its helmets were designed and made, so that MIPS has minimal penalties to comfort. On the Syntax, they did this by smartly making the Roc Loc 5 Air retention mechanism act as the MIPS slip liner as well. Compared to the slip liner on the Blade, the Syntax has far less material and surface area, and is therefore better designed for airflow. MIPS is integral to this helmet, not tacked on after the fact.

This pays off while riding. I barely felt any heat buildup or sweat saturation on the Syntax’s pads after an hour’s ride in the late afternoon. While 290 g doesn’t make for a featherweight helmet, what weight it has is well distributed. This lid didn’t feel burdensome or noticeable at all; I just carried on with the business of riding.

While we’re on the underside of the helmet, Giro exploits a trick many premium helmets have: the polycarbonate shell coats almost all of the bottom edge of the Syntax. Neat. Cheaper helmets leave this in bare EPS foam.

The Roc Loc 5 Air MIPS retention system uses a ratcheting dial to tighten or loosen the internal cradle of the helmet…which is par for the course these days. It can also be adjusted up or down in three positions. I find it works as you’d expect, and I like that it offers a touch more rear coverage than many helmets intended for road cycling use.

The rest of the Syntax is fairly inoffensive. It fits my head well. Mine was the “Asian fit” version; any differences that it has compared to the “normal” version, I can’t say for sure unless I do a like-for-like comparison and break out the tape measure. Strap adjustments are easy and straightforward, and their material is nice, although nothing to write home about. My sweaty fingers did slip on the buckle while trying to undo it, though.

Photo taken with flash.

One of the things I’m not too hot about is the relative lack of reflective trinkets on the Syntax. Apart from a couple loops on the occipital cradle of the Roc Loc 5 Air MIPS system, I haven’t spotted any. Whatever reflective is there is also partially obscured, which is a shame.

Apparently, this helmet is approved by the Japan Cycling Federation.


Giro has done well here, injecting many cool features found in more expensive brain buckets for a fraction of what those cost. It’s hard not to recommend the Syntax given what you’re getting. Yet, as great as the Syntax is…the PhP6,200 retail price is still a bit hard to swallow.

Then again, the price range on many cycling helmets has also started rising to unheard-of levels overall, so there’s that price of progress, perhaps. If you look at the Syntax as a premium helmet that just happens to be an attainable option, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Giro Syntax MIPS helmet: first look

Four years ago, word went around about a new safety technology for bicycle helmets that could potentially reduce the dangerous shearing forces of a crash on a cyclist’s brain. This technology was MIPS, and helmets that had it were just beginning to take hold.

Early MIPS helmets were better rated for safety in laboratory testing than those without. As effective as they were, they did not come without downsides. I reviewed the Lazer Blade MIPS four years ago. While it was a comfortable fit, the MIPS slip-plane liner was obviously a late addition to the helmet, and it came at the cost of ventilation. Put another way, the Blade was not designed at the outset to accommodate the MIPS liner and be a good helmet at the same time.

Since then…how have helmets changed? Curious, I turned to Giro this time around, which is a brand notable for going all-in with the MIPS technology. If investigating the concurrent development of cycling helmets and MIPS is the name of the game, I can think of few better brands.

We’re looking at the Syntax model.

Giro’s helmet packaging is simple but slick.

While Giro is famous for high-zoot helmets such as the Air Attack and Synthe, which each cost a pretty penny on their own, the company decided to bring those helmets’ technologies to a more affordable, more attainable price point with the Syntax. In hard peso terms, we’re looking at PhP15,000 for a Synthe MIPS, compared to PhP6,200 for a Syntax MIPS. Definitely premium pricing still, but more than half as onerous.

So what does a cut-price Giro helmet get you? Stay tuned for a more in-depth look and my thoughts on the helmet in use.