For cyclists, there are few things you need along on your ride, and a comfortable and aerodynamic helmet is always on that list. It of course helps when it’s designed to protect your noggin, but being that is a given, there really isn’t a lot of innovation occurring in this space. Coros on the other hand is, quite literally, tackling this head on.
The Northern Virginia brand best known for their bone conduction audio that are attached to their cycling helmets is back at it again, and are announcing today, the Coros OMNI, both a new aerodynamic design (not fully aero) that not only include bone conduction technology, but also include LED strips in the back for visibility. Coros was kind enough to send a prototype our way so that we can give it a whirl; however, it will start shipping to Indiegogo backers in Q1 of 2018 after they achieve their $50k goal.
As a triathlete riding on the mean streets of Charleston, 2016’s worst cycling city, it’s a constant battle for your life between a lack of bike lanes, people purposely trying to run you off the road, and unaware motorists who don’t realize bikes belong on the road and not to skim past to overtaking them. That means you need visibility day or night, adding whatever you can to the mix, and the built in LEDs are a welcome addition to something you already wear.
In fact there is one guy that rides around Charleston that has placed tinfoil throughout his rims just so that it’s easier to spot him – although it’s entirely possible he is preventing aliens from transmitting waves into his brains, too. Either way, visibility and safety go hand-in-hand, and Coros is making a logical design choice with it.
Coros Omni Helmet First Look and Review
Setup and Installation
Setting up the Coros OMNI helmet is as easy as connecting to any other Bluetooth device. Depending on which OS you have, you pretty much just turn the helmet on, go into settings, and connect. The audio component works like any other wireless headphones would from there. However, Coros also has an app that gives you a bit more control over things, allows you to track your rides, and tweaking how the LEDs will kick in.
The app allows connects to the smart remote that can be installed on your handlebars, which means you technically won’t have to stop to change the song track or volume (you probably should though). The remote gets strapped to your handlebars through bands, and surprisingly even worked on my thick aero bars. In the box you’ll get the OMNI helmet, smart remote and mount, USB charging cable, helmet bag, snap fit visor, quick start guide, and warranty registration card.
Overall the setup process is painless and you’ll be ready to roll in minutes.
Cycling with the Coros OMNI
If you’re cycling, you’re wearing a helmet (or slightly crazy), especially when on a road bike. That in turn means you’re not introducing anything new into your routine when you slap the Coros OMNI on, but at the same time getting the value it’s designed for.
As someone who is directionally challenged, being able to figure out where I need to go usually consists of stopping, pulling out my phone, and figuring out how far back I missed my turn. With the OMNI, you have the bone conduction audio built right into the helmet, so you can easily use something like Google Maps to get you where you need to go.
For those that like audio feedback, the OMNI works great on this as well, and prevents you from having to break your concentration when trying to look at your GPS watch or cycling computer. You also gain the added benefits of having built in LEDs on the back and side of the helmet, which in turn adds some extra visibility to you while riding. After using both the LINX and OMNI, it’s easy to see the value add in both the bone conduction and LEDs, but if you don’t want to use either, you simply leave the helmet powered off.
Based on the few weeks we’ve played with the OMNI, we’ve found their 8 hour or so battery life to be on par, which is great for most cycling sessions. However, due to the inclusion of the LEDs, it looks like Coros is saying that the helmet will now get about two hours less battery than the LINX. As for the bone conduction transducers, you’re going to easily hear music, directions, and voice prompts; however, you’re not going to get the same quality you would from earbuds. However, you shouldn’t wear anything that blocks your ability to hear while on a bike, so the not dying part and being able to use GPS is just a small value add. The microphone is also built in and is set within the area your forehead presses against the helmet, so you do get some wind resistance, but it won’t sound amazing for the other person on your call.
OMNI also features the same smart remote, with the addition of a button to manage the LEDs, so that you can change tracks, volume, and hangup or take calls. Like the LINX, the OMNI includes a built in emergency feature. If you go down, the helmet will trigger a text with your GPS location to your set contact. At the time of review it did not look like this feature was fully enabled though, so we were not able to test it.
Overall, I continue to be impressed by Coros and their wearables. The new OMNI is both lightweight, is a no brainer to include the LEDs for visibility, and the bone conduction transducers give you audio prompts in a safe manner. I am a bit disappointed by the reduction in battery life though, and it will still be a challenge to hold much of a phone conversation while riding. However, if you’ve ever used a similar device, that is pretty much par for the course.
- Battery: Rechargeable Lithium; 8+ hrs play/talk time
- Speakers: Bone conduction transducers
- Speaker Frequency Response: 100Hz—20KHz
- Speaker Sensitivity: 85 ± 3dB
- Built in Mic: Wind resistant, top mounted
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1
- Weather Resistance: Rain, water, splash, sweat resistant (IPX5)
- Emergency Setting: Auto-texts contact with GPS location
- Integration: Strava, Apple HealthKit, MapMyRide
- Ports: Micro-USB
Design and Durability
The OMNI helmet features your standard aerodynamic design. With air 18 vents, two sizes, and only weighs 340 grams, the OMNI will ensure you don’t overheat. The newest design features come down to the LED strips that sit on the lower left and right sides of the helmet. Based on the positioning you can see the lights from the sides and back of the helmet. Like the LINX, the OMNI features two bone conduction audio outputs that are built into the chin straps. On each strap you can easily adjust them to rest comfortably along your jawline, which then allows the tech to properly feed into your head.
- Medium: 21.75-23.25in / 55-59cm, 6 ¾ – 7 ¼ hat
- Large: 23.25-24.75in / 59-63cm, 7 ¼ – 7 ¾ hat
- Colors: Matte Black, Matte Red, Matte White, Matte Blue/White
- Material: Polycarbonate shell with EPS impact foam
- Ventilation: Aerodynamic optimized, 18 vents
- Weight: Approx. 340 grams
- Certification: Consumer Product Safety Commission
- Warranty: Coros Impact Replacement Program
Overall the Coros OMNI is a comfortable fit, and the addition of the LEDs really make this a must-have item for road cyclists.
Pros and Cons
- New design with built in LEDs
- Great battery life
- Don’t expect high quality sound (but hey, you won’t die)
Should you buy the Coros OMNI helmet with bone conduction audio and the new built in LEDs? If you’re a cyclist this is a no brainer. You want to protect your head, you need to always consider visibility, and it includes the same technology that helps you prevent getting lost or board during your metric century attempts. I’d even recommend the upgrade for original Coros LINX users, especially since the price is not too shabby and the added safety feature is super helpful.
You can of course just get a tiny blinking LED for a couple of bucks, but I’ve found these to be a bit of a pain when you have a underseat gear bag and the visibility is lower due to the height or lack thereof. Either way, if you’re in the market for a new helmet, this will certainly do the trick. Lastly from a personal standpoint, the original Coros saved me from a concussion, and though I have not fortunately become a crash test dummy again, I believe they have a superior product with the certification to back it.
PS: Coros, if you could just add in a headlight that would be great for us triathlon cyclists with goofy aero bars.
Price: $99 (retails for $200)
Where to buy: Indiegogo
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