Coros Omni smart cycling helmet hands-on: Protection, music, and safety

It's not safe to use earbuds while you ride a bike in most areas. However, Coros has a new helmet with support for open ear music, smart rear lighting, and ride tracking.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

While wandering through the Showstoppers hall at CES in January, I stumbled across the Coros booth because I saw a bike helmet and GPS watch being displayed.

A couple of weeks ago, Coros sent me its Omni smart cycling helmet and I wore it while commuting on both my 1994 Bridgestone XO-3 and RadCity electric bike. It's an excellent helmet that provides the exact features I've been looking for in a more advanced helmet than my Giant model.

Bone conduction speakers

Since I spend the majority of my commute on trails with very little traffic, listening to podcasts and music is an option. However, I will not wear headphones while riding because I fear that drivers may run me over and I want to be aware of my surroundings. The Coros Omni helmet uses bone conduction technology through speakers in the vertical straps to provide an audio experience while keeping both ears free and clear to hear ambient sounds.

The speaker frequency response is 100HZ-20KHz with a volume of 85 plus/minus 3dB. I've adjusted the straps so the speakers rest against my face near the front of my ears and can definitely tell when they rest against my face or when I turn my head and the strap moves away from my head.

Music and podcasts play loud enough to enjoy and not miss a beat or a word, but are also not loud enough to distract me. I can completely hear the world around me and have no concern that they are reducing my level of awareness while riding.

The helmet connects to your phone via Bluetooth 4.1 and works just fine with iOS and Android devices. The helmet functions as any other Bluetooth speaker would so when you play audio content on your phone it comes through the speakers and plays on your helmet too.

You can also receive and make calls through the helmet. A microphone is positioned just inside the front of the helmet so that wind does not affect the audio and you can speak forward. My wife confirmed that calls sounded fine, just like most Bluetooth headsets.

Led tail lights

I have a tail light on my bike and also attach a blinking red LED to my cross-body bag. The Coros Omni includes two LED light bars, one on each side of the back with three RGB in each light bar.

You can turn the lights to on, off, and auto. In auto mode, the lights will turn on when it gets dark and off when it gets light. For safety reasons, I tend to turn them on most of the time. I feel that being well lit is a benefit for safety and like having lights up higher on my helmet.

At first I thought the lights could simulate turn signals, but since that wouldn't be a standard like we see on cars it may just confused drivers. When turned on, the lights blink slowly off and on to raise awareness of a bike rider ahead.

Coros Omni smart cycling helmet: in pictures

Remote control

In order to help you stay focused on the road ahead, Coros includes a small remote control with a CR2032 battery that you can mount on your handlebars. Rubber bands are provided to wrap around your handlebars and secure the remote in place.

The small remote has five buttons that are used to control audio volume, tail light on or off, prompt for real time ride data, play or pause music, pick up/hang up a call, refuse a call, and move to previous or next track. There is a walkie-talkie feature listed, but I cannot figure out what that is for since it is not described in the manual. I sent an email to Coros to ask about this functionality and will update this article if I get an answer.

Each button has icons to make it clear what its function is with the large center button in yellow that is used to play/pause audio and control calls. I primarily use the volume and center buttons.

Daily usage and experiences

The Coros Omni has a design that closely matches my current Giant helmet with a very open design for excellent air flow (18 vents) and a comfortable fit and finish. It weighs in at 340 grams, which is perfect for me and has no impact on wearability.

The Coros Omni helmet has a polycarbonate shell with EPS impact foam. It has hot-press lining and EVA padding. A removable visor is included as well. A bag to carry the helmet is also included in the package.

You can purchase the Omni helmet in red, white, black, and blue for $199 through its Indiegogo site. The folks who backed the project should have received their helmet about 10 days ago.

The helmet charges up via microUSB, hidden under a rubber port cover, and has a 700mAh battery with an advertised 8+ hour battery life. I've ridden my bikes for a few days and have yet to recharge the helmet with at least an hour each ride. A power button is positioned below the microUSB port to turn the helmet on and off.

The straps were very easy to adjust for the perfect fit and there is a very comfortable under the neck pad too. I was sent a large helmet to test out, which is designed for hat sizes from 7.25 to 7.75. It fits perfectly with a rear adjustment dial to make sure it's perfect. The medium size fits hat sizes 6.75 to 7.25.

The Coros Omni is currently safety certified in the US, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

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