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A well-lit helmet and a trail of chalk

Commuter, Concept 14 598

Torch LED bicycle helmet by Nathan WillsI first noticed the Lazer Urbanize helmet, with integrated front and rear lights, at Interbike 2009, and it was one of the products that I really liked at the show.  For commuting and urban riding, I definitely think the idea of a helmet that not only illuminates the road ahead, but makes the wearer’s head more visible to motorists, is a good idea. The Torch T1 by Nathan Wills takes that idea a step further with wide wrap-around front and rear lenses that are backlit by arrays of LEDs. As the designer explains, this projection method is important as it disperses the light across the lens. This creates increased visibility and brighter light from wider viewing angles. The lenses also protect the LEDs from water, dust, and debris; as you see in the video.”  Currently Wills is using Kickstarter to develop and launch the product, so check the page for more information.

Chalktrails bicycle toyA completely different project on Kickstarter right now is the Chalktrail by Scott Baumann. When I first saw it, I joked on Twitter that I was going to ditch my GPS in favor of this low tech way of recording all of my rides. All kidding aside, it does look like an interesting toy idea, but not one without safety concerns. As the first commenter on a Core77 post  points out, kids will naturally want to look behind them to see the lines that they are creating. That distraction is not necessarily a good thing when they should be learning to pay attention to the road (or the sidewalk). Maybe this would be a fun toy for a tricycle or scooter on a driveway, but I don’t think I would want my kids to venture any farther than that with it. I would still love to try it myself though. I just wonder how many chalk sticks it would take to mark a 50 mile ride.

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  1. WV Cycling April 17, 2012 at 11:25 pm -  Reply

    James, I’m surprised there’s been no Domane acknowledgement. Is there a Trek embargo on BicycleDesign?

    • James Thomas April 18, 2012 at 11:17 am -  Reply

      No, there is not a Trek embargo on BicycleDesign. I was just busy when that bike was announced and didn’t get a chance to post about it promptly. After the initial announcement, I was hoping to get some additional info to share about the design of the bike, but it didn’t pan out. At this point, everyone has seen the officially released marketing material, so I just haven’t mentioned it.

      • WV Cycling April 18, 2012 at 2:49 pm -  Reply

        Acknowledged and understood~ 🙂

  2. Nick F April 18, 2012 at 6:20 pm -  Reply

    Love the helmet. I think it does a pretty good job of solving both the lighting and the “Dorky Helmet” problem of a bicycle by being so strange and new that it reads as something entirely different.

  3. Paul Wujek April 23, 2012 at 8:06 pm -  Reply

    No airflow through the helmet? That sucker is going to be hot.

    • Nick F April 23, 2012 at 8:09 pm -  Reply

      That was my first thought as well… but if you look closely, there are cutouts on the top and back.

    • Nathan Wills April 25, 2012 at 1:53 am -  Reply

      Hi Paul,

      we realize it’s not a road bike helmet, but most of the commuters we researched went for the skate style or similar helmets since they wanted a helmet to match their look and protect from weather. We will be considering larger and/or more air vents but so far the front and rear and top vents match most other commuter models and skate style models out there.

      Thanks for your input though, we are appreciative of all of the feedback we are receiving.

      Nathan Wills

  4. Todd Edelman, Slow Factory April 24, 2012 at 7:56 pm -  Reply

    Can we all just focus on bolted on, generator-powered lights? As we know these are installed on many bikes in Europe. I am really tired of all of this nonsense.

    • Nathan Wills April 25, 2012 at 10:10 pm -  Reply


      should we stop innovation simply because one option exists on the market? Do you enjoy new bicycle designs as they improve riding every year? Then perhaps the safety apparel that people often opt not to use because it is cumbersome, inconvenient or doesn’t fit their style should enjoy the same opportunities.

      • Nick F April 25, 2012 at 10:17 pm -  Reply

        All he really wants is for us darn kids to stay off of his lawn.

      • Todd Edelman, Slow Factory April 26, 2012 at 12:23 am -  Reply

        Nathan, I am simply being pragmatic, and I am focused on urban cycling.

        One problem with bike lights concerns forgetfulness: People forget to fix them when they are broken, and/or they forget to get new/recharge their batteries.

        Another problem is that many students and poor people get cheap bikes, and struggle in some places to fulfil local requirements. German law requires gen-powered lights on any bikes over 11kilos — Dutch law is more liberal and allows less powerful battery lights as long as they are not in blink mode. Most EU country laws are closer to the Dutch ones, but mostly in that battery-power is okay. (A tangent: Lots of municipalities in the EU give away free small LED lights at the start of spring… but this is impossible in Germany due to the gen-law. So since so many people will simply not consider getting lights which cost the same as their flea market bike, they go without lights. So the law makes people less safe! (at least that’s my theory).

        Please correct me if I am wrong in regards to Canada and most places in the USA, but illumination has to be based on the bike, not the rider, right? (Perhaps with the exception of foot or ankle reflectorized things instead of pedal reflectors for racing bikes….). So your helmet doesn’t even fulfil legal requirements.

        More than that, it is what I call “hyper-illumination” (or “lux narcissism”): Your helmet makes other cyclists dimmer by comparison, and this unfair since they might be legally illuminated. The eyes of drivers adjust to the user of your helmet, and anyone less lit suffers. And that’s just the acute effects. The chronic one is that by getting more lit up, you make drivers used to it, and to demand more of it.

        I have more about that last paragraph at this link but, to be certain, it’s just a theory I have and until it is proven by testing and research I will not demand that hyper-illumination should be forbidden. I will only advise against it.

        • Nathan Wills April 26, 2012 at 2:13 pm -  Reply


          those are some great points. I wasn’t aware Germany required generator power for lights. As for the issue of the light on the bike or the person, I have asked local authorities who casually replied that to them a light is a light (not all officers may be this nice however, so I will look into it more).

          As for the hyper-illumination, my opinion as a former automotive designer is that if car’s lights continue to get brighter and larger with each new model year, we as cyclists need to do our best to keep up. I have not increased the brightness or intensity of the lights in Torch, only the surface area that they light up.

          Thanks again for everyone’s comments, it is nice to hear from cyclists who understand the laws and theory of light and safety.


          • Nick F April 26, 2012 at 4:17 pm -  Reply

            And I think it’s safe to say that even if your lights are brighter, they aren’t going to blind or distract anyone the way a focused bike light would.

            Try as you might, it’s pretty tough to go blind staring at a strip of fluorescent office lights … But the wrong look at a raw LED or halogen can momentarily wreck your vision even indoors – despite the former outputting several hundred times more light. It’s an issue of luminous intensity vs luminous flux.

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