13

Do you think the mounted camera and light on the helmet is safe?

Helmet 1 Helmet 2

4
  • 11
    Don’t use a helmet mounted light or headlamp on public roads. Period. Unless it’s really low power and just there to be seen.
    – Michael
    Aug 23 at 5:52
  • 5
    Regardless of the safety, the camera placed farther forward than the light obstructs its flow. It will create a large shadow "black spot" to the left, moving together with head and quite distracting, effectively preventing the light to be of any use. That is, unless the camera and the light are never used together at the same time. But in this case, it'd be more practical to make them use the same centrally placed mount. Aug 23 at 6:43
  • 3
    You need to tell us a lot more about what you did (screws, adhesives, etc) and what you'll be using the helmet for (roads, downhills, BMX, ...). Aug 23 at 9:38
  • 1
    The potential is there for increase neck injuries in a serious crash if those are not able to tear away. where the helmet would normally slide, it will now catch and rotate which can be bad for your neck.
    – Nate W
    Aug 25 at 20:46
13

If we check the helmet's documentation, there's guaranteed to be some legalese text in there similar to:

modifications to the helmet will void warranty, and may decrease the effectiveness of the helmet. Do not modify your helmet.

Or words to that effect. A helmet has three main components

  • A foam inner, to absorb impact and "lengthen" a collision, to decrease the peak G forces applied to the wearer.
  • A strap/retention system to hold the helmet on.
  • A smooth outer shell to protect the somewhat vulnerable foam inner, and to prevent the foam from shredding/splitting on impact.

When you attach things to the helmet, they could interfere with that last function. Hypothetically your camera, light, or visor could "snag" on the road surface during an accident, and apply a torque to your neck.
Additionally, an impact directly onto those items could act like a nail punch focusing an impact on a spike and not spreading that impact over a wider area. This is reputed to be what exacerbated Michael Schumacher's skiing incident, when a gopro mount impacted a rock, effectively acting like a pickaxe.

Specific to your setup:

  • The visor is a factory part, and is flimsy. So any impact it will simply bend and shatter. At worse you'll get chunks of plastic around.
  • Your light appears to be in a Y shaped yoke, which should allow the light to fall off under impact. Downside here is the yoke itself is a spike aimed at your skull.
  • The camera looks to be firmly attached with double-sided foam tape, and some kind of rotating lockring. I could be wrong, but there's no weak breakaway point visible. Plus it is relatively forward on the helmet.

Imagine you've had a fall, or recall any significant falls you've had in the past. I find they fall into ~4 main sorts

  • Minor ones where your head never touches the ground - helmet irrelevant.
  • Sideways - a washout, pedal strike or similar has caused you to go down sideways. Your shoulder hits the ground, and potentially the side of your helmet hits the ground.
  • Superman - You've done an endo or an OTB and you're hitting the ground like a landing airplane. Your hands instinctively go down to break your fall, but your chest and face are going to take a hit. Along with your forehead of your helmet. This is why helmets should cover some of the forehead.
  • Really bad events. For you to hit the top or rear of your helmet on the ground, something's gone quite wrong. These would be the least common places to hit a helmet, and probably the most damaging overall.

I can imagine the camera/light catching passing branches, so occasionally they might cause a problem too.

Upshot - by putting things on the outside of a helmet, you risk impairing the sliding function.


Personally - I've tried a gopro in the same spot and it had the best view along with good targetting, but the weight was unpleasant and caused a surprising amount of neck fatigue. It was also nauseating to watch this footage.
A MTB ride seems to work well using a chest harness, or if you wear a backpack then there are mounts that go on the shoulder strap.
For road usage I use mine mostly on top of the stem (allows me to steer it when stopped) or on one bike it lives in front of the head tube. The low height is not ideal, but it is workable.

I've done a lot of testing with lights.

  • Used one battery pack that hung below the foam, very near the head. Great for brightness, but a side fall could have crushed that into my head.
  • A normal rear light that was secured to the straps at the back - same issue. But being high up was much more visible from a distance. Swelling battery killed that one.

Now I use a manufacturer's accessory rear light that fits inside a rear vent it is not as bright which is disappointing. I also use a top light similar in shape to yours, but its mounted in a lower-profile fitting and centered further aft on the head.
I've weighed the benefit of a bright needle light under my direct control, vs the risk as discussed above, and chosen the light. You can assess the risks and benefits yourself and make your own decisions.

9
  • 7
    There is a good reason to limit the maximum brightness of lights that may be used on public roads. It is no help if someone can see you but they can't see anything else because they are dazzled.
    – alephzero
    Aug 22 at 15:23
  • 3
    @alephzero absolutely, but that's not really related to the safety of the helmet when it has things strapped to the outside. I've explained my pointy-head-torch before, but in short it only aims at the road during normal posture.
    – Criggie
    Aug 22 at 20:45
  • 2
    @leftaroundabout in 2013 a French journalist said that the camera mounting on the helmet caused the helmet to not work as designed. By 2018 there's been lots of legalese weaselling and at that point unofficialnetworks.com/2018/10/09/… So five years later, Gopro's lawyers still haven't squashed the suggested implication. That's why I didn't say "camera caused brain injury" but its clearly related. OP can make their own risk assessment, the main point of the answer was the helmet maker's wordage about mods
    – Criggie
    Aug 22 at 22:14
  • 2
    Well, the helmet manufacturer of course wants to be on the safe side. Many modifications one could think of certainly would compromise the safety. And perhaps a camera mount does pose a risk as well – but a single anecdote with no official confirmation, moreover one involving an international celebrity (such that journalists are sure to jump on any opportunity to flesh out a story) really isn't the kind of evidence I would go by. There are so many cyclists using head cams in the last years, that if it really increases risk significantly I'd expect there would be statistics available on it. Aug 22 at 23:40
  • 2
    @leftaroundabout concur - humans are not good at low probability/high risk events. Game theory, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extreme_risk etc. You might like to post your own answer, or post a separate question.
    – Criggie
    Aug 23 at 2:20
9

Safety is not an absolute. The transition from Safe to Unsafe does not happen immediately. The state of the helmet is probably considered not safe, compromised, but not unsafe. Much will depend on the fitting strength - are those attachments going to break away quickly with little additional force on your neck or will they hang on until well after your neck is broken?

Also the use of the helmet is important - if it's an art piece never to be worn (I presume not) then it's not unsafe. If you're planning to commute with that helmet, compared to riding XXX downhills, where does that leave us? Are you an experienced rider and martial artist (with skills in falling), or a novice rider?

I don't think there would be much dispute without fittings on the helmet, it is safer than with those fittings. But it could be argued that without the light, you cannot see where you are going, so the light makes you less likely to fall, making the helmet less safe, but riding safer.

Personally, I think essentials like lights to see where you are going (thinking MTB night riding in the forest, not urban commute in well lit street) are a compromise that improves overall safety. I believe non-essential attachments, such as cameras, compromise the safety of the helmet more than increase the safety of riding (but I am a MTBer, not a roadie - some roadies/commuters will disagree on this).

5
  • 8
    Cameras encourage one to take fewer risks in order to avoid their mates laughing at their crash footage afterwards - sounds like a safety upgrade to me!
    – MaplePanda
    Aug 22 at 6:26
  • 1
    The direction of an impact must also be considered. If the camera/light hit first, they are likely to be pushed through the helmet (cf Michael Schumacher).
    – Carel
    Aug 22 at 7:05
  • 2
    @MaplePanda I guess, the main advantage of the camera would be that you'd have solid evidence of what happened in case of an accident with a car, most likely forcing the car driver to pay up. Aug 22 at 8:48
  • 8
    @MaplePanda wouldn't it be the opposite? I think they'd encourage (at least in cases like MTB) riding more recklessly so that if you shred that gnarly trail you have a vid to prove it - and if you crash like an idiot, you don't really have to share that footage with anyone...
    – user622505
    Aug 23 at 2:14
  • Unless you're live streaming your ride, the accident footage is only available to others at your discretion or by court order, @MaplePanda, so I'm not quite sure I buy into your point.
    – FreeMan
    Aug 23 at 13:26
7

No, this is not safe.

  • The light very likely will blind/dazzle or at least annoy oncoming traffic or pedestrians. I do not know how strong yours is, but if I shine mine directly into the face of an oncommer they will be blind for a few seconds, especially in darkness.
  • Related: You won't be able to adjust the light on the fly in a safe manner.
  • You won't get advance notice of the battery of the light running low, possibly ending you up in pitch black darkness on the trail.
  • The weight of the two devices will possibly give you either a headache or stiff neck muscles.
  • If you go through denser single trails either device may catch on a twig and pull your head back sharply.
  • If you land on the top of your head (maybe unlikely, but not unheard of, depending on which kind of jumps you do) the whole impact force will be concentrated in the tiny surface area of the respective attachment points and can probably do bad things to your skull, or add major rotational forces.

The light can go on the handlebar, and the camera onto your chest - those locations have been proven to work very well and are perfectly safe and practical.

3
  • 1
    Fully agree about oncoming traffic, however a head-mounted light does work much better in the trails than normal handlebar lights. The high position makes it shine further, in particular over obstacles (less distracting shadows), and you can easily look in direction of sharp curves. And if you need to carry the bike over a gnarly section or leave the bike, the light is still there for you, while your hands stay free. It also helps a lot if you need to lock your bike in the dark. Aug 23 at 17:18
  • 1
    I agree with @leftaroundabout, for trail riding I always found a combination of handlebar and helmet-mounted lights worked best. But on the road, if there's an oncoming vehicle it's natural to look at it, and with a helmet-mounted light that means you're likely to be pointing it directly at the oncoming driver. Aug 24 at 4:01
  • It's one aspect of several - OP can pick and choose. ;)
    – AnoE
    Aug 24 at 6:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.