Is this the future of commuter helmets?
Is this the future of commuter helmets?

First Look: Torch T1

This helmet not only protects you in a crash, it actually helps prevent an accident in the first place.

Is this the future of commuter helmets?

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When we first saw a prototype of the Torch T1 at Interbike 2012, we were so excited by the concept that we awarded it Gear of the Show.

It’s been a long, painstaking process for the upstart helmet and apparel company to bring the design to market, what with all the safety certifications and electronic complications. But a little more than a month ago, Torch at last delivered full-production samples. And we’re just as excited about the product as we were in 2012.

Several manufacturers have already tinkered with models that integrate lighting systems, including the Uvex City 9 and the revised Lazer Helium. But while those lights are diminutive add-ons to existing helmets, the T1 is built around light power and visibility.

Ten LEDs are integrated directly into the shell of the helmet, half up front and half in the rear. All lights are housed under shatter-resistant polycarbonate lenses, which not only protect the LEDs, but also diffuse their light into a large lit surface for better visibility.  

Front and rear lights operate independently by way of small buttons on each of the two light lenses. They charge via a dual-head cord that plugs directly from the wall into the helmet at two ports—the front under the brow of the helmet and the rear near the hairline. It takes just an hour and a half to fully charge, and batteries can last up to 12 hours depending on the mode (steady or blinking) and power (high or low).

The T1 is neither exceptionally well vented nor extraordinarily light, but it’s right on par with most urban helmets in both arenas. The strapping system feels a bit rudimentary, but the adjustment dial fit has kept the helmet steady and relatively comfortable.

At $140 (or $150 for the slicker looking Midnight Edition), the T1 costs more than most commuter helmets. That’s deceptive, though, considering that it’s both a helmet and taillight. A good rear light, such as Light & Motion’s Vis 180 ($100) or Knog’s Blinder Road R ($60), is not inexpensive.

And we love the idea of convergence—why carry both a helmet and a light when you only need one? Even if it did cost more, the safety of always having a light is well worth a few extra dollars. Note: The front light is for visibility only, so if you’re riding on dark roads, you’ll still need a directional headlight.

Plenty of studies have shown that the more visible cyclists are, the lower their chances of getting hit by cars and the less severe their injuries in the case that they are hit. To that end, the T1 is a no brainer, for both nighttime riding and even in full daylight. We’ve set up the charger full time next to our bike rack in the garage, and we simply plug in the T1 each time we come home so that it’s always charged.

How can you argue with a safer ride?

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