There was once a time when we didn’t even wear helmets while biking. We certainly didn’t track our every movement on the road or the trail, didn’t share that info with friends and family, and if we fell, we fell, and if we needed help, well, we shouted. Specialized, though, has just reinvented the helmet to take care of all of that for us. Well, not just the helmet, but a crash sensor for helmets. And it’s available now.
Their reinvention is called ANGi, a small matchbook-sized sensor that’s fixed to the back of the helmet, just above your neck. In the event of a crash, the sensor measures both rotational and G-forces to diagnose the kind of tumble you’ve suffered. Auger hard enough or just awkwardly and the sensor will “ping” Specialized’s Ride App on your phone and trigger a countdown for a bot to alert pre-selected contacts that you’ve fallen, and, ahem, can’t get up. It also sends GPS coordinates of your last known location to the people who might come looking for you. Yes, you can spike the countdown in case of false alarm (like dropping your helmet by accident) or if it was a minor fall and you’re fine by pressing an “I’m OK” button.
To wake the sensor you just give your helmet a shake, then open the Ride App, and press a button to fire it up. Cleverly, they also included a feature that allows friends and family to virtually follow your ride “live,” if you want that option (yes, a la Garmin, Suunto, etc.), and if you’re headed on a route that’s beyond cell range you can enter the guesstimated ride time so the app can alert your contact group if you’re not back. They’ll get the location of your last in-cell-range GPS coordinates. Naturally, the Ride App can also track fitness metrics and your ride, and sync with apps like Strava.
Specialized says it consciously designed ANGi around cycling and cycling-related crashes, as opposed to similar sensors geared for snow sports. And it’s introducing the sensor as part of nine helmet lines, as well as selling the sensor solo to go with most other lids for 2019. Wisely, to cater to parents, it’s also coming on some models for kids.
Also, Specialized is adding MIPS tech to all of its lids for 2019. MIPS is now in a lot of helmets, and it essentially works like a helmet within a helmet, allowing the “liner” to slip against the inside of the hard, outside shell. The theory is that this reduces the rotational force of a fall, lessening the likelihood of a concussion. It’s progress, even if the jury is out on exactly how to stop concussions (besides sitting on the couch).
ANGi is the kind of idea that might have been critical to me personally. A few years ago I crashed in a big group ride, fracturing my femur. Luckily, friends were there to make sure I got help. Had that happened while I was out solo, ANGi could have been the difference between me face down in a ditch for hours and getting to the hospital reasonably quickly.
Specialized started this reinvention process back in 2017 when it bought a company called ICEdot, that made a similar crash sensor, a little wafer that clipped onto your helmet.
But the tech had some issues. One was the need to recharge the battery. Ever get set for a ride with your Garmin and realize you’d spaced on recharging it? You’d just blow it off and keep going. But at least that brick on your bars was telling you, with its blank screen, that it was dead. The ICEdot didn’t have a screen, a light, or anything. You could tell if it was juiced or not in the app because it wasn’t pairing, but otherwise you were pretty clueless. Second, it anchored fairly loosely to a helmet strap, so it was easy to lose if you stuffed your lid in a duffel. Plus, it didn’t always fit right on some helmets.
Specialized’s ANGi though has addressed both the charging and fit issue. The sensor now uses a coin cell battery that lasts about half a year. And it’s been given a fixed anchoring point on Specialized lids, and a home, too, on new helmets that don’t come with ANGi, but are “ready” for the widget.
Meanwhile, it’s worth remembering that sentiment I mentioned earlier, when you left the house with a dead Garmin, maybe, just maybe, no heart-rate tracker and hell, maybe even a dead cell phone in your jersey. And you just went anyway.
We think life is precious. We really do. But man, we track a lot of information these days. For me, adventure is about fun. Information, data? That sounds like homework. Wearing the helmet, for sure. At least for me. There was that femur snap. And before that I was one of the first adopters of ICEdot. But I don’t use Strava much. It’s neat, it’s just…well, you have to find your own balance point. And sometimes not keeping track is the freedom I’m personally looking for.
But if you have loved ones who fret while you’re ripping around singletrack, or just a really good reason to need to alert people if you crash, especially in the boonies, this is a very compelling piece of tech.