MO Tested: Brake Free Helmet Brake Light Review
A clever tool for a vital safety need
I love a simple-but-good idea. In today’s ever-increasing climate of distracted drivers, we need something to attract attention to motorcyclists. Like many riders, I’ve relied on bright-colored and/or reflective gear to increase my conspicuity. However, they all depend on light striking them, particularly retro-reflective materials. Additionally, riding gear says nothing about the current dynamic state of the motorcycle and its rider. That’s why the Brake Free Helmet Brake Light initially caught my attention. Further inspection made me want to give the product a try.
Brake Free Helmet Brake Light
In today’s climate of distracted drivers, Brake Free offers a convenient way to inform drivers behind you that you are slowing down, whether you are braking or not.
- Alerts to all deceleration, not just braking
- Self contained and reasonably light
- Can be used on multiple helmets
- Doesn’t fit some helmets, can be tricky on others
- MicroUSB instead of USB-C
- Another device to remember to charge
In the past, I’ve installed extra rear lighting and even brake light flashers on my bike (now, some European market bikes come with this feature standard), but they always required being hardwired to the motorcycle. To operate without any physical or wireless connection to your motorcycle, Brake Free cleverly uses a combination of a gyro and an accelerometer to detect when you are slowing down – not just when you are applying the brakes. This is more necessary than ever now that most people drive auto transmission cars that use significantly less engine braking than in previous generations. This fuel-saving technique, however, means that drivers are less and less aware of engine braking in other vehicles, because they have less on their own. The differential is significant particularly with motorcycles, where engine braking can be profound. So, Brake Free’s sensors and algorithms detect all deceleration of the helmet on which it is mounted.
Mounting Brake Free is easy on many helmets, using the supplied mounts and template. Realistically, I spent less than five minutes mounting the unit on my Arai Contour X, though I did let it sit overnight to achieve full adhesion. Since the unit is easily removable, riders with multiple helmets can install extra mounts on them for easy switching. Some helmets, however, have special challenges due to the shape of the helmet back, while others are impossible. (See the list of challenges below. ) For my Shoei RF-1400, I ordered the model-specific mount, and installation was only slightly more difficult.
Brake Free Special Fitments
Bell MX-9 Adventure Mips
LS2 Advant X Carbon
Bell SRT Modular
LS2 Challenger F
LS2 Challenger FF327 Carbon
HJC RPHA 70 VIAS
Scorpion EXO GT930 COM
Fox V1 Helmet
Shoei VFX EVO
Testing a device that mounts on the back of your helmet and is, therefore, out of sight is difficult. Fortunately, another rider on the Harley CVO Road Glide/Street Glide introduction made it easy for me. After noticing the Brake Free mounted to his helmet at the beginning of the ride, I spent about half a day following him to see how the device functions.
In its standard mode, the lights are on at a low level constantly reminding drivers that you are there. The instant the throttle is rolled off, all 100 LEDs snap to full intensity. This will naturally draw the attention of anyone behind you. Throughout the day, I was immediately aware of any time this rider slowed – often with the Brake Free signaling before the bike’s brake light. On the second day, the rider’s Brake Free had a low battery, allowing me to see its power-saving function. At speed, only a couple of LEDs were illuminated to show the device was powered on, but when he slowed, those 100 LEDs were back at it, warning everyone behind him.
When powered on, Brake Free offers three modes: Standard, which I discussed in this review; Stealth, in which the center 16 LEDs are lit when in standby mode; and Pulsing, which mimics emergency flashers and may be good for trouble on the road. The unit itself is IP65 weatherproof. So, you should be good in all conditions except swimming with your helmet on. Charging is simple via a micro-USB cable. I would prefer a USB-C connector for its ease of use, but that’s just a quibble. I never had any trouble with the charge not lasting long enough for my ride, but I always recharged the unit when the battery indicated below 50%.
Throughout my testing of the Brake Free Helmet Brake Light, I was considering it to be essentially a tool for riders in congested urban areas, particularly commuters. However, after a rider approached me in a small midwestern town to ask about the Brake Free, I realized I was selling it short. Any rider who is concerned about being visible to the traffic behind them should consider the Brake Free as a proactive means of attracting attention to the dynamic state of their motorcycle. You can buy the Brake Free Helmet Brake Light directly from its manufacturer for $170, and as of this week, Brake Free is available in both Black and White versions!
How does the Brake Free Helmet Brake Light work?
As described above proprietary algorithms analyze the data from a gyroscope and an accelerometer to determine when the motorcycle is decelerating. Once triggered, 100 LEDs pop on.
Are helmet LED lights legal?
While state laws vary, helmet LED lights are usually legal if they are not flashing or colored red and blue.
How long does it take to charge a Brake Free battery?
A full charge from zero takes about 2-3 hours, but charging a partially-depleted battery takes less time.
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