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The Torch T2 helmet with integral LED lights complies with CPSC and CE1078 safety standards, and comes in a choice of no fewer than eight fetching colours, but the Tron profile and poor ventilation are throwbacks to the mid-1980s, and it's uncomfortable for anything other than short commutes.
The lid itself follows the standard in-mould narrative where shell and EPS liner are formed together simultaneously, which keeps production costs and weight down while theoretically improving safety.
Standards of finish are good but not necessarily better than anyone else's, and the EPS rim is exposed, leaving it vulnerable to the usual everyday carelessness synonymous with utilitarian riding.
Torch has gone the single size and selection of pads route. It's not something I like in principle, but here, when combined with the familiar thumbwheel and Y strap adjusters, you can achieve a good fit.
Ventilation is limited to eight vents: two inlet, two 'exhaust', and the remainder running centrally across the top. Theoretically, fewer vents improves overall strength, but doesn't bode well for comfort.
Integral lighting is the helmet's unique selling point: five LEDs sit behind polycarbonate panels front and rear that run from an integral – and therefore fit 'n' forget – rechargeable li-ion battery.
Full zero to hero charging take two hours from the mains, another 30-40 minutes when suckling from PCs and laptops.
Switches are positive and easily located wearing winter-weight gloves, but there's no memory function so you'll need to go through the modes each time.
There are two steady settings and two flashing. First and foremost, unless you stand 5ft tall, or less, these won't comply with RVLR stipulations, so you'll still need 'proper' bike-mounted lights.
The highest steady function delivers a surprisingly pure beam with few halos or similar imperfections, but it's impotent for navigating with, even along well-lit town centre cycle paths. That said, other traffic and pedestrians seemed to acknowledge me from 100m, maybe 150 in semi-rural contexts.
Low is pretty much of the glimmer variety, but conserves reserves. Flashing is more useful, visible to about 250m, with lorry, bus and SUV drivers seemingly paying more attention.
Run times proved refreshingly accurate, mirroring the 6 hours in steady and 36 flashing quoted.
However, I sugar-coat things. Overall performance is very poor on account of ventilation. It's fine for a couple of miles at a modest 12mph, but 5-10 miles at 16mph with temperatures hovering between 12 and 16 degrees resulted in boiled brains and my admittedly generous shock of hair matted to my scalp – hardly a good look when arriving at the office, or meeting up with friends down the pub.
As it stands, the Torch T2 feels gimmicky and decidedly expensive. Several established brands offer much lighter, better ventilated models with integral LEDs and accessory kits, some costing less than £50.
Heavy, expensive and inadequately ventilated for regular use
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Torch T2 Helmet
Size tested: Slate Grey, Size 54-61cm
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Torch says: "Torch is the result of over two years of research and development by industrial designer turned entrepreneur, Nathan Wills. After months of long cross-town commutes in LA, by both bike and car, he was inspired to launch this brand with a line of products designed to make cyclists stylish in the day and visible at night. After a successful campaign on Kickstarter, Torch raised the funding necessary to begin production development of the T1 bicycle helmet. Since then Torch has continued to receive great attention from the cycling world as well as the media regarding its original lighting functions, and stylish design."
Concept is very disappointing in reality.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
CPSC, CE CERTIFIED
10 integrated LED lights
Rechargeable batteries (1.5 hrs with included USB cable)
4 different light functions including flash
Battery level indicator
Up to 6 hours battery life on steady or 36 hours on flash
Shatter proof polycarbonate lenses
13 oz. weight / 360 g
8 air vents, interior air channeling
Dial-adjust fit system
2 sets of removable interior padding
Fits 54 - 61 cm
Lid is reasonably well made but the electrical components have a finite life.
Lack of ventilation is OK during cooler conditions but gets uncomfortably warm past the six-mile point at a modest 15mph.
It might be unique, but commuter/tour models with decent ventilation and comprehensive accessory kits are much nicer to use and considerably cheaper.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, the Torch 2 tries to combine two products in one and while standards of construction are reasonably good, it's expensive and the levels of comfort limit its appeal to short commutes at relatively sedentary paces. The light panels' large surface area works reasonably well around town and run times mirror those quoted, but it's no substitute for bike-mounted illumination.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Good standards of construction.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Expensive and poorly designed for riding at reasonable speeds.
Did you enjoy using the product? No
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your score
Ultimately, this is a surprisingly poor design given that it's supposedly designed by regular cyclists. While cycling is a refreshingly broad church, there are much lighter, cheaper and better ventilated designs for commuting and utilitarian duties.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough stuff tourer based around 4130 Univega mountain bike frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)