Without innovation we cannot advance, the helmet is the perfect example of consistent innovation especially so in the last decade; making helmets lighter, safer, and more feature-heavy than ever before. I think that helmet weight and safety standards are at their all-time peak this year, a peak that makes you wonder how much more innovation can be done. Well, helmet shell aside, visibility is the next and possibly the only missing piece to the puzzle. Fancy graphics and reflective paint are always welcome, but what we are starting to slowly see internationally are helmet manufacturers and aftermarket accessory companies now offering safety features like LED lighting, brake lights, and even flickers for helmets.
Although the universal clip-on units like the “STEELMATE” helmet light system and the “Brake Free” helmet light are convenient, they are still going to set you back a few grand (if you can get them into the country) and secondly, they just look like an afterthought stuck onto the back of your helmet. Yes, it’s convenient to take off one helmet and put onto the next, but that takes time, and again it’s going to make your premium helmet look “el cheapo.”
So, if it’s a “no” to the nasty stick-on units, what should you rather be looking at? Well, a smart helmet should be on your list. A smart helmet could be a helmet with a built-in com system to you guessed it, LED and brake light systems. Right now, the only premium company in the country that can offer the latter is Shark. Welcome to the Shark Skwal i3…
The Skwal i3 is Shark’s new chip off the old block and is one of their best lookers for 2024. Just like the OG 2015 Skwal, the ‘i3’ builds onto the lineage not just with its forward-facing LEDs, but with the additional feature of intelligent active brake lights behind the rear spoilers as standard. This feature has been cleverly designed to function without the need for a Bluetooth connection or wires, the industry-leading tech uses an in-built triaxial accelerometer to activate red LEDs on the rear of the helmet during braking.
This is a feature that I think for the South African motorcycle commuter makes total sense, especially with our load-shedding schedules being increasingly unpredictable and with a lot of SA folk driving bakkies, SUVs, and lifted vehicles. For myself, I ride two older motorcycles that don’t have the best lights for evening or daytime visibility and when you ride a classic that needs consistent tweaking, any additional lighting for a quick fix or adjustment can save you hours on the road. A nice safety feature on the i3 is its second button press which activates a ‘Hazzard’ light setting, allowing you to tweak your motorcycle whilst your helmet is sitting on the road behind your bike, keeping you visible to oncoming traffic.
At the end of the day, as the sun is slowly making its way down, this is where the button located on the left side of the helmet comes in handy. The button activates the front lights and rear brake lights that flash three times a second during normal braking, and five times per second when braking hard. I’ve tested them out on the road with friends driving behind me, and even with a Tough Dog 125 mm lift kit on their Landcruiser, they could easily see me in the distance. Without the rear helmet LED brake light, they would have to keep a distance of at least 6 meters to see my motorcycle brake lights which would make it impossible for them to see me when parked at a traffic light.
After the i3’s 12 hours of internal battery life is over, a USB charge port behind the neck pad for charging is easily accessible. My commute from Pretoria to Sandton usually takes me around 35 minutes and the LED function only gets used late in the afternoon on my way back, so that’s more than two weeks’ worth of battery life and commuting before it needs a full charge.
I have been riding with the Skwal i3 RHAD edition since last year November and I can honestly say that it has easily become one of my favourite daily riding helmets to date. The i3 is simple to navigate as far as LED lighting and features go, the build quality is fantastic, the interior feels premium, visibility out of the wide cut-out visor is what you expect out of a road helmet and for those who wear glasses, there are additional sliders for comfortable positioning. The i3 has fixtures for the Sharktooth® Prime intercom, but I’ve snuck on an Interphone U-COM 6R from Langston’s, which works like a treat (more on that soon) as the helmet seals off a lot of road noise compared to what I’ve ridden with in the past.
Riding aside, I tend to gym later in the day and I also enjoy the nightlife so I tend to get back home when the lights are out. The front-facing LEDs help me navigate parking my bike in the garage and help make my way into the house without waking anyone up super easy—just like walking around with a head torch.
All those extra lighting features must make the helmet unbearingly heavy, right? What intrigued me about the i3 is that it only weighs 30 grams more than the D-Skwal 3 (the same Shark helmet without the LED lighting) with all the added LED lighting at 1570g in a medium. In summary, the Skwal i3 is an extremely attractive helmet and offers the daily rider everything they could want and more in a street helmet.
So, there you have it, if you are craving a new lid or want something that stands out, give Shark Helmets a closer look because it’s not a gimmick, it’s brilliant. Warning: Switching on the LEDs can be addictive, even if it’s just for peacocking.
Shark SKWAL i3
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