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Review / Brake Free Helmet Light

Aug 28, 2023Aug 28, 2023

Photo: Brake Free

When I’m riding my motorcycle, I want to be seen. Not in a “Loud Pipes Plus A Get-Back Whip” sort of way. It’s not about looking like Sonny Barger, it’s about safety. It’s why I often choose a hi-viz jacket or helmet. But, even that tactic has its limitations, particularly in the foggy weather where I live (an hour north of Maine). If the sun is down and a summer southwest wind blows a fogbank in over the city, there’s a chance a car might come up from behind and not see me until it’s too late.

I ran an auxiliary brake light on my DR650 for years, but that was only a solution when I was riding that bike; it was no good when I rode something else from my garage, or a test bike. So, when I saw the Brake Free helmet light, I was immediately intrigued—I emailed the company, and asked for a light to try out for myself. They mailed me one promptly, and a few days later it was on my doorstep in a very nice box.

The Brake Free light is a smart brake light that’s designed to attach to the back of your motorcycle helmet. It’s more than a simple red bulb; this light uses an accelerometer to detect when you’re slowing down. When it detects deceleration, it lights the 100-LED array in a flashing pattern

Opening it, you can see this company is serious about its product. You get a nicely-fitted box with everything you need inside: An alcohol wipe to clean the back of your helmet, a cardboard jig to help you decide placement on the helmet, and of course the light and mount itself. There’s also a charging cord and an easy-to-read instruction sheet. See the company’s official demo below:

I appreciated the company’s emphasis on getting the installation right the first time. A couple of minutes of reading, and everything was simple and easy. I’ve had a lot of electronic bike gadgets that didn’t pay as much attention to making installation easy, and sometimes these caused quite a bit of frustration. Of course, the Brake Free light is a fairly straightforward product, so that helps.

The light is a no-brainer to use. As you can see in the video above, the assembly clips into the mount on the back of the helmet after you’ve charged it up via microUSB (you could also charge it while installed in the helmet, but it’s easier if you remove it). Once the light’s on the helmet, you press the start button and… it works. None of the connectivity annoyances and other frustrations that plague so many electro-farkles. Turn the light on, and go. As you slow down, the LEDs will light up, then flash, to alert following motorists.

See a video demo below:

I installed the Brake Free towards the end of the 2022 riding season, so I can’t tell you how well this tech works in the long-term. However, I can tell you that if you’re an able-bodied adult, the additional 7 oz of weight on your helmet is barely noticeable (I didn’t notice at all, with my Schuberth C5). I can also tell you that the company only says this light is “weather resistant,” but I rode through tropical storm conditions with this light on the back of my helmet, with no problems. Perhaps water could work into the unit as it ages, but I remain confident in the IP67 rating. You do have a year’s warranty with the Brake Free.

Was I any safer, while wearing the Brake Free? Hard to say, but again, in an all-day downpour, I was certainly happy to have an extra light on the back of my bike—I felt safer. And because the Brake Free is attached to your helmet, it’s mounted high, where drivers can see it, and it’s moving around constantly. Riders even can set the Brake Free to one of three different modes, if they want to change up their visibility. In Mode 1, all LEDs are on at all times, brightening when you decelerate, just like a standard taillight. In Mode 2, left and right LED panels pulsate for added attention. In Mode 3, the center, top and bottom LED panels are on as running lights—Brake Free calls this Stealth Mode, and if you’re leading a pack of riders, you or they may prefer this option.

The unit is actually much less bulky than it looks. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Again all modes see all LEDs activated to full brightness when you decelerate in your direction of travel. To switch modes, you simply press the power button when the Brake Free is turned on. Easy!

Note that the Brake Free’s accelerometer is completely independent of your motorcycle’s electrical system. There is no app, no wiring to connect it to the bike—it is a self-contained unit. That means when you stop at a gas station, your Brake Free will still be blinking as you turn your bike off and walk in to pay. Because of these and similar off-the-bike scenarios, you’ll have to get used to turning the light off when you remove your helmet, or people will start looking at you funny (maybe they already do that anyway).

Some other potential drawbacks: The Brake Free is one more thing to charge every night while you’re on tour (the Brake Free is good for 8-12 hours of riding, depending on conditions, so you should at least get a day’s use out of it before needing a recharge). It would be good to see USB-C charging port as standard, not microUSB. As well, the mount on my Schuberth C5 feels a bit… rattly? But I did not notice any vibration while riding. If Id been able to mount this light lower, perhaps it would have been tighter to the helmet, but I was stuck with a high mounting position on the back of my C5 because of the placement of the helmet comm system. #gallery-2 { margin: auto; } #gallery-2 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-2 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-2 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */

That’s another important point; the Brake Free should fit almost all helmets, but the shape of some shells will make it more difficult. Brake Free sells specific mounts to fit Shoei RF1400 helmets, and to fit XL-sized helmets.

One specific benefit to adventure riders: If you’re traveling the world, the Brake Free could serve as a backup taillight, should you break your bike’s standard unit in a place where you can’t find spare parts. That redundancy could prove a huge bonus, in a pinch. Having said that, if you’re off-roading with this light on your helmet, I would remove it so you don’t lose it in an otherwise minor off.

The Brake Free isn’t for everyone. Some riders just hate adding more gadgets and complication to their moto life. Others will say the Brake Free doesn’t look cool when it’s attached to their helmet. And others will balk at the price ($169.99 US, shipping included—order it directly here, or try Revzilla or other online retailer).

However, for me, I plan on buying extra mounts for other motorcycle helmets so I can use the Brake Free regularly. I see no significant downside to installing it on a helmet, and I think the added visibility is a bonus in our world of increasingly zoned-out motorists. I expect we will see improved versions of the Brake Free in the years to come, and I look forward to seeing this tech grow.

For Brake Free’s IndieGoGo pitch from five years back, see here. It will give you excellent insight into the Brake Free’s design, and introduce you to the founders.