Crash Test Dummy

9 July 2019

In the first of what will hopefully be an ongoing series of reviews we take a look at the new Specialized ANGi crash sensor. For various reasons I was unable to actually crash test ANGi, so this is more “first looks” than an actual review.

The name prompted visions of a promotional video featuring a rider getting ready to head off on a storm-cloud strewn morning as the Rolling Stones ballad Angie swirls in the backing track. Going out the garage door they look wistfully at a cracked helmet fitted with ANGi blipping red in time to the music. Flashbacks to a crash where ANGi sent a message and help was soon at hand. Then off on the next adventure with a brand new ANGi blipping green on a new helmet as the old one is tossed in the bin* while Mick wails “ain’t it time we said goodbye?”.
I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Specialized products over the years leading to a general impression that they are a really innovative company that sometimes gets ahead of itself in bringing products to market. My Flux Expert headlight is a case in point. It’s full of great features that bring it close to my idea of the perfect headlight, but the original version was hampered by a mounting system that allowed the light to shake around annoyingly on even slightly bumpy roads. (Let’s keep the exorbitant price and curious “pewter” colour scheme safely tucked away in parentheses.) The V2 mount is much better but I’ve had similar issues with other products – “it’s great but…”, so I was curious to see how ANGi would stack up.
What exactly is ANGi? If you’re familiar with ICEdot, it’s a development of that technology, as the company was taken over by Specialized in 2017. They’ve refined it to a device about half the size of a typical heart rate monitor weighing in at a paltry 10 grams on my scales. ANGi stands for “Angular and G-force indicator” which is a funky way of saying it’s a “patented device that contains sensors designed to measure the linear and rotational forces that typically occur during a bicycle crash”. That’s the blurb from the Specialized website. In other words it’s a gadget attached to your helmet that will get your phone to call for help if you mess up.
The real promotional video (no Angie, I guess they didn’t want to buy into the Stones retirement fund) features road and MTB riders getting a little edgy with some annoying talking hazards out to ruin their day. Thankfully our heroes evade the traps and ANGi is not called on. But that’s the point – ANGi has you covered when things don’t go right so you can enjoy it when they do. I’d like to think there’s enough acts of kindness out there that we’d be taken care of in those situations, but riding on or off road around Alice Springs there are plenty of times when no-one might notice your mishap for a while.
What if you don’t have a phone signal? If you’re out of sight that’s not unlikely. Well those clever folks at Specialized have thought of this and if you take the precaution of setting an expected ride time ANGi can send an alert if you’re not home in time. Huh? How can it do that without a phone signal? They don’t explain it but my guess is there is a backend that works with the Specialized Premium app on your phone that communicates via Bluetooth with ANGi. The app logs the expected home time and if it doesn’t check in by then the backend sends out the alert.
Premium sounds expensive and the manual included with the device is a little ambiguous about on-going costs, but the Specialized website asserts that there are “no annual fees”, and I had this confirmed by the ever-helpful Luke at Specialized customer service. The website FAQ suggests the only time a cost would be incurred is when you sell the helmet or want to link ANGi to a new phone. In that case there is a $29.99 fee to get a new access code. I guess that could get expensive if you insist on staying at the bleeding edge of phone technology. Specialized also sells ANGi-equipped helmets and these are probably a better option if you are in the market for a new helmet.
By now you’re probably wondering why I’m not out there dodging road trains and taunting dingoes in pursuit of a proper test. Well for one thing I don’t much like crashing. Looking at ANGi has given me flashbacks to a couple of crashes I’ve had and made me wonder how they might have been different with this sensor on board.
Three years or so ago I went head first into the side of car that turned in front of me. Adrenalin had me on my feet in seconds claiming I was feeling fine. An hour or so later the effects of concussion kicked in and I got someone to take me to emergency for the start of what would be three days in hospital. In this scenario I would have deactivated ANGi before it called for help because I thought I was okay. ANGi would have made no difference in this case even though it turned out I did need help.
A few years before that I was riding somewhere in torrential rain with worn rims that made my brakes grab. Attempting to slow as I headed downhill into a roundabout they bit hard and I was thrown off. I hit my head on the curb and although I probably lost consciousness for a few seconds I picked myself up and rode on unscathed. Again no call for ANGi, but had I been properly knocked out and landed well off the road it’s not hard to imagine lying there a long time before anyone noticed. ANGi could have called for help.
Unfortunately I was unable to play around with the Specialized Ride app that supports ANGi because the latest version requires iOS 11 which won’t run on my phone. If I had more time I could borrow an iPod from one of my more technologically contemporary daughters and install it there, then see if that allowed me to get an older version on my phone, but I will leave it at that with the caution that you would probably be wise to confirm you can install the app before you buy the device. (Note that the Specialized website says iOS 10 is supported but I think it hasn’t caught up with Apple’s policy of not providing legacy versions of apps if you don’t have an up-to-date copy on another device.)
Overall I think ANGi is a really interesting development in cycling safety technology. I think for most riders, even if you’re unlucky enough to have a bad accident you’re more likely to get help from humans than your little electronic friend, but it’s another level of support, particularly for those of us living and riding in a remote area. I won’t be rushing out to get one myself, but I think I might give an ANGi-equipped helmet consideration next time I need a new one.
ANGi crash sensor kindly provided by Jenn at Outback Cycling. They will happily fit you out with an ANGi device or ANGi-equipped helmet at 6/63 in the Todd Mall. The ANGi device has a recommended retail price of $74.99. ANGi-equipped helmets start at $200 for the road-oriented Prospero III going up to twice that for the S-Works Evade, with similar pricing for MTB models.
*As far as I can tell you can’t transfer ANGi from one helmet to another because it’s either integrated or attached with a single-use adhesive strip. So unfortunately in the scenario described in my fantasy promo you would have to throw away your device along with the wrecked helmet.
No dummies actually crashed in the production of this review.