Triumph Light Jacket: LEDs make you visible

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The idea behind the Triumph Light Jacket has been around in concept form for a few years. Taking advantage of the low power draw, high brightness and compact size of modern LEDs, lights are incorporated into the jacket and vest to enhance rider visibility on the road. Much more effective than reflective materials, which rely on a direct light source, the dazzling lights should actively draw the attention of dozy car drivers, perhaps even distracting them from texting. Incorporated into riding garments with virtually no weight and no compromise to wearability, this sounds like a great safety solution, right? Well, it is, but Triumph screwed it up in one important way.

Excuse me while I geek out for a second. The latest advances in LED technology have revolutionized portable illumination. I’ve got a light on my keychain, powered by a single AAA, that’s brighter than a two D-Cell Maglite and can operate continuously for up to 50 hours. That was before I modified it to put out over 200 Lumens. It costs $24. Other lights in my drawer go over 350 Lumens and can stay on, continuously mind you, for 30 days. With lifespans of 50,000 hours or more, the bulbs will essentially last a lifetime.

The LEDs in this jacket and the Triumph Light Vest aren’t of that high-power, designed to illuminate bright and far variety, they simply light up brightly to draw attention. As such, they’ll have a very low power draw, even with the 16 (yes, 16) bulbs built into the vest. Despite that, max burn time is just five hours.

Five hours is likely enough for a day or two’s commuting or a short trip, but it’s not enough for long tours or day-long operation in the hands of, say, a courier. People spending all day working on bikes in urban environments stand to benefit from this technology the most, yet Triumph has neglected to make the jacket applicable to them.

How so? Details of the built-in battery haven’t been released, but with such a short run time between charges (you plug the jacket in via USB) it can’t be of the latest Lithium variety. A proprietary, built-in design also means that you won’t simply be able to swap drained batteries out for a spare pair of fully charged ones. Building in compatibility for lithium AA or AAAs or even some of the whizz bang new cells like CR123s could have made the jacket and vest far more versatile and useful. A couple lithium AAAs alone could have given Triumph a run time measured in days instead of single digit hours.

The £395 jacket is essentially Triumph’s high-end, waterproof, textile riding jacket, just with the LEDs. As such expect good quality, real waterproofness and armor in all the usual places. The £165 Light Vest incorporates hi-viz colors and reflective panels and is designed to be worn over regular riding gear. American availability has not been announced.

  • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

    TRiumph + ON = TRON
    Coincidence?
    I think not.

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1100]

      Awesome.

  • Ola

    This technology is very near maturity. Now just one gear designer needs to get tipsy on red wine before the obvious appears in his mind. A proper riding jacket with a programmable LED scroll board on the back.

    • HolyHandGrenade!

      Blue tooth enabled speech recognition would be an essential add on.

      • Ola

        How embarrassing to forget to switch it off. Confused rivers behind me would be reading all-caps Abba lyrics.

        • Gregory

          I sing mostly Slade inside my helmet.

          • pplassm

            Devo.

  • HammSammich

    That battery life is downright silly, especially for something like a jacket where you could have a flexible Lithium polymer battery pouch that would be barely noticable, and would power those lights for weeks.

    I wonder if Triumph is looking to include a USB charging port for accessories like this while on the bike. I’ve seen some guys on TriumphRAT add power sockets for heated accessories, phone chargers, etc…and I could see a factory solution being offered.

    • Elvis

      While I’m averse to rechargeable batteries for a number of reasons, I think your idea for USB charging on the bike makes a lot more sense than plugging a bulky jacket in to my laptop every day.

      • ursus

        One CR123 charging on the bike and one running in the jacket. Swap as needed. Or use the shakeweight battery charging accessory.

  • contender

    What are the details on your flashlight, Wes? Just lost the one I usually carry and am looking for something new…

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      http://countycomm.com/aaa.html

      It’s awesome, can’t recommend it highly enough. Simple, compact, rugged, bright.

      • nick2ny

        Country of origin? *ducks*

        • http://www.anotherdamndj.com evilbahumut

          I was thinking the _same_ thing

  • JonB

    An article on your LED light modifications please. Sounds rad.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      This:

      http://countycomm.com/aaa.html

      + these:

      http://www.batteryjunction.com/10440.html

      + don’t leave it on for very long.

      • Ryan

        This warning is all I need to pull the trigger:

        WARNING: THIS BATTERY IS NOT MEANT TO BE A DIRECT REPLACEMENT FOR AAA ALKALINE/NIMH BATTERIES IN CONSUMER DEVICES. THESE LITHIUM ION BATTERIES OPERATE AT MORE THAN TWICE THE VOLTAGE OF AN ALKALINE BATTERY AND 3 TIMES THE VOLTAGE OF A NIMH CELL AND MAY DAMAGE OR DESTROY YOUR DEVICE.

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          You’ll live through it, promise.

        • HammSammich

          That’s not a warning…it’s a challenge.

      • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1100]

        Another option for AAA-powered LED torches is the 4Sevens Preon line.

  • Thom

    This is the result of all the current Safety Mandates being shoved down everyone’s throat by the EU .

    Am I correct ?

    I gotta tell you , the logic is somewhat sound and maybe even needed …… But Damn this is Ugly as all get out !

    There’s got to be a better way . I hope !

    • aristurtle

      No, this is optional. Some people actually want to wear stuff that makes them more visible to drivers, otherwise Aerostitch’s most popular color wouldn’t be highviz yellow.

  • aristurtle

    Um. So, it’s a motorcycle jacket.

    It needs power for the lights.

    So it’s using an internal battery? What the hell?

    Did anyone tell them that there’s usually a fairly high-capacity battery right on the motorcycle itself, typically under the seat, and best of all, that battery is getting continuously charged by the engine’s alternator as the motorcycle is running? Why does the jacket have any onboard capacity? What’s the damn point? Have it plug into the accessory wires like a pair of heated gloves.

    • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

      I guess they tought it was a good idea for the leds to work off the bike, say when (quickly) changing a tire on the side of the road at night…

  • Foy

    this is so poorly executed in so many ways. it looks good, but it’s not worth the money… does inspire me to mod my current vest, however.

  • Barry

    I could put up with the short run time if it were primarily meant to be recharged via solar cells on the shoulder during the day, and then automatically flipped over to run at night. Definitely needs an outboard battery compartment in a simple spot like a pocket for longer runs when you run out of sun-juice, or if you’re going out at night and it’s been sitting in your closet. I’m kind of hit or miss on the whole “being tethered to my motorcycle” thing, so a cord to the bike should be available, but not required. I’d probably only use that if I knew I’d be riding for more than an hour or so.

  • Barry

    Other design niggle: lights are only placed reasonably for upright seating. Sportbikes need them higher on the shoulders and lower on the back.

    Other question: at least in Texas, you’re only allowed so many forward-facing white lights, and only so many rearward-facing in red or yellow, with only reverse lights allowed to be reverse-facing and white on cars. Not sure on bikes. But, you COULD make an argument that those are a lot of separate white lights(pictures don’t show the rears on, so can’t tell if they’re white). Not sure on the legalities of running lights on your suit in general.

    I know that the local cops went a bit nutso here about the disco-lights people were plugging into their tail-light housings once everyone started having clear lenses on their streetbikes.

    I’m not sure, but I would imagine that EU laws are even more strict about lights and their colors than the US is. Maybe it’s all moot because it’s officially a part of the clothing? And perhaps that’s why there’s no tethered power option?

    • HammSammich

      I was wondering the same thing about white lights facing backwards at night…unless the LED’s on the back are red.

      This makes me wonder about using accelerometers to automatically brighten red LED’s on the back as supplementary “Brake lights” or even to trigger flashing amber led’s on the sides when leaning into a turn…

  • Daniel

    Great idea, but a hi-viz black jacket?

    • http://www.anotherdamndj.com evilbahumut

      No one needs to see you during the daytime. You’re invisible anyway so Triumph thinks you should stay that way.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      The LEDs work in the daytime too. Go look at an Audi or a Porsche to see how effective they are as daytime running lights.

  • Rick

    Modern retro-reflective materials are very bright when illuminated by the headlights of cars astern, so from that point of view the LEDs don’t seem so worthwhile…perhaps they could boost peripheral conspicuity in tight traffic, for the drivers who don’t notice your HEADLIGHT.

    • http://www.lgdm.fr stempere

      Retro-reflective works only at night and IF the vehicule coming your way has turned on working headlights…
      I can see the point.

  • muckluck

    Maybe they have Lucas electrics in the suit?

  • FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF

    The price point on the vest is totally outrageous. I can strap a bike light to a no brand vest for around $20.

  • http://www.firstgenerationmotors.blogspot.com Emmet

    what about programming the lights to strobe at variable rates?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Yeah, there’s a lot of things that weren’t realized here.

  • Gregory

    For us “visibility nerds”, there are a lot of bicycle lights that can be strapped to forks, fairings or handlebars. You have to turn them on & off separately. They generally have their own AAA battery source. Quite bright. Improves frontal visibility. Also, it makes bicyclists less angry when you ride through the bicycle lane. And bicycle hipster chicks dig ‘em.

    -gceaves
    Portland, OR
    2008 Kawasaki KLR 650

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1100]

      Don’t some BMW and Klim jackets have strap-points specifically designed to take bicycle LED lamps?

  • jason McCrash

    It’s a bit off topic, but I am glad as a former military guy and rider that companies have come out with fairly decent looking vests for guys to wear so that they meet the requirements placed on them by DoD for reflective gear. The military has the right to refuse coverage of medical costs for any active member who crashes and isn’t wearing the required gear, even off duty and off base. We all used to by the $5 “road guard” vest like construction workers used to wear. They fit under the seat when you took it off 1/2 mile off base. The vests today (along with general acceptance of gear as being good) are functional. I have considered using a vest as a carryall for over a coat on long trips because the design of most coats doesn’t fit (freakishly long arms) or just isn’t functional. I keep holding out for a jacket that’s just right.
    So sorry to go off topic, but it’s good to see that Icon isn’t the only one that has decided to make mil-spec gear attractive to civilians. But then, this is probably made for Triumph by Icon or one of the other big companies.

    • Dumptruckfoxtrot

      Last I knew Triumph made their own gear.

      • HammSammich

        They partner with Lewis Leathers for a couple of vintage-style jackets and with Alpinestars on some of their sport oriented gear. I don’t know for certain, but I suspect that they don’t actually make any of their gear themselves. It is most likely made to their design specs under contract with third-party mfg.

        • jason McCrash

          My best friend is part owner of a design/manufacturing company. they made Yamaha’s anniversary gear 5 years ago, did the entire Yamaha MX line for a few years, have done work for some of the bigger name parts suppliers, etc. that’s why I assume that none of the big bike companies actually make their own stuff. They give guys like him ideas, their designers come u[p with ideas and have demo’s made and then either get the gig to make them all of just the cash for the design. He goes to China a couple of times a year to visit the factories his company uses. I break his balls all of the time for not using USA companies but he says he would have to charge 3-4 times what he does and that nobody will pay that. Even with that the cost per unit is usually 1/4-1/3rd what retail is, which just makes me sick.
          The company is http://3d-ind.com/

          • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

            Yep, that’s how clothing works.

  • Archer

    Wes,

    You need to get your hands on an RS Taichi Electroluminescent jacket or Taichi EL bum bag (which actually goes across the shoulder).

    Almost pulled the trigger on one last time I was in Tokyo, going to regret what has happened to the yen v. dollar in the past few months next week when I go there to pick up my T-RAPS GMX jacket and the EL bag.

    Oh, and your light looks like da bomb. If I didn’t have a killer deal with Surefire I would be all over that.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Those are neat. RS Taichi makes co stuff, it’s a shame they’re unable to represent themselves.

      • Archer

        It seems their main USA dealer has been doing a better effort lately, but yeah, it’s niche over here.

        Maybe I should take a camera and do a story for you guys when I go visit some shops over there next week.

  • http://krtong.com KR Tong

    This jacket just reminds me of this http://www.akumahelmets.com/products_helmet_V2-Stealth.php with “Afterburner Vent LED’S”

    • HammSammich

      I know the Akuma helmets are cheesy, but my inner 11 year old thinks they’re “totally rad!”

      • JP

        Somebody told me that they make a kit that will make these light up when you brake. My inner 11 year old wants one too.

  • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1100]

    Stridelite has been making LED-light-equipped bicycling jackets for at least 5 years, I think:

    http://www.stridelite.com/

  • Ray

    See Robert Redford in The Electric Horseman. He idea is to look like a semi at night. Yellow running lights in front and side, red at back. Why not recharge it from the SAE plug hanging off your battery for the trickle charger? It should have an internal rechargeablle battery foroff fhe bike, a switchable gooseneck map/ worklight on the chest, and adaptors for a variety of connectors.

  • Ray

    See Robert Redford in The Electric Horseman. The idea is to look like a semi at night. Yellow running lights in front and side, red at back. Why not recharge it from the SAE plug hanging off your battery for the trickle charger? It should have an internal rechargeablle battery for off fhe bike, a switchable gooseneck map/ worklight on the chest, and adaptors for a variety of connectors.