Hövding. Heard of it? No, well it's an airbag for cyclists to protect them in case of an accident. If you're wondering what's so good about it, wonder no longer - it means you don't actually need to wear a cycle helmet. Seriously. And yes, it really does take a bit of getting used to.
Essentially, it's a waterproof collar designed for commuters - the segment of cyclings who are most likely to have an accident. It's CE certified - which helmets also have to be. It works using accelerometers that detect patterns of movement analogous with the movement you'd experience in a crash. The airbag is then deployed.
The bag fully activates in 0.1 seconds in the event of an accident. Crucially it's designed to ensure that not only the head but also the cyclist’s neck is protected, by holding it safely in place.
Of course, one of the main problems with a device like this is actually the perception of the device from other road users and cyclists; people will ask why you're not wearing a helmet. Coincidentally, wearing a helmet with the Hövding collar will actually have an adverse effect says the manufacturer, causing problems with the airbag deployment.
There's also a trust issue of course - a helmet's protection you can see in front of you...but do you trust an airbag to deploy?
The £219 device comes in three sizes and was conceived originally in Malmo, Sweden well over a decade ago. This is the second production version which features several design improvements over the original. It's the result of extensive research and even features a black box-type device that enables Hovding to recall the seconds before a crash. It records a cyclist’s body movements at 200 times per second to detect for an accident.
Researchers at Stanford University carried out a study with the original Hövding airbag and found in a study that the thickness and stiffness of the Hövding helmet is "near perfect" in terms of protecting against concussion and head injuries caused by accidents.
They reckon that there is an eight-fold reduction in the risk of concussion with the Hövding airbag compared to traditional helmets.
Head of Hövding Fredrik Carling, says that the company is "aware of over 800 cases where Hövding’s airbag has potentially saved a cyclist’s life in an accident."
So what do you have to do with the collar on a daily basis? Place it round your neck (it's fairly heavy at 645g and not the most comfortable if it's hot). Then you need to activate the device with a button on the zip pull. There's a cover that goes around the airbag, made of durable black fabric. You can buy other covers for a somewhat steep £40.
A light will let you know when the battery power is low; and it charges via USB. A charged battery lasts for approximately nine hours of riding. It's expensive but if you don't like a cycle helmet it could be an alternative you'd like to check out.
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