Groundbreaking airbag helmet technology from Sweden
As an increasing number of people turn to two wheels in search of a more efficient way to navigate urban spaces, cyclists’ safety becomes ever more pertinent. A decent cycle helmet is often the first step, but helmets are a more divisive topic than we might think - for those not sold on their importance, there’s a new kid on the block. Enter Hovding.
Who are Hovding?
In 2005, Sweden passed a law requiring the mandatory use of helmets for those under 15 years of age. The following public debate questioned whether this law should apply to all ages, and, recognising the not so universal appeal of bicycle helmets, prompted two industrial design students to put their heads together to craft something radically different.
Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin conceived a taste-breaking helmet unlike anything on the market: an airbag for cyclists that bore no resemblance to the traditional, head encasing helmets we’ve grown so accustomed to. Over the next eight years, this idea grew into an approved and certified product. Hovding started small and snowballed into the listed company it is today, selling over 220,000 helmets to date in more than 15 countries worldwide and handling everything from product development and production to marketing and sales.
The safety credentials
Research from Stanford University has illustrated that Hovding’s innovative airbag system provides up to eight times more effective protection than traditional bicycle helmets. Its hood-like design encompasses an immense proportion of the head and neck - much more than a traditional helmet - with the added bonus of stabilising the neck to diminish any chance of concussion. The risk of a serious head injury during an accident at 25km/h is under 2% when wearing Hovding, and this airbag’s safety credentials are truly unparalleled when it comes to HIC (Head Injury Criterion) and impact testing against even the best traditional helmets.
Here’s where Hovding gets clever. This innovative head protection is worn around the neck like a collar, easily blending with clothing to appear almost like a hood or scarf at first glance - with some serious artificial intelligence under the surface. It utilises an algorithm that has learned from collision data provided by numerous, rigorous tests with both stunt riders and crash test dummies and has also been provided with ‘normal’ cycling data by people going about their daily to-and-fro without incident. From these two sets of data, the accident detection algorithm is able to distinguish abnormal movement patterns from everyday riding.
The wearer’s movements are recorded 200 times a second so should the former be identified, Hovding’s airbag bursts into action in a tenth of a second - covering a much larger area of the head and neck than a traditional helmet. Inflation lasts for several seconds for sustained protection in the event of multiple impacts. The airbag is crafted from a one-piece woven polyamide fabric that resists tearing even after scraping along tarmac, and is filled with helium from a cold gas inflator housed to the rear of the zipped collar. The neck is entirely immobilised by the airbag upon inflation, minimising the risk of whiplash or concussion, whilst shock absorption remains ultra gentle and cushioning.
Who's it for?
Weighing in at around 800g, Hovding might not suit those who relish racing or putting in the hard graft round the local chain gang due to its shape and fit, which is less suited to aero positions and more to relaxed riding on the tops. As a result, Hovding is a better counterpart to cyclists in urban spaces and commuters who can’t hack helmet hair but won’t skimp on safety either. Making the choice to forego a helmet in the belief that this deters dangerous drivers from cutting too close or brake checking is a risky (yet not uncommon) one, and Hovding suits those who favour this approach too.
How to use Hovding
Hovding must be activated for it to inflate should the worst happen, and this is achieved by simply closing the tab and clasping it shut. At this point, Hovding plays a short start up tone and flashes green so the wearer is certain it has been initiated. Hovding should only be activated immediately prior to riding to avoid a mistaken inflation. The elongated section that sits on the upper spine during rides securely houses the electronic card, speaker, inflator and battery - which lasts between 14-16 hours from a two hour full charge (through a USB-C charging port). Two capacitors are utilised so should one fail, Hovding’s protection never falters.
Hovding sits at the intersection of safety, innovation and off-the-wall thought; redefining established helmet safety standards whilst questioning exactly what a helmet is. A revelation for the city cruiser unconvinced by traditional helmets, Hovding puts the urban cyclist at the heart of its design.
Hovding quick starter guide