The Hövding Airbag For Cyclists

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11 Nov 2010  |  Posted by GARETH  |  Categories: Curiosities, Saddles, Bags, Etc., Style & Fashion, Videos

Three years on from when you first read this post, the Hövding is now a buyable reality.

If the phrase “University thesis project by two Swedish design students” doesn’t make you too nervous, then keep reading. But even if it does make you nervous, don’t worry, we’re here to hold your hand. Oh go on, if you’ve made the trip all the way over here from Facebook, you might as well.

It’s fact that every couple of weeks or so, a Health & Safety Think-Tank somewhere sends an army of badly compensated people with clipboards to the streets to extract from members of the Cycling Public an explanation for their aversion to Helmet Use.

Experts reckon that only about half of all cyclists use a helmet with anything approaching regularity. Why is this?

Common replies to pollsters who ask riders the question “Why aren’t you wearing a helmet?” are -

“I don’t own one.”

“It was locked through my saddle rails with a bike chain in an inner tube, but I’d forgotten to superglue ball bearings into my seat post allen nut head.”

“They give me headaches.”

“None of your business.”

“Too hot.”

A helmet obstructs my vision.”

“They look terrible on my head.”

“And they give me helmet hair.”

Bizarrely enough in Sweden, where most hairstyles already resemble helmet hair (look what happens when you google “Swedish Hairstyles”) and can thus arguably only improve with covering, the last two answers are given so frequently that two design students there have seen fit to devise a piece of protective neck-wear, which they hope will render them (the answers) redundant.


Now how could this lady be reasonably expected to wear a conventional bike helmet?

Say “God dag!” to the Hövding.

It’s a collar. Larger than anything you’d put on a dog, but still fairly inconspicuous if you’re wearing the right clothes. The reason it’s relatively large is that it has stuff inside it. A battery, a helium canister, a bag for the helium to go into upon deployment, and a gyroscopic sensor unit. You see where this is going?

The makers have carried out crash tests, placing a notional Hövding user in various critical situations. This video shows us three…

In the first, our stationary dummy gets rammed from behind by a car doing about twelve miles per hour. For sure, the Hövding deploys. But any male viewers who watch the impact replay closely will be more concerned about the saddle’s trajectory than anything happening between rider’s head and car’s windscreen. Ouch.

Coming in 2014- the Brooks “Nosebag”. A patented airbag-style device discreetly housed under the saddle top to create a cushion between man and machine should the Unthinkable happen.

The second test shows what happens to a cyclist caught up in an “Accident While Giving Way”, which sounds a little like what must have happened to this gentleman in the Race Around Ireland, which we had a look at on Tuesday.

Judging by the slow motion shot, in fairness, this might have been better described as “Accident While Riding Over Wet Leaves”.

The “Invisible Helmet” matches beautifully with his Invisible Brakes.

Implicit in all of this, of course, is that lightning won’t strike a second time on one trip. Although having just been tossed by a car, chances are you might not be too keen on immediately getting back in the saddle anyway. But assuming you are, it seems that before setting off again you’ll need to attend to the small matter of re-packing your Hövding collar and replacing that now-empty helium canister.

If you prefer to legislate for multiple accidents over the course of a single journey, then a regular helmet is probably the more convenient way to go. But then, of course, you run the risk of helmet hair. Your decision.

The third situation is described as “Object in Front Wheel”. This Set-Up has its roots in the grand tradition of physical comedy, and is more widely known as “Hey Let’s Hide Around the Corner With A Broom Handle And See What Happens”. Listen for the poorly stifled mirth at 3.33 and you’ll see that not even straightlaced Scandinavian scientists are impervious to its charms.

And even though the essential movements are similar to “Object in Front Wheel”, Hövding’s makers are adamant that the collar will NOT deploy if you bend down to pick up your keys, say, or grab at a tenner you suddenly spot fluttering along the pavement.

Still, those given to spontaneously cartwheeling for joy might be advised to search elsewhere for head protection. Or consider toning it down a little.

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One Comment

  1. Soncaghog 
    Posted 4:34 pm
    10 Jan 2011

    why not:)