The Hövding, a totally different bike helmet solution

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Please note: This is a review where I’m not going to test the Hövding airbag for cyclists in full. Don’t feel a surge of disappointment, the reason why will become apparent.

A few years ago I was dead set on finding a cycle helmet that didn’t make me look like a dork. I did find one, the Dashel, that I have happily used since, yet only in the warmer part of the year. Reason being that almost any form of helmet is very cold when the weather turns cold. And once you’re down to even single digit negative Celcius, you want something windproof and warm on your head. Which means that around here at least, keeping my head warm takes priority over protection large parts of the year. Hence why I was delighted and intrigued to discover the Hövding solution.

The Hövding airbag is a very clever and innovative alternative to helmets for cyclists, claiming to offer multiple times better safety than conventional helmets. If you’ve not seen it before, you’ll be wondering now how on earth this is meant to work, and it is quite surprising. You wear it as a quite thick collar, zipped up in front. And that’s it, apart from charging the internal battery after every 9 hours of active use. Inside the collar, there are sensors that monitor your progress and if a dangerous situation occurs, an inflatable helmet enshrouds your head within 0.1 seconds. So between the time your bike crashes into something and your head hits the pavement, it’s totally protected. And it’s large enough to cover both your head and a reasonable sized warm hat. Score!

If you’re wondering why the device is called the “Hövding” I can only imagine it’s due to meaning “Chief” in Sweden, where the device originates from, in the manner of native Americans, and that when inflated it looks a little like the feathered headgear such a chief would wear.

I’ve only used it a few times so far, but it feels fairly unobtrusive, insofar as a device weighing 0.65 kilos (roughly the same weight as a full pint glass of beer) and the shape and diameter of a slender underarm lying around your neck would be unobtrusive. Seriously though, once on you don’t think about it, as it lays well in place around your neck, with the main mechanism at the back. Putting it on requires no more effort than putting it in place and zipping up the front zip. To activate it you just put the zip pull into its popper and it gives a few beeps to let you know you’re protected. It also lets you know when it’s time to charge the batteries, via the built-in micro-USB port.

The Hövding airbag seen from the front, activated and ready.

Pros:

  • It is claimed to be multiple times safer in an accident than a conventional helmet.
  • It lets you cycle with more freedom to wear something other than a helmet on your head, which is a good point when it’s cold outside.
  • It deploys rapidly and covers the entire head.
  • The cover can be removed to clean it, or replaced with various other covers available from the maker (nothing in tweed though!)

Cons:

  • Unlike the Dashel, it’s hard to argue that the Hövding airbag actually adds style.
  • You can’t bring it along on aircraft, at all.
  • You can’t really leave it with your bike like you might do with a cheap helmet.
  • It does need recharging up every 9 hours of active use.
  • Only recommended down to -20C.
  • Hövding has only certified it up to a 59cm head circumference, which at the moment means that they don’t recommend it used for a larger (i.e. heavier head), though you can use it with a turban. (As an aside, according to a contact in the men’s headwear industry, around 30% of men have a head larger than 59cm).
The Hovding airbag seen from the rear, showing the podlike part where the active bits lay. You can make out the charging port under the cover.

The Hovding airbag seen from the rear, showing the podlike part where the active bits lay. You can make out the charging port under the cover.

The big question is whether I’ll actually use it much. In all honesty, if I’m nipping out on the bike alone, I’ll most often go without a helmet. If I’m cycling with others, be they kids that need to be shown a good example or adults that will subject me to helmet shaming, I’ll wear a helmet. The Hövding does look notably unusual when you’re not wearing more than a t-shirt, but when more as a replacement for a scarf it will blend in better. Maybe it needs a more woollen cover to really make it attractive for Winter use?

Now, I started out by saying I’d not be doing a full test of the Hövding, and you probably see why now. I’ve managed to spend a decent few years on Earth without falling off my bike, so I’d prefer not to have to bang into something to prove the point. So I’ll leave you with one of a huge number of videos on Youtube that show the Hövding in action. Plus, costing around 250 pounds and non-reusable after deployment, it would be an expensive experiment, ok?

The Hövding appears widely available in bike shops, or direct from Hövding.

2 Comments

  • Lizzie Long 30/06/2019 at 16:24

    Eek! I can’t imagine wearing that, or paying so much money for it. I choose not to wear a helmet, but if I ever change my mind it won’t be for one of those!

    Reply
    • nick 30/06/2019 at 16:51

      Lizzy, you know from our previous discussions that nothing short of full body armour, multiple flashing lights and a police motorcycle escort is appropriate for cycling on UK roads! Seriously though, it’s really not wise to not even wear a helmet.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.