Bicycling isn't exactly a new pastime but with growing environmental concerns, it has certainly seen a boom in popularity, with many people choosing to bike to work instead of drive. However, we probably all remember being a kid and not wanting to wear our bike helmet because it wasn't "cool," which is a concern many adults share...especially if hairstyles are involved. When cyclist helmet laws were brought up in Sweden, two friends decided to do the impossible and create an invisible helmet, Hövding (Swedish for "Chieftain"), that keeps you safe and stylish.
"Bicycling is something we do every day and there's a sense of freedom that goes with it. Although people are well aware of the risks on the roads, the vast majority are choosing to bicycle without a helmet," says the company founders, Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin. "When it comes down to it, people do really want to protect their heads in road accidents, but there are limits. It isn't the bicyclists who need to change, it's the product."
Instead of sitting on the head, Hövding is worn around the neck, resembling a cowl-like collar. What keeps you safe is the hidden airbag within the collar, which deploys (using helium) in about 0.1 seconds if you get into an accident. The company says that the timely deployment is made possible due to a trigger mechanism that's "controlled by sensors which pick up the abnormal movements of a bicyclist in an accident." Covering your entire head, the airbag is made from a nylon fabric, which can apparently withstand rough scrapes against asphalt without any rips. In the case of accidents where multiple hits to the head are received, Hövding maintains its pressure long enough to keep you safe during several impacts.
Hövding definitely seems like a complex technical design, featuring an on/off button which uses the front zip enclosure. When the zipper is pulled all the way up and buttoned, the product is essentially turned on. An LED light and sound is emitted, letting you know that everything is ready to go. There's a USB port for charging, along with several battery life lights that let you know how much juice is left.
It seems like the Hövding only has one life and if you do get into an accident, you can't exactly put it back together so it's best to send it back to the company to ensure proper recycling. There's also a little black box within the design that records around ten seconds of data on your movements and patterns immediately prior to and during the crash. When it is sent back, the company is able to continue developing and moving forward with the new data.
According to the company, in Sweden alone, around 40 people a year die in a bicycle-related accident, while some 30,000 are hurt. It's obvious that, while unattractive, helmets are a necessary inconvenience. Haupt and Alstin asked around to discover what people really wanted out of their helmets and got answers concerning the overall look and size. Mostly, they found that people just wanted something invisible, something that wouldn't ruin their hair and that would never clash with an outfit. Instead of giving up under the weight of a seemingly impossible demand, they decided to run with the "invisible" plan and designed a product that not only helps keep your safe, but looks pretty great.
Costing around $597, the collar sits within a removable fabric shell, which is where the style comes in. You can choose different colors and patterns to fit your various outfits and moods. While there are only two shells to currently choose from, the company promises that as they continue to grow, they will begin offering new collections as often as possible.
"We want to encourage others to follow in our footsteps and dare to demand something better, to stand out from the crowd, and believe in themselves and their own capabilities. We may be a small company but we think big and we aim high. Delusions of grandeur are exactly what it takes!"
Unfortunately, Hövding is only shipped to countries within the European Union, meaning if you live in America, you're going to have to hop on a plane. However, as the company continues to grow it will hopefully find its way to new markets.
For more information and tips on how to get the most safety out of the Hövding, visit Hovding.com.
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