Without the helmet, but with protection. Photo courtesy Hövding.
Did the utter weirdness of the Swedish design company's Hövding helmet make you think it was vaporware? Tvärtom!* The company is planning to release its "crash helmets" - which look like a big collar until an accident causes them to inflate - a little later this spring. Hövding is currently pre-selling the crash collars and negotiating deals with a number of European distributors. In addition to protecting your noggin in the event of a crash, Hövdings are worn around the neck, allowing you to avoid helmet hair and helmet head (a large percentage of women in an APBP study said was a major inhibitor to their cycling more) all for the low, low price of $470 (not including shipping).
Hövding is definitely counting on our vanity to sell its safety collars, and said on the website that it intends the crash collar, with its different colorful shells (sold separately) to be a fashion accessory.
Once inflated, the helmet can't be reused. Photos courtesy Hövding.
Currently, Hövding has two versions of the collar's shell planned - the first, called Creator's Cut, is in a bright red paisley. The second shell, Raven Obscure, is pure black but helps the collar look a little more like a poofy scarf than like, well, a big bulky collar. Both of the shells cost an extra $78.
While it may seem like something of an (expensive) novelty, the Hövding may make a serious dent in casual cycling helmet sales. Its creators spent a couple of years gathering data on bicycle accidents in order to create a collar that would know the difference between an action (bending down from your bike to pick up dropped keys) and an accident (having a bike slip out from under you on uneven gravel).
After the research, Hövding also did quite a bit of bike accident re-creations using crash test dummies and stunt riders. Now they assure consumers that that expensive collar will know the difference between an accident and a strange movement, and will inflate within .1 seconds if the former occurs.
The Hövding secrets a tiny cold gas inflator in its innards. When the internal accelerometer and gyros detect an accident, the inflator quickly pumps helium gas into the internal helmet, causing it to quickly burst the seams of the collar (should be called the Superman, no?) and inflate in a hood-like enclosure that will stay inflated for a few seconds before it begins to slowly deflate.
As you might have guessed, the Hövding can't be reused after an accident. On the plus side, the company will recycle your post-accident Hövding and give you an (at present, undetermined) discount off your next purchase if you send them the old one.
There's actually a black box in the crash collar that records some of the movements of the wearer pre-crash. Because of that, and because it has an on/off switch, the Hövding contains a small battery that can be recharged via USB. It weighs 1.5 pounds, which the company says will rest mostly on a wearer's back.
If you are convinced the crash collar is for you (oh yeah, and you live in Europe) pre-orders will be accepted at the web site.
*Tvärtom means "on the contrary" in Swedish, while "Hövding" means chief or lord.
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