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  1. #1
    The Professor akohekohe's Avatar
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    Hövding Airbag Helmet - Test Drive

    Even though I live in the USA I managed to acquire a Hövding Airbag Helmet. If you want to know how I got one PM me (I didn't have to travel anywhere to get it). There are several threads in the Bike Forum and elsewhere about the Hövding and a fair number of videos on you tube testing it. Here is the experience of someone who crashed while wearing one (scroll to the bottom of the page).

    Their target market seems to be people who commute short distances on bicycles and don't want to muss their hair. I decided to try one because I think it is a much safer alternative to the traditional helmet. See this and for you Swedes out there this. I know many of you won't agree with me on the merits of the better protection claim. I'm not trying to convince you, I'm just explaining the reason why I decided to try one out.

    Now that I have one at hand and have taken it out for a ride (more on that) here are some observations you may or may not find useful. (you can jump to the ride part at 7. below).

    1. If you are interested in getting one you should read the manual before making the purchase. I couldn't find a link to it on the Hövding site but found it here.

    2. The sizing information is a little confusing. There is currently only one size of the helmet available. This fits head sizes from 52 cm to 59 cm which covers a small through medium size in a traditional helmet. So if your head is larger that 59 cm you are going to have to wait for them to issue a larger helmet (which they say they are planning to do). The helmet can be worn with a shell. There are two sizes of shell, a small and a medium. The small is for neck sizes up to 36 cm and large 34 cm to 42 cm. If your neck is larger than 42 cm you will also have to wait for a larger model (this is the maximum size for both the shell and the helmet). The helmet does not have to be worn with the shell but the shell probably extends the life of the helmet helping keep it clean and reducing abrasion. The helmets are only sold with a shell. I say this is confusing because I initially just noticed the sizing information for the shell, measured my neck (37 cm) and figured I was good to go and ordered one. Fortunately for me it turns out my head is 59 cm (in spite of what my colleagues at work think I only have a medium size head).

    3. Not only do you need the right size head and neck size but you need the right size and type of bicycle:

    a. Hövding is designed for bicycles of a standard design and should not be used when riding special cycles such as tandems, unicycles, BMX bikes, recumbents, foldable cycles etc.
    b. The distance between the ground and the top of the saddle should bebetween 80 cm and 120 cm (31,5 - 47,2”). This is the case for most bicycles.
    c. The bicycle wheel should be of standard sizes 26” or 28”.

    Well, now I'm out of luck. I usually ride an Alex Moulton GT which has 17” wheels and is separable. But I'm not too worried about this because it handles the same as a big wheeled bicycle and since the helmet is worn at the neck, which is the same height off the ground as on a big wheeled bicycled, the size of the wheels really shouldn't make a difference. My best guess is they put in the wheel size restriction in because they didn't actually test the helmet with any wheels less than 26”. I wouldn't use it with a recumbent though, because the neck is a different height off the ground and this will affect the neck's motion in a crash.

    4. In addition, you have to do the right kind of riding:

    Hövding is intended for regular cycling, i.e. in urban environments and on main roads. Hövding is not designed for extreme cycling such as BMX, off-road cycling, mountain biking, trick cycling or similar.

    I do a mix of urban and rural riding but I'm not too worried about it not working for the rural portion. I do think off roading is a different story because here both the motion riding the bike and the way you crash can be quite different from road riding. In any event, the helmet certainly won't protect you when your head hits a low hanging branch.

    5. Weight: With the shell it comes in at 812 grams. By comparison my hard shell helmet weighs 340 grams.

    6. The battery lasts 18 hours before it needs to be recharged. I have done some 24 hour events so this could be a problem. I'm going to inquire whether it can be used while charging (I have a battery powered USB charger I could use for this purpose). I'll let you know what they say.

    7. All of the above you could pick up reading the manual (except the weight) so what follows are my observations from actually riding it. For context, I ride two or three times a week and most weeks get in between 100 and 200 miles in all. This includes flat roads and some hills including a 1,100” climb on my commute. I live in Hawaii, which although technically in the tropics never gets that hot compared to places like Texas. At the airport the all time record high is 95 F. I took the bike out for a 50 mile ride from my house in Kailua to Haleiwa starting at about 6:30 am and finishing at 12:30 pm (stopped at Malaekahana and also had two flats). The temperature ranged from 72 F to 89 F.

    a. I was concerned that 812 grams around my neck would be uncomfortable and result in a sore neck and fatigued arms. Was not a problem. I do this ride fairly often and my neck and arms didn't feel any better or any worse than usual.

    b. Comfort: The helmet does have a sort of short tail that contains the hydrogen canister holding the helium that inflates the air bag. When you bend your head up so you can see ahead of you when in the drops the tail presses against your back between your shoulders and also makes the top of collar presses against the base of your head. This is also true riding on the hoods but to a lesser extent. This pressure only went away when riding in an upright position. I found this to be annoying at first but I got used to it after about 15 miles. I thought this might be more fatiguing but as I mention in a) I didn't notice any the end of 50 miles (or the next day). I ride mostly on the hoods and was on the drops less than 10% of the ride. If you ride mostly on the drops you might find this not only annoying but fatiguing as well. BTW, I think this pressure could be eliminated by changing the angle that the tail protrudes from the collar but this might affect the performance of the airbag. I suspect the target market for this product are people who ride mostly upright so this probably wasn't a concern for the designers.

    c. Heat: I dislike riding in the midday tropical sun and avoid it by riding in the early morning, late after noon or when it is dark. On this particular ride I had two flats, one of which destroyed the tire (good thing they make folding tires and I was carrying a spare) so I ended up finishing this ride when it was around noon, 89 F (according to my Garmin 805) and in direct sunlight for the last 10 miles. The collar was not a problem and I didn't feel the heat any worse under these conditions that I do with a regular helmet on. I think it is a trade off – your head is more ventilated your neck is less so. As I mentioned above my neck is 37 cm and the collar will accommodated up to 42 cm. Consequently it wasn't very tight and some air could get in and cool the neck a bit. If you have a larger neck your experience might be different. I'll report on this some more after I've ridden it more. After Haleiwa there is a four mile 980” climb into the wind on an unshaded portion of road. I often really feel the heat on this stretch of road (seems I'm always climbing it around noon) so this will be a good test and I'll let you know next time I get do it. In any event, the collar is not the same as wearing a winter scarf around your neck and for me, at 89 F, in direct sun, and climbing a 3% grade for a mile, it was not a problem.

    d. While this helmet is marketed to not muss your hair like a helmet this didn't help me. I'm starting to get a bit of male pattern baldness and didn't want sunburn on the top of my head so I wore a cycling cap after the clouds dissipated and the sun had been up for an hour or so. I also used the helmet the few times it was raining to keep the rain off my glasses. So I had hat hair at the end of the ride in spite of my invisible helmet. FYI I used a Pearl Izumi Transfer Cycling Cap which does a good job keeping your head cool (at least if you are not wearing it under a helmet).

    e. I got the basic black shell, which they call Raven Obsure. They market the shells as fashion accessories and as a consequence the shell billows out from the collar. This kept me from being able to see behind me with my eyeglasses mounted mirror until I tucked some of it between the collar and my neck. I'm going to sew it that way when I get around to it.

    f. I found it frustrating to zip up at first. It is hard to see what you are doing when you try to zip it up if you aren't using a mirror which is not practical for bicycling (you need two hands to zip it and one to hold the mirror). It took me quite a while to get the hang of it but I eventually got better at it.

    g. It has significantly less wind noise than with my helmet (even my helmet with Cat-Ears) so I could hear traffic better.

    SUMMARY: Well, so far I'm inclined to keep using it. There are a few things I find annoying but nothing that makes it unusable or so uncomfortable as to be unwearable. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post my reason for getting it is that I'm convinced the airbag provides much better protection than a traditional helmet. Given this belief I think it well worth the extra cost. I think it is unfortunate that Hövding is marketing it as a helmet for those who don't want to muss their hair and not emphasizing the better protection but who am I to second guess a marketing strategy?
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  2. #2
    Senior Member irwin7638's Avatar
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    I'm glad to hear from somebody who has used one. I agree that it should provide better protection, especially from concussions. I am waiting for the larger size to come out. They recently responded to an e-mail I sent them and explained that it might be years before they finish a larger size. Apparently they need to go back to square one and redesign the air bag completely to accommodate a larger head. I would think expanding everything proportionately would work, but it must not have.

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    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Do you know the specifics of their deployment trigger algorithm? Just a rules based scheme, such as detecting a ballistic motion for certain period? Sudden jarring?

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    I doubt it would do much for DAI style concussions (shaken baby) because it does nothing to mitigate the rotational violence in a crash and it might even make it worse (recoil).

    J.

  5. #5
    tcs
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    Quote Originally Posted by irwin7638 View Post
    I'm glad to hear from somebody who has used one.
    Well, he's worn one.
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

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  6. #6
    The Professor akohekohe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
    Do you know the specifics of their deployment trigger algorithm? Just a rules based scheme, such as detecting a ballistic motion for certain period? Sudden jarring?
    The Hovding website has some information about this. It appears to be quite sophisticated and they spent a lot of money in R&D developing it. One of the videos on YouTube I found, the person testing it (his own test, not a company test) did some falls and the bag did not deploy except for the one where he was actually going to hit his head hard and then it deployed just before it hit.
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    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by akohekohe View Post
    The Hovding website has some information about this. It appears to be quite sophisticated and they spent a lot of money in R&D developing it. One of the videos on YouTube I found, the person testing it (his own test, not a company test) did some falls and the bag did not deploy except for the one where he was actually going to hit his head hard and then it deployed just before it hit.
    That was my main concern. If you just tried to go at it analytically it's not likely to work, not every time. But if you're collecting a whole lot of experimental data and pattern matching without necessarily depending on assumptions, I expect that to be more robust. I was speculating that this might be one reason why the larger head size is requiring a lot more R&D, because the motions could be different given more massive melons.

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    USMC Veteran qcpmsame's Avatar
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    Interesting concept, I listened to the NPR Morning Edition segment about the Hovding helmet, interesting interview with one of the principals, here is a link to the transcript:http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2...edish-solution

    I would like to see some tie in by a helmet mfgr with the military studies on flight helmets. A lot of aviation fatalities are the brain moving forward after the sudden stop in a crash of an aircraft. There is a lot of study and work going on in the helmet design, materials and engineering for the military aviation community, perhaps there is something that could transfer to bicycle helmet technology. Just a random thought in a really random functioning mind.
    Bill
    Last edited by qcpmsame; 12-02-13 at 06:10 AM. Reason: Add a thought about helmet engineering and research.
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    I guess I would think this might get pretty gross feeling if you were to do any extended riding with it (i.e. sweating into, essentially, a plastic collar). i can also see where it might be difficult to use with certain handlebar configurations.

    Finally, before I'd want to use it, I'd like to see how it does in actual practice and gain some understanding of it's effectiveness compared to regular helmets and any recall history. I'm thinking this is not the one that I'd want to be the early adopter on.

    So, I'd put this one in the "wait and see" bin for a while. Good to see that someone is starting to challenge the helmet standards already out there. Current helmets are mired in the '80s due to standards that have been placed in law. Also good to see companies (I.e. MIPS Helmet through POC and Scott) addressing the issue of DAI damage (diffuse axonal injury - shaken baby syndrome) that is usually a big component of any concussion and has long lasting effects.

    J.

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    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting your experiences. I guess the upside for me is that there are still those out there working to improve head protection. My fear is that there's no motivation to mass market recent advances unless the minimum requirements for head protection change.
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    Senior Member John_V's Avatar
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    Very thorough and informative write-up on the Invisible Helmet. While the helmet looks promising and may well be worth the money spent on it, I don't know that I would ever use one. I'm the kind of person that can't stand a necktie or collared shirt around my neck, let alone a thick bulging collar while riding a bicycle.
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    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    Thanks' for the write-up. The concept is ideal for an urban cyclist and commuting. I hope Hövding sells enough units to justify long-term continued development. The European market with the widespread use of upright bikes for transportation will probably adapt sooner to the Hövding helmet than the US market.
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    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
    The European market with the widespread use of upright bikes for transportation will probably adapt sooner to the Hövding helmet than the US market.
    Doubt it, given the relatively small percentage of European cyclists who wear any kind of helmet while riding their upright bikes.

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    Senior Member bruce19's Avatar
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    Reminds me of the first electric cars with a 25 mi. range. A step in the right direction (perhaps) but nothing I'd spend big bucks for.

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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    Doubt it, given the relatively small percentage of European cyclists who wear any kind of helmet while riding their upright bikes.
    I wonder what might happen should it become a fashion trend. When last in Paris, London, and Amsterdam, I was amazed at how fashionably dressed so many young people were. While we have segments in the US who will spend hundreds of dollars on sneakers, it appeared to me that there was a lot of money being spent on different trendy fashions in those 3 cities.
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    Thanks Akoekhe for the considered review, not much out there yet on 'usability'. (That's some commute, prof of astronomy ?)

    JohnJ80 From the saftey perspective that must be a key issue, how does it perform with rotational impact force? The obvious comparision is withhttp://mipshelmet.com/home (also from Sweden). My guess is the less rigid airbag should be better than an admittedly smaller conventional helmet, but just a guess of course. Hövding should at least collect real data from live crashes over time.

    With the 'carboard' http://www.kraniums.com/ becoming available there is at long last evidence of brands looking to go 'beyond the standards'.

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    Actually, I think it would be worse because there is nothing to absorb the rotational impact or prevent it from reaching the brain.

    J.

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    The Professor akohekohe's Avatar
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    I'm still using it. It has become less stiff with use which makes it more comfortable (the manual said this would be the case). The issue with the tail pressing against my back when on the drops is not an issue now. I stopped using the shell because it really isn't necessary and I get better visibility to the rear with my eyeglasses mirror without it. It is also cooler without it. I still haven't had a problem with overheating. I haven't had any real hot days yet but according to my Garmin Montana the temperature out on the road has gotten into the 90s while I've been climbing hills and I haven't noticed the heat anymore than when I'm wearing a helmet. I've ridden with it in some extreme rain and there was no problem. My Gore cycling cap did a good job keeping the rain out of my eyes. I like wearing a cycling cap - it has the advantage over a helmet of being able to easily adjust the visor position. This is nice when the sun is coming from the side. I still haven't used it for any ride over 50 miles but I'm going to make time for a century one of these days soon. I've managed to not crash so far, so I have nothing to report on crash effectiveness.
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    Well I did get one, and Sod's Law dictated that on my third ride I came off in only the second time in 20+ years (by a lethal roadhump hit at an angle, or the irony..) I went 'highside' and the bag did it's thing Luckily I had a clear space to land, so very reassuring but could easily have been a lot more crucial.

    re rotation, there is an inner and outer bag held togther with a strap, so even if the bags picks up more angular momentum I can't see it passing it on to the skull with such a shock loading as a rigid shell tighly attached.

    re the design it's realy very neat, only thing I can't understand is why they didn't use a chunkier zip which would be easier to join unsighted. With an internal battery and using non replaceable zips I was thinking I shouldn't expect more than 5 years from it, tops. All in all an amazing piece of technology, but I might wait until summer and the lure of 'wind in the hair' cycling before replacing.


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  20. #20
    Senior Member irwin7638's Avatar
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    Thanks Paul_M, I'm glad you're alright and it's good to get a real world testimony of a crash experience. Let us know how they treat you about the replacement.

    Marc
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    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by irwin7638 View Post
    Thanks Paul_M, I'm glad you're alright and it's good to get a real world testimony of a crash experience. Let us know how they treat you about the replacement.

    Marc
    One question, can you replace just the bag at a lower cost, or does it mean replacing the whole thing?

  22. #22
    Senior Member irwin7638's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wogster View Post
    One question, can you replace just the bag at a lower cost, or does it mean replacing the whole thing?
    The whole thing has to be replaced as a unit, but they do rebate cost if their "black box" is returned for future analysis. I have never heard what that rebate is when actually applied against a new unit.

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    Apparently in Norhtern Europe insurance is available at 21 euros a year to cover this, but not in Blighty. To tell the truth I proabably wouldn't have bothered, as my normal policy is to self insure, and after all I'd only been off once (on road) in the last quarter century. I've taken a look at the spot and a pothole has formed along the front edge of the hump - taken at an angle my wheel dropped far enough to rip the bars out of my hands. Since the probelm wasn't previously reported no chance to claim from the County Council :-(

    On reflection I'd say that hearing (and seeing) the bag deploy whilst flying through the air (I went highside) is very reassuring.

    I have emailed HÖVDING , I'll let you know what the response is.

  24. #24
    The Professor akohekohe's Avatar
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    Well, I've still been using the Hövding on all my rides but yesterday it simply wouldn't turn on and when I tried plugging it in to the charger nothing happened. I tried several different cords and USB chargers but to no avail. I've emailed Hövding about this. I will be curious to hear what they say. It will be a pain to ship it to Sweden if they want it back intact.
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    The Professor akohekohe's Avatar
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    I got a replacement Hövding. I'm not sure why the one I had failed. I talked to Hövding on the phone and they claimed they were having trouble with a wire that was too short and pulls out on a few units and seemed sure that was the problem with mine. I could not find any loose wire in mine so I don't think that was the problem. I think perhaps it is better to use the cloth shell that zips around the airbag (leaving the top open for airbag deployment). They say you can use it without it but I think it will help keep sweat out of the electronics where the charger plugs in and that might have been a problem. I had stopped using it because it stuck out enough to block the view to the rear from my helmet mirror. I have now solved that by sewing the shell so that it doesn't billow as much.

    I may eventually get my money back from Hövding but trying to ship it to them is costly. I still do like using it but if this one stops working I think I'll have to wait until they get dealers in the USA. They are working on it.
    The more you drive the less intelligent you are. - Tracy Walter as Miller in Repo Man.

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