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?