Cycle helmet technology seems to have hit a bit of a rut over the years. Unless you want something extremely aerodynamic, they aren’t dissimilar now to what they were 15 years ago.
They are also very unpopular among cyclists, and are cited as a major reason that cyclists don’t ride as much as they might in some countries. Some people like to turn up with their hair just so, and not messed up with their helmet.
In the UK it is not illegal to cycle on the road without a cycle helmet but given that 4 cyclists have died in London alone since January, you’d not want to cycle regularly without one.
In the last year, a new alternative to cycle helmets has popped up – the Hovding helmet.
What is it?
This is a safety system that is worn as a collar. When a crash is imminent then a helium cylinder blasts gas into the collar and within 0.1 of a second your head is surrounded by a gas filled hood. In that time between collision and full inflation, you will still be airborne and yet to hit the pavement.
You don’t get helmet hair and the collar is designed with style in mind.
The company also claims that the hood when inflated reduces the impact force of the road on your head more than an EU approved cycle helmet.
The best review we have seen is a road test by a cyclist based in Hawaii. These aren’t sold in the US, with the US government still assessing the gear’s safety. He did give it a good ride though.
The chief complaint with this system is that it isn’t comfortable if you are leant forward and looking up to see straight ahead. This is because the system is designed for upright cycling. If you’re on a classic ‘sit up and beg’ bike, cycling to work in Cambridge then this is fine – the Boris Bikes in London have also been shown to be comfortable using the Hovding system.
However, if like me you are into cross country riding or into road racing with your shoulders down and leant forward, this may be a tad uncomfortable. The Hawaiian rider didn’t find this very problematic over 50 miles over a volcano but he did notice the discomfort. If you are into dodging tree branches on your ride, then a helmet is advisable as the collar won’t fire due to dangers from above.
Looking behind you is a serious problem however. It frequently isn’t what’s ahead but what leaps up from behind you that is the danger. You need to look behind you to change lanes and turn right. If you’re leant forward and not upright this could pose a bit of a danger.
Whingers have pointed out that it could be too warm to ride in very hot weather. This is a strong enough complaint that Hovding helmet manufacturers have stated that they are designing a cooling system for wearers’ necks. Our Hawaiian friend dismisses the problem. Though presumably used to hot weather, he likes to cycle in the cool mornings. On his first ride he blew two tyres so ended up limping home in the midday heat of 30 degrees Celsius. Even so he didn’t feel that this was unduly uncomfortable on his neck.
Another issue is the cost. In the UK, one will set you back £299. It is high end technology, and for someone riding a £1000 plus bike this won’t be off putting. However, a good price for a legal helmet is around £30, or 10% of the cost.
If you’re not racing the clock to work on a carbon racing bike, and are using a comfortable upright commuting machine, the Hovding helmet may well be the answer.
Racing snakes may well have to wait a while but for the gentler riders, this system may well be worth a pop on the credit card.