One of the first things you notice about Amsterdam are the bikes. They’re everywhere: peppering the roads, overflowing from bike racks and, regularly, clogging up the canals. For someone who has grown up in the UK, it’s not simply the 881,000 bikes in the city that are shocking. It’s the fact no one wears helmets. The reasons behind this are multifaceted, but one company is looking to change this.
The Hövding is an airbag-style bicycle helmet designed in Sweden that aims to be unobtrusive, while offering superior protection compared to traditional equipment. The question is: do the Dutch public care? We took the Hövding to the streets of Amsterdam to find out.
Oh, and we set it off in a trampoline park, of course. Watch the whole thing below.
Using the Hövding was a breeze. It was easy to put on and was surprisingly comfortable for something that looks a bit like a fancy dog collar.
The technology inside it is also pretty cool. The airbag is deployed when the accelerometer in the Hövding detects the type of movement experienced in a bike crash, something the company pumped time into tracking and trialling. Each Hövding also has a black box in it, which the company analyses after each accident to improve the experience.
You can see an example of this in the video. We tried setting it off with a jump to the side, but it wasn’t until my body was more airborne that it actually inflated. When this happened, there was a strong, bitter, and gas-like smell from the device and, in a split second, my head was rigidly encased. It felt both impressive and safe. And, to be honest, kinda freaky.
There are some glaring issues with the Hövding and the public picked up on them: price and re-use. €299 is a lot of money for a single use item, even though many insurers will cover its cost if you get into an accident. Maybe if you do purchase a Hövding, stumping up for a bit of insurance isn’t the worst idea in the world.
The fact that it needs to be charged to operate – which isn’t surprising when you consider the tech inside – feels… strange. There’s something about having to charge a helmet that seems counter-intuitive, especially when you don’t really see it using the power.
We also have to consider the cultural attitude to helmets. Judging by the Dutch public’s reaction to the device, it seems unlikely that the Hövding will gain traction in countries without a helmet habit or strict cycling laws.
So, who’s it for?
Basically, someone who really, really hates regular helmets, but still wants to be safe. The Hövding is unobtrusive, comfortable and, importantly, won’t mess up your beautiful bouffant while cycling. And, you know, it’ll protect you pretty well too.
Myself? It was fun to use, but I’m probably not going to shell out for one too soon. It is cool though.
If you’ve been looking for a novel way to look after your noggin, you can buy the Hövding here.
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Published May 16, 2018 — 12:19 UTC