Sometimes it is a bit hard to be an early adopter. But I like testing new things and I have a good track record for spotting successes and failures very early based on my first tests.
I am using my bicycle every day, all year round in Stockholm and love it. So I was naturally intrigued when I read about the upcoming “invisible bike helmet” Hövding a year ago. It is an airbag contained in a collar around your neck. It is activated by motion control sensors when you are falling off your bike and inflates all around your head, offering radically better head protection than traditional bike helmets, this of course appealed to me.
I also admired the way this Swedish startup handled their PR. They hired professional photographers and models to produce spectacular product photos and seeded them to media all over the world, gaining a lot of publicity. So I immediately pre-ordered a Hövding, for delivery in spring 2011.
Production was delayed, so the first batch was not delivered until November. I eagerly unboxed my Hövding and immediately began to feel that this was perhaps not an ideal product for me. The next day, after having tried it on during 3 bike rides in the city I decided to return it.
Why? Well, here is my personal impression of Hövding.
- It is definitely not invisible, it looks like a bulky big medical neck support and it weighs 0,7 kg, which is a lot heavier than a bike helmet.
- It is quite difficult to put on, as you have to pull a small zipper under your chin, and then turn it on by fastening a small button. Both are hard to locate and feel that they are in the right positions since you cannot see them. After two days of frustration it still took me minutes to get the helmet fastened and activated, compared to around 4 secs with my old helmet. There must be ways to do this much easier and faster!
- It gave me a suffocating feeling, wrapped around my neck, and limiting my ability to turn my head sideways. In this cold winter weather, I did manage to put a thin scarf under it, but then it felt very tight and I was still cold around my throat. I also suspect that it will be way to warm to wear in the summer, when I definitely want my neck to be cooled by the air.
- Since it is quite heavy and bulky, it is a drag to carry around when not in use. And it costs €400 so I am worried about theft and forgetting it in places I visit. My old bike helmet I simply put inside my bike lock, so I never have to carry it around. Since Hövding has a serial number and can be synced to my computer, I suggest that Hövding looks at the Find my iPhone function or something similar that might deter theft and help me locate it.
So I am back to my old bike helmet. I still love the concept of having a head airbag, but think that Hövding will not sell volumes until they have improved the design to make it much more convenient to use. And lowered the price.
I still have not seen any real independent tests of Hövding, will be interesting to see if others react like me.