Here is our review of the Hövding, an alternative to a conventional bike helmet which is worn around the neck. In the event of a crash, it deploys an airbag. We've been wearing it on our rides to see what it is like.

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 7

Hövding

Pros:

  • Innovative new tech
  • Impressive protection

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • One use only (after deploying)
  • Not especially comfortable
  • Expensive
  • Can go off when you don't want it to

Product:

Hövding Cycling Air Bag (video)

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£219.00

The Hövding is an interesting product – it’s worn round the neck and is intended to replace a conventional bike helmet. Should you crash, the Hövding activates an airbag that encapsulates and protects your head. Having seen it go off multiple times, the technology is impressive and certainly works.

Hailing from Malmo, Sweden, the makers claim that the Hövding offers superior protection to a standard helmet. Researches from Stanford University have been impressed with the shock absorption of the product too, suggesting there is an eightfold reduction in the risk of concussion compared with using a traditional helmet. The reason for this is that the Hövding air bag does a great job of encapsulating your head and surrounding it with a large amount of cushioning. Furthermore, it immobilises the neck – which a conventional helmet doesn’t do at all.

>>> Buyer’s guide to road bike helmets (video)

The Hövding works by way of sensors which take measurements 200 times a second to make a decision as to whether it should inflate or not. There is no danger of it going off when not in use either. To ‘arm’ the air bag, you need to close a popper button near the zip after you have put it on (see video).

The Hövding. Note the popper strap on the front for ‘arming’ the device.

Similar to a car airbag the product is single-use, but there is a crash-replacement programme. Should you be unfortunate enough to be in an accident, and the Hövding does its job, then you can get a new one for £99. Similar to the recommended lifespan of a traditional polystyrene lid, the airbag helmet is expected to last 5-6 years. It is available in three sizes, (small, medium, large) and comes as standard in black, with custom colour options available for the fashion conscious.

When it goes off, there is loud bang and milliseconds later the air bag has encapsulated the wearer’s head. I should point out that the video attached to this review was made before I had tried the product out for myself.

An image depicting the Hovding when inflated

So how well does it perform in day to day use and is it a good alternative to a conventional helmet? I was keen to try it and excited to not wear a traditional helmet for a change.

From time time we all have an ‘off’ that damages our pride and nothing else. In the event of crash like this, it is likely that the Hövding will activate. The Hövding is likely to go off whenever you fall off your bike, whether you need it to or not. Often when you fall off your bike, you don’t bang your head. To be clear, I am not suggesting this is a reason not to wear a helmet or the Hövding, but a conventional helmet has a clear advantage in this regard.

If you are wearing a normal helmet you can pick yourself up, dust yourself down and carry on, continuing to be protected albeit with pride dented and usually a hole in the bibshorts. With the Hövding, once it has gone off, you no longer have protection for the rest of your ride. Furthermore, it’s going to cost you £99 regardless of whether you needed it or not.

It is possible for it go off when you don’t want it too. I heard a story of a woman who claimed when bending over to quickly tie a shoe lace, she unintentionally set off the device. It is important to point out that the makers have refined and continue to refine the firmware that tells the Hövding to activate.

The Hövding when unzipped and open. Custom colours are available

Another issue is weight – at 645g the Hövding is about three times heavier than a premium road helmet such as the Giro Synthe and is unlikely to appeal to the weight-conscious cyclist. The weight is noticeable when riding too. Kit should offer zero distraction – you should forget about it instantly – like a good pair of bib shorts.

I was never able to forget I was wearing the Hövding. It is uncomfortable, heavy and gets rather warm if you are working hard. When heading up a long climb or riding in sweltering summer weather, the last thing you are going to want to wear is what is in essence a chunky scarf.

As an avid road cyclist I will be sticking to my conventional helmet but really the target market for the Hövding is the urban commuter. To put it to the test in this regard, I wore the Hövding while commuting. It is fair to assume that many urban riders will use a backpack, but in my experience the Hövding is even more uncomfortable when worn with a backpack because the back of the device extends down you back and digs in. You can see this in the photo below.

The back of the Hövding doesn’t integrate well with a backpack

For those who don’t want to wear a conventional helmet, this is a cool gadget that works well and offers impressive protection. Just remember to keep it hidden at house parties, as some people may feel compelled to try and set it off! The technology is impressive, but I feel the ergonomics could be refined to make Hövding more comfortable and at present it isn’t economically viable for most cyclists. I suspect by slightly adapting this product other applications could be found for it such as horse riding, where immobilising the neck during a fall could also make a big difference.

For more information head over to Hövding’s website.

 

Verdict

Hövding is cool gadget that offers in some ways a better solution to protection than a conventional cycling helmet. However, I found it to be not especially comfortable and rather heavy. I wouldn't recommend it for roadies and it is best suited to more urban/commuter riding.

Details

Weight:645g
Sizes:S,M, L (medium tested)
Colours:Black - with custom options available
  • Well said, grizzman. Lot’s of people don’t wear helmets because they look goofy. If this product will save extra lives, that is great news.

  • Jiří

    Right, but you don’t have this problem with a normal helmet.

  • David Riddell

    But you can “forget” to put your seat belt on in the car rendering that useless yet the seat belt saves lives every year

  • Colin Prior

    I’m one of those very boring people, an avid helmet wearer. At its current level of development, no not for me. That said, about 25-30 years ago Kodak, the largest producer of camera film, were laughing at the first digital cameras and saying, “What! Those things will never effect our business!”

  • Peter Kortvel

    Can I buy just a collar without a helmet cheaper? It look cool 😀

  • Bob

    you could do with an airbag for your arms and elbows Kath – now that gives me an idea – will you be my crash test dummy when I ‘invent’ one?

  • Bob

    OMG you must have brain damage to start with to buy one of these

  • grizzman

    well done everyone for being so negative about this new idea!!… regardless of the negatives (which all conventional helmets also have) there are a number of positives. Ok, it may not be for you, but let’s not stifle progress and innovation FFS!!!

  • Jiří

    If I understand it correctly the thing can be switched on/off. Then it is only matter of time before somebody forgets to switch it on and has an accident.

  • Rob King

    You are still unprotected from low-hanging road signs, tree branches, pipes sticking off the back of tradie vans etc.

    I see it as a very niche product with a small target market. Coupled with the high setup and replacement price, I think it’s a non-starter.

  • Kathryn Sentance

    Hi Tom,
    It was me riding the bike. The reason my head doesn’t touch the ground is the immobilisation of my neck from the inflation of the collar. If I do the same crash whilst wearing a conventional helmet my neck flexes a lot more and my head hits the ground. Does that make sense?
    Feel free to ask any other questions :o)
    Kathryn

  • Simon Arnold

    This really needs a more in depth look at its target market, a standard helmet will set you back less than half of the replacement cost of £99 which will only be after you have shelled out over £200 for the original one use neck helmet thingy, so £ 300.00 + and you have a new neck helmet thingy, if I fall off I want to be able to get back up and still have protection, not be stopped and have to get a taxi or similar because the helmets now making me look like I’ve had my head cocooned by a giant moth, they’re going on about styled hair, well I don’t think that a neck brace in mid summer or a riding around with an airbag cocoon would be particularly befitting of the no helmet cool and trendy gang !

  • Ron

    Pretty costly. I think you need to get more than just one person’s opinion on this. See what some of the pros have to say about it’s comfort.

  • Tom Jeffs

    Total rubbish. In your “test”, the stuntwoman’s head didn’t even contact the ground.