I’ve been using the Hövding – the invisible helmet – for a week now and I thought I’d write about the experience so far. I’m wearing it in this next photo (NB: the helmet is the black collar around my neck. It’s an airbag which deploys in the event of a crash):
When I first put it on it felt strange. I imagine this is how a dog feels when it’s first trained to wear a collar. I wear scarves all the time but this felt different. There’s a hard piece at the back and so it’s not soft like a scarf. I’m guessing this is where the sensors are located.
The instructions that came with the Hövding discuss this and say that over time it softens up. The hard piece at the back will never soften up but I can imagine the fabric probably will. However after a week of use it no longer feels quite so strange. It’s not comfortable to wear when you’re walking because the weight at the back pulls the front of it against my neck and I feel as though I’m being strangled. However this is not a problem when you’re on the bike. The reason they’ve done this is because when you’re cycling you’re slightly bent forwards and they didn’t want the weight hanging in front and creating a strain on your neck. Instead it sits at the top of your back which is better ergonomically. It just means that as soon as I get off my bike I take it off, which I suppose is fine since it’s not needed anyway. When I’m cycling it sits comfortably and I don’t notice it. It’s not heavy at all but it’s not weightless either. Here’s a photo from the back so you can see what I’m talking about.
It’s very easy to put on and take off. There’s a zip and a button where the button activates the sensors that deploy the airbag. This means you can walk around with it unbuttoned without the risk that it will deploy. Knowing me I’ll forget to unbutton it one day, trip over on the pavement, and end up with the air bag around my head feeling stupid. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen.
When I was researching the effectiveness of helmets one thing that came up was that helmet wearers potentially take greater risks because of the perceived safety benefits of wearing a helmet. This is very hard to measure of course and so there are no conclusive facts for how big an effect this is, if any, but I have noticed a difference in my own cycling. I’ve been cycling on the roads more for a start and although subconsciously, I think I’m taking more risks. I think it’s because previously I had the thought in the back of my mind that if I did have an accident people would say accusingly, “She wasn’t even wearing a helmet”. At least if I get hit by a truck and die I can now die feeling righteous 🙂
Overall I’m very happy with the Hövding. The main benefit for me is I can wear my hair in a bun with 100 pins in it without having to pull every single one out just to put on a plastic helmet. In winter I’ll be able to wear my beanie. All I need to do is zip and button up the collar. I think it’s fairly unobtrusive as well and easily blends in with most outfits. The Hövding requires charging but this is also very easy as it charges via USB so I just plug it in every few days as I do my iPhone. Most importantly though, it aces safety tests.
A friend once said to me, helmets make cycling look sporty and dangerous. Cycling can be both things but it can also be neither. Although I’ve got a Hövding now I still view the sort of cycling I do – commuter cycling – as very safe. It would be even safer if more people cycled and the infrastructure was better, but there’s nothing I can do about either of those things.