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I would like to know if these very expensive helmets (about 500€) are actually better than regular ones. I'm sceptical about the claim that they are three times safer: if they are so much safer, why do they not seem to be being used by professionals? I cannot find any serious studies supporting these claims, so am wondering whether they are in fact substantiated.

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My guess is that they haven't been around for long enough for anyone to have conducted a reliable, independent study. Especially given the fact that the debate about the safety of traditional helmets rages on.… – jimirings Aug 23 '12 at 21:01
1 is a good read. Especially when you realize that the bike helmet testing has very little to do with testing how safe your head will be in a crash (unless you are already stopped and off your bike at the time). – Ken Hiatt Aug 23 '12 at 23:34
There's a link on the manufacturer's website to this test by a Swedish insurance company -… – Tom77 Aug 24 '12 at 10:26
Professionals are not using it because it is not UCI approved. And it does not seem to be very aerodynamic. – Papuass Jun 9 at 10:46

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

That's the inflatable "airbag" helmet. It's main claim to fame is that it isn't really a helmet, but sits in a (dorky looking) collar around your neck until needed.

First off, I'm skeptical that the helmet could be tested to most bike helmet standards at all, since the test procedures would not be designed for such a helmet. So it's pretty much impossible to say if it "meets standards", much less is better than others. For helmet testing info (thanks to @Ken Hiatt)

Secondly, the trigger mechanism can't rely (as a car airbag does) on waiting until impact to activate. So it must trigger based on sudden movements of the head and upper body. The reliability of this is questionable. (Keep in mind that a substantial number of head injuries while cycling are due to simply falling off the bike -- the old "forgot to unclip" problem, eg.)

Third, given the iffy nature of the trigger mechanism, false triggering would seem likely, and having the helmet suddenly inflate in a critical situation could be extremely disorienting and lead to an accident that would not otherwise happen.

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There's a video somewhere of a wearer accidentally triggering the airbag while pulling on a jacket. I can't find a link immediately, but it certainly supports the false triggering hypothesis. – Useless Jun 9 at 17:58
I actually can't think of a better trigger mechanism than what they have. Given an accelerometer and huge_data for analysis, I wouldn't be surprised if it will have 99.99% accuracy because it can keep improving. e.g. they just need to sponsor a pro team to analyse how they crash then they can add these new data to the software. Granted, it won't protect them if someone throws a punch. – imel96 Aug 18 at 1:39
@imel96 - The point is, if, say, a cyclist hits a rut and goes head-over, there's no substantial acceleration (actually deceleration) until the cyclist's head hits the ground, which is way too late to inflate the thing. – Daniel R Hicks Aug 18 at 1:48
@DanielRHicks It doesn't need to feel the substantial deceleration, it feels movements to tell if the rider is about to hit something. One very simple example is if the head moves 1 meter down, it'll know that the head will hit ground in fraction of second. The forces it analyses might not be substantial, but the patterns make them obvious. – imel96 Aug 18 at 2:43
@imel96 - So I duck down to clear a tree limb and the helmet inflates? – Daniel R Hicks Aug 18 at 12:39

Bicycle helmets are all certified to the same standard, so I would be sceptical of claims that one is safer than another. With bicycle helmets, a higher price usually gets you helmet that:

  1. Weighs less
  2. Has better vents to keep your head cooler
  3. Is more stylish (i.e., "looks pro")

As for the Hovding helmet specifically, it looks like the main selling point is that it sits around your neck while you are not actively colliding with something. Some people seem to think that conventional helmets look dorky and all helmets seem to give you "helmet hair" to one degree or another. So, I would say that this is again a case where you are paying to get a helmet that gives you more of categories 2 and 3 above.

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I know this is an old thread but I thought I'd answer it anyway! I own one of these but did a lot of reading around the subject of helmets before my purchase and even then I deliberated for over a year! During that time they released version 2 of their Hovding which is lighter and more comfortable (according to their website). The price has also dropped to £250. I figured a company that is updating its product is a good thing and finally bought it - I've been happy with it. If you use it as intended (i.e. urban cycling) it makes a lot of sense.

In terms of their claims, they are backed up by a reputable insurance company called Folksam that did their own testing. It is true that you cannot compare the Hovding to the traditional helmet drop test because it inflates prior to impact whereas a helmet can be placed on a dummy head. However, their main point is that traditional drop tests allow a large amount of impact to transfer to the wearer. The difference with the airbag is that it absorbs the impact so that 3 or 4 times less impact goes to the wearer. It also protects from all ngles whereas the helmet is only tested for the crown (very top). In reality, according to independent research I think it was the occiput that impacted most commonly (back of head). There are some 'real' world examples of the hovding collar inflating when stunt riders have purposefully set it off and it does seem to inflate and protect the head (and perhaps neck) as it should, but it also seems to hard to set it off accidentally - which I know is a worry when you first get the thing!

I have ridden with it for only a few days but doing things like tying laces, getting on and off bike, running up stairs with it (I have a folding bike) haven't caused any mishaps. As you probably know they did about 7 years of research before creating version 1 of the helmet and collected a library of normal and abnormal movements. The likelihood of a false activation is pretty slim unless you are doing something very unusual / outside of the usual movements a cyclist makes, and this includes bunny hops, stairs, harsh acceleration / braking.

I remember the same anxiety when cars introduced air bags and the same discussion, but they proved to be safe - and now you wouldn't be happy to have a car without air bags - perhaps one day it will be the same for cycle helmets?

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Good to hear comments from an actual user. My biggest problem that I can see is that it isn't actually reusable. Neither are regular bike helmets, but I've have fallen 4 or 5 times in my time cycling, and only once have the actual helmet come in contact with the ground. And even that time it was an ever-so-slight contact that I didn't feel the need to replace the helmet. Replacing a $300+ helmet every time I had a fall could get kind of expensive, even if it was less than once a year. Also, it looks like it could be easily push around the back of the head if you hit it from the front. – Kibbee Jun 9 at 12:52
Everyone is always "happy" about an expensive purchase initially. You'll need more than "a few days" of ridership for your testimonials to have any meaningful value. – whatsisname Jun 9 at 22:23

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