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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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 smf.org/standards/b/b90astd (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.
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:
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.
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?