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Helmet or No Helmet?

If you are one of the drivers considering substituting your drive to work with something more active, affordable and environment-friendly, this new technology from Europe may further encourage you to do so.

We all know the pros of wearing a helmet when cycling. It may actually be a single argument in favor, but it certainly is important enough. The cycling helmet keeps you safe(r) in case of an incident, and has saved many lives since being introduced decades ago.

It does have flaws, however, leading many people to disregard the sound advice about the importance of wearing it when cycling – the typical plastic-plus-foam helmets are just plain uncomfortable, and leave you feeling hot and your hair messy.

The Swedish company Hövding also suggest the traditional helmet may not be that safe, either, failing to offer enough shock absorption every time. They therefore designed a new helmet that would not only ensure safety but also improve the overall aesthetics of the helmet. This is good news for cyclists – and drivers – everywhere.

Their solution is rather ingenious: when riding your bike, the Hövding helmet is actually just a somewhat chunky collar loosely hugging your neck. In case of fall, incident or other potential for impact, motion triggers helmet activation, which then inflates instantly (in one tenth of a second, to be precise). When inflated, the Hövding helmet not only protects a greater portion of the vulnerable head and neck area (without obscuring vision), but also provides a much softer, safer landing than the traditional helmet.

Made in collaboration with airbag manufacturer Alva Sweden, this helmet is in fact a miniature personal airbag. Equipped with smart motion sensors ‘taught’ to react to shifts in momentum typical of cycling crashes, the collar is active as soon as the wearer locks it in place with the zipper. When an incident is anticipated, cartridge-stored helium immediately inflates the collar to wrap around the head and neck, and leaves it inflated for a while following the impact for added protection. The sensors are charged via USB and last 18 hours once charged.

It seems, then, that the Swedish designers were able to do just what they intended, namely not only deal with the visual appeal of safety apparel, but also do away with the fatal impact of G-forces in accidents. Independent testing conducted so far has reported the Hövding helmet provides three times greater shock absorption, compared to the traditional helmet.

For now, these helmets are only available in Europe, and come with a hefty price tag of around $400. However, with increased interest in cycling one’s commute and increased awareness of the safety risks associated with cycling, we are sure the inflatable helmet will be more widely available (perhaps with increased applicability) very soon!

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