At Epochs we focus on the storied and traditional, but sometimes a modern garment demands our attention; something that seems otherworldy, magical—a futuristic helmet you can’t see. But before we talk about it lets go back to 2015.
It was to be the year of the wearable. Smartwatch sales were anticipated to be huge, but sales fizzled out as people failed to find utility in wearables. Glass was a creepy invasion of privacy that was canned, Nike ceased fuelband development. In 2015 wearables underwhelmed.
So much was invested into putting technology onto the valuable real-estate of our face and wrists that there was a blindspot to other areas that were more suitable. In 2015 another, smaller wearable picked up steam. Not a Silicon Valley juggernaut, or kickstarter darling, but a small company run by industrial design graduates out of Malmö. That company is Hövding, and they released the second version of their sole product—Hövding 2.0— in 2015. Hövding 2.0 is a cycling helmet that you can't see.
Hövding is of course visible but it is discreet due to its unexpected location around the wearer's neck. One day a friend asked why I wasn’t wearing a helmet. “I am.” I replied. He was bemused. Innovative is often thrown around but Hövding truly is a reinvention of what a bicycle helmet can be. Although Hövding sounds like a side-table from Ikea it truly is a ground-breaking invention. Rather than a bulky static styrofoam helmet sitting on your head it’s a neat collar that sits silently monitoring for danger. And when it senses that danger?
The helmet inflates with pressurised gas much like a car airbag and protects your head and neck—a blindspot of current helmet designs. Amazing, right? But it is not without its downsides. The helmet demands a hefty pricetag at £240 or €315. It really has to blow away competitors to justify that markup and people are rightfully sceptical of a new safety product so different from its predecessors. This video (particularly from the 3 minute mark) convinced me.
The video (and its conspiracy theory title) makes a compelling case for the airbag system to replace the traditional helmet entirely. Hövding 2.0 blows away the traditional model in every category. It may not be so far into the future when Hövding copycats and competitors are ubiquitous. We may then look back at traditional helmets as deathtraps akin to the leather “hairnets” early cyclists wore.
Hövding is clearly positioning themselves towards wealthy commuters in Scandinavia and throughout Europe (unfortunately not for sale in the USA yet, sorry American readers). They want the helmet to be synonymous with good taste and sensibility so their press shots are often stylish women and besuited men donning on-brand yellow pocket squares.
The user interacts with the device through a snap fastener/button hybrid. When you’re cycling you attach the male part on the zipper to the female part, a yellow-green LED lights up, the device plays a powering on noise and you’re ready to go. I would prefer if the speaker were louder though as that positive confirmation can be lost among the background noise of busy streets and traffic.
This of course means though that the device needs a battery. You can check it by pushing in the snap fastener where up to 5 LED lights indicate the charge, similar to the battery check on older macbooks.
This battery along with the other technology that powers Hövding sit on the back of the device between your neck and back. This immediately felt odd to me as it feels very back-loaded standing upright but once I cycled the purpose immediately became clear as it sits more comfortably into the angled pose you take on a bike.
A simple yellow USB cord charges Hövding through a discrete gap in the cover and the LEDs fill up gradually as it charges. Initially I was concerned about water breaching this gap but haven’t had any difficulties through a rainy winter. The battery has tremendous longevity having only been charged a handful of times in the months since buying it.
Hövding comes with a default black cover but you can buy various versions to replace an older worn cover or add some personal flair. Version 1.0 had some truly questionable cover designs but it seems Hövding have really upped their game with their new offerings. I opted for a light reflecting dotted pattern as it eliminated the need to wear high-vis clothing at night (available here).
Item type: Airbag Cycling Helmet
Assembled in: Portugal
Where to buy: Direct or from Amazon
Hövding’s stitching isn’t superb, some elements lack refinement and it's expensive. But it is a truly exceptional product that has reinvented its category, will keep you stylish on the road and may save you your life. Highly recommended.