This airbag offers head protection to cyclists

This airbag offers head protection to cyclists

Gizmo ZONE

This airbag offers head protection to cyclists

I’m lying on the ground in the middle of the park, feeling a bit like a crash test dummy. My ears are ringing and my head is held in the vice-like grip of safety gear more suited to a spaceship. But what I’m actually wearing is a cycling helmet. It’s a Hövding, an ‘airbag for cyclists’, invented in Sweden and billed as the helmet for people who don’t like wearing helmets. The Hövding promises superior protection in a crash without the need to actually put anything on your head.

My ‘crash’ was simulated for the camera’s benefit, but still I’m surprised by the drama of it all. The Hövding incorporates a lot of scientific research and a sophisticated algorithm that stops it going off unnecessarily, so to activate it I had to throw myself at the ground, headfirst. Moments before impact there was a loud bang, then there I was on the ground, stunned, wrapped in a hard white balloon.

The Hövding fits round your neck a bit like a scarf. It’s heavier than it looks, with a battery, airbag and all that Swedish technology inside. You need to keep it charged and switch it on when you set off. It’s a bit cumbersome off the bike, pulled backwards by the weight at the back, but when you’re cycling and leaning forward it’s fairly unobtrusive. I was expecting looks of admiration and envy at the traffic lights as other cyclists noticed my sophisticated piece of kit — but no one seemed to pay it any attention.

I wouldn’t want to wear it off the bike, though, so it doesn’t really solve the problems I have with helmets. It’s a bit easier to carry around than a bog standard one as it can be folded and put in a (largish) bag, but not much. And at £249 you certainly won’t be leaving it on your bike. Then there’s the heat — it might keep you warm in winter but having a chunky scarf around your neck in hot weather is not going to be pleasant.

I did notice I felt safer with it on, though. I have a rule about not wearing headphones when cycling, but with the Hövding I broke that a few times, listening to music on my way home from work. It was great, but perhaps confirms those suggestions about taking extra risks if you think you’re protected.

And since the Hövding cannot be reused once activated — although if you’re involved in an accident they will sell you a replacement for £99 — I probably won’t be splashing out any time soon. If, however, the crash hadn’t been simulated and the device had saved my life, £249 might seem cheap at the price.