Bike helmets are fundamentally alike: a hard exterior shell covers a shock-absorbing material underneath, and a chin strap (or two) holds the device snugly in place on your head. Variations on this theme offer different colors, materials and increasing or decreasing amounts of ventilation or aerodynamics. But what about protecting the second-most sensitive area to the head—the neck? How can this product's design compel a cyclist, whether a commuter or a professional, to actually want to wear it? What about it not interfering with a perfectly coiffed hairdo?
For their master’s thesis at Lund University in Sweden, two industrial designers, Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin, answered these questions and others with Hövding. Driven by doing the impossible, frustrated with the “hard mushroom” of existing product design and fueled by others telling them they couldn’t do it, it’s almost unfair to call their innovation a helmet.
But it’s not just the emotional sell that hooked me. Anna and Terese and their team consulted with a trauma specialist and studied triggers from staged accidents to make the onboard technology über smart. The single-use device contains a black box that stores accident information; once the airbag is inflated, its surviving user ships the entire product back to Sweden to continuously improve the system. As a frequent cyclist, that learning cycle means I’m helping others.
So I had to have one. As of this post, they aren’t yet shipping to the U.S. During a trip to France last fall, I ordered one and shipped it to my Paris hotel room, then used La Poste to ship it to myself in the U.S. Because helium inflates the airbag, stowing the helmet in luggage is discouraged, so I asked Air France via Twitter, and they took extra precautions with me when I checked in for my return flight.