Hovding Bicycle Airbag Review – Intro
I own a bike helmet, but I seldom wear it. This may sound stupid to some people, but it really spoils my enjoyment of cycling. . . . “so would brain damage” I hear you say . . . well that is my choice I suppose.
A couple of weeks ago I fell off my bike, on to a soft surface, and I still felt mentally impaired for a few days afterwards. Still keen to avoid a helmet, I though I would give this Swedish Hovding Air Bag a try. The Hovding is actually made in Sweden. Hovding means “Headman”, like a Chief or Chieftain.
I should say to give something “a try” that costs £250 is a bit extravagant, but I justified on the basis that is is safety equipment, and it is Christmas. . . . ((At Time of Writing ( It may not be Christmas Now))
Hovding Bicycle Airbag Review – First Appearances
Having looked at the pictures of the Hovding prior to purchase, actually pulling the thing from the box was not surprising. It weighs about what you would expect (640 grams / 1.5 lbs), and is bedny in some places and chunky in others. . . just as you would expect.
In the box are the Hovding, a Hovding Cover, a USB charge cable, Instruction book and Quick Start Instruction Card.
The supplied cover is of a fine synthetic textile. I also purchased an extra cover, and this is also of a synthetic fabric. A cotton offering would have been preferred.
The battery is easily charged via a standard micro USB cable. This is the first job to do after receiving you Hovding in the Post.
Hovding Bicycle Airbag Review – Charging and Battery Life
The official blurb (instruction book) says 9 hours of battery life. I am keeping a tally and will update when I have some field data on that.
The battery takes around 3 hours to charge from empty. But mine was charged within 45 minutes when I first plugged it in. The green lights illuminate around the activation “popper” as the Hovding charges.
The battery is a lithium cell, and as such should have a long operational life span. If the battery is not charged, when you activate the Hovding, you will get a warning beep.
Hovding Bicycle Airbag Review – Put it On
Putting on the Hovding requires doing up a zip that you cannot see. As a 38 year practical chap who has been dressing himself for 34 years I thought this would be easier than it was. But no doubt it will become easier with time.
When new the front zip stick up in front of you chin. . . do not worry it is sag down after an hour of so of cycling and stays there. It sits around you neck, resting on your shoulders and is not uncomfortable but does rub on the underside of your chin when you turn your head. The next stage is activation this involves doing up the “popper”.
Hovding Bicycle Airbag Review – Activation
The instructions say that you should activate you Hovding when you are on your bike ready to go, and that you should deactivate it before you get off. This makes sense in terms of avoid accidental inflation, but it is quite annoying when you have to get off a push regularly. In London for example where there is terrible cycling infrastructure, I regularly dismount, to push around obstacles and by pass intersections / junctions as a pedestrian.
However, I can confirm that it does not go off when you are walking. Just try not to mimic any movements that might be similar to falling off a bike. I pushed up 4 or 5 hills on my first ride whilst activated. No problem.
Hovding Bicycle Airbag Review – Comfort
This was the primary reason for buying this product. I do not like wearing hats, unless it is very cold or very very hot. First I must dispel concerns regarding the weight of the Hovding. It does not feel heavy in the slightest. It is perhaps twice the weight of a heavy bike helmet, but unlike a bike helmet the weight is on you lower neck or shoulders. As such it does not feel heavy at all.
I went for a large size. This is meant to fit necks up to 65cm. Mine is about 63cm. I am glad it is not 65cm, or I think I might find the Hovding a bit tight. It is OK when wear a T-Shirt but when you add coat collar, inside the Hovding the room is lessened.
At the rear of Hovding is a “lump” which contains (I guess) the gas canister, battery and “brains”. This sits in the nape of the neck, and extends up towards the base of the skull. This is well and good, when you are riding in an upright position. No problem. But if you are hunched down (and we are not talking dropped bars here) this lump starts to get in the way of you neck bending. If you are wearing a cap with a peak (which is OK to do) then this problem is exacerbated.
I would suggest that if you want to experience the Hovding at it most comfortable you would be riding an urban style utility bicycle, with a fairly upright ride. On a drop bar bike, or any bike with “sports” riding position, you will have to bend you neck backwards, and this will cause discomfort, owing to the “lump”.
The problem may affect people with certain head shapes more than others. The image below shows some common head shapes (from the side). If you have a “scaphocephaly” head shape (pokey out bit at the back) then I doubt you will find he Hovding comfortable to wear.
Hovding Bicycle Airbag Review – Cost
When I shared my decision to purchase on social media, the cost (£250) caused some outrage. However, it is not really that expensive, if you consider a good helmet costs £100, and need to be replaced after you crash. Hovding offer a replacement service for £99. So the replacement cost is similar to a conventional helmet, whilst the initial cost is over double.
I justified the decision on the ground of preservation. The Hovding protects you brain and neck. It is a shame it does not protect your back as well, but it offers more protection than a helmet. If this piece of kit keeps you out of a wheelchair, even if there is 0.00000001% chance of that actually occurring then it is worth the cost in my book.
Hovding Bicycle Airbag Review – Conclusions
It may provide better protection, but the Hovding is no less annoying to wear than a helmet.
It is better suited to use in the summer, where the neck area is not congested with coat collars and scarves.
The covers being of a synthetic material does not feel great when they get sweaty. This is unpleasant in winter particularly.
The top of the the zip at the front pokes upwards and is tricky to fold down (it keeps springing up) and rubs the underside of you chin.
I am not a huge bloke @ 6’1″ 15 stone, but the large size is still snug.