Airbags for Airheads: the Invisible Bike Helmet

Bike helmets aren’t the most commonly seen fashion accessory on the Playa. Like, why wear a helmet, if you’re not even wearing pants?

The biggest safety risks for Playa cyclists are darktards, followed shortly by over-eager LE on quads or pickups ignoring the “parade speed” rules. Helmets can look great with a Mohawk on top and some EL Wire, but they can be a pain in the ass on a hot day.

2 Swedish design students have come up with a solution for protecting your noggin, while still looking stylish. You could probably freak a few people out with it too!

It’s a neck collar, that looks like a scarf, that instantly inflates into a crash-test approved bike helmet when the built in sensors detect you heading for a fall. This is the Volvo, taken to the ultimate extreme. Fuck the car, put the airbags on yourself!

From the inventors, Hövding:

When we asked people what they’d ideally like the bicycle helmet of tomorrow to look like, we got responses like these:

“Like a cool hat with a built-in helmet.”
“Something small that you can fold up and put in your pocket.”
“Something that lets you change what it looks like, like you can with mobile phone skins or wigs.”

The instant we heard the word “invisible”, we realised that was what the world was waiting for. An invisible bicycle helmet. That wouldn’t ruin your hair.

This technology was invented about 7 years ago, and Hövding now have a team of 16 people working for them. In the past you had to go to Sweden to buy one; now Hövding have opened an online store. The helmets cost just under $600, they can only be used once then you have to get another one. You can mix and match the collars, they come in a variety of designs from paisley to faux fur to bridal veil.

No word yet on what these helmets will cost when they make it to Wal-Mart.

How does it work?

The gas inflator that inflates the airbag is placed in a holder in the collar on the bicyclist’s back. Hövding’s gas inflator is a cold gas inflator that uses helium and it’s one of the smallest gas inflators on the market. A similar inflator is used in a motorcycle helmet with airbag system.

The airbag is deployed by sensors – accelerometers and gyros – that pick up a bicyclist’s abnormal movements in the event of an accident. The sensors then send a signal to the gas inflator to inflate the airbag.

The collar with its shell is the visible part of Hövding, which encases the whole airbag system. All the components are located inside the collar for optimum ergonomics and performance. The weight of the collar is evenly distributed across the shoulders and it is heavier at the back than at the front so that when bicycling the weight is resting on your back. The instant it is triggered, the pressure from the airbag splits open the upper seam of the collar, allowing the hood to inflate around your head.

The collar is made of waterproof functional fabric, chosen to provide the ultimate protection for the airbag system it contains. The collar isn’t washable but it is protected from wear, sweat and dirt by the surrounding fabric shell. The shell is washable, interchangeable, and attaches to the collar with zips.

Here’s some of the back story on the inventors:

In 2005 Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin were industrial design students at Lund University. At the time, a Swedish law had just gone into effect requiring helmets for all cyclists up to age 15, and there was talk of extending the law to cover adults as well. Haupt and Alstin observed that no one was interested in wearing bicycle helmets, and their survey results indicated it was because helmets were seen as bulky, ugly, cumbersome and unstylish, among other reasons.

Haupt and Alstin responded with a weighted collar embedded with movement sensors and a gas generator; the kind of thing design students sketch without having any idea how it might actually work. Kudos to the duo, pictured below, for working it out. After more than five years in the making, their Chieftan concept is now going into production, with a twelve-person company built around it.

When did the Hövding Invisible Bicycle Helmet officially launch and who is buying it?

November 2011 was the official release. So far, we have sold 600. It has been about 50/50 women to men and age has a very wide range—from 15 to about 65. There are varying reasons for their purchase but one thing we see in common is that people who buy the invisible helmet hate the ordinary bicycle helmet. Traditional bicycle helmets are bulky, hard to carry and store, and they mess up your hair. Some cyclists are primarily interested in the safety aspect while others are attracted to the technology behind it, and of course that is fashionable.

Have you heard back from any cyclists about accidents while wearing the invisible helmet?

There have been four or five accidents reported. Those cyclists sent back their helmet so we could collect data from the built-in black box. It records about 10 seconds of information on things like acceleration, angle of movements, the change in both acceleration and the cyclists positions right before and during the accident. This is extremely helpful for our research.

What is the projected life span of the invisible helmet?

The expiration date mainly refers to the airbag’s life span, which is the same as a car’s—10 years. The fabric around the airbag will break down a little faster, though. We assume people will want to replace their invisible helmet every three to four years, the same as you would do with ski gear and most other sporting equipment. In Sweden, we actually have insurance that covers the cost of buying a new helmet after a biker has been involved in an accident.

…more at and the Daily Mail

3 comments on “Airbags for Airheads: the Invisible Bike Helmet

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