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Swedish company says European standard should review maximum permitted impact force

Hövding, the Swedish company behind the so-called “airbag for cyclists,” claims that there are “major flaws” in the design of traditional cycle helmets. It has also produced a film to back up its assertion, with the title Cycle Helmet Safety – What the industry doesn’t want you to know.

Cycle helmets sold in the EU are required to meet the EN1078 standard in order to secure the CE marking that shows they comply with it.

Helmets, attached to a dummy head, are dropped from a height of 1.5 metres onto an anvil. The force of the impact to the head must not exceed 250g (the acceleration measured by G force).

But Hövding argues that the upper limit is “alarmingly high and is clearly above the level of force that would cause injury. This means that helmets that meet the current statutory requirement of 250g may still result in serious or even fatal head injuries in a cycle accident,” it says in this video.

The company says that a 2012 test on its airbag – deployed from a collar worn round the neck – demonstrated that it “had over three times as much shock-absorbing capacity as the best traditional cycle helmet,” with the force of impact standing at 60g.

"Hövding is the biggest thing since the emergence of the cycle helmet and, as a milestone, is equivalent to when the airbag was developed for cars", commented the insurer’s head of division traffic safety & environment, Maria Krafft.

“The harmful effects of Folksam's impact test have now been analysed,” says Hövding, although it gives no details of the methodology used.

“They show that, with a traditional cycle helmet in this type of accident, the likelihood of serious head injury is approximately 90% and the risk of a fatal injury is as high as 30%. The use of an airbag cycle helmet in the same accident dramatically reduces the risk of injury. The risk of serious head injury is then only 2% and the risk of a fatal injury almost non-existent.

“The permitted maximum value for cycle helmets is alarmingly high, which means that a rider can still suffer serious head injuries in an accident wearing a helmet that meets the current legal requirement of 250g,” it adds.

Ms Krafft said: “'Best practice' is often chosen as the norm in consumer tests that drive development forward. This means that there is now no reason to maintain the 250 g limit for an approved helmet."

Stig Håkansson, former director of product safety at the Swedish Consumer Agency, added: "I have spent much of my professional life working on product safety at national and international level and I have never seen a cycle helmet that provided anything like the level of protection that the Hövding provides. Naturally I hope it will be used by a lot of people in the future.

Hövding’s insistence that the 250g impact force limit be brought down is likely to be challenged by helmet manufacturers, and some people might suggest that the primary motivation of the company making these claims is to raise the profile of its own product – and sell more of them.

As for the assertion at the beginning of the video that “this is information that has never been communicated before,” the large body of academic research on the subject of the efficacy of cycle helmets, and the debate that surrounds the whole issue, suggests otherwise.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

52 comments

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bikebot [2120 posts] 3 years ago
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Has anyone ever seen one of these things in the wild?

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euanlindsay [82 posts] 3 years ago
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They would say that though since they are selling it

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Gkam84 [9098 posts] 3 years ago
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euanlindsay wrote:

They would say that though since they are selling it

Well, at least, they make them. Not so sure about selling them  3

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drfabulous0 [408 posts] 3 years ago
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Not sure if I would get one as I don't find riding a bike dangerous enough to spend £300, but I'd probably wear it more often than my regular lid because it does appear to be a lot more useful in a crash. I will probably wait until there have been some reports of real world deployments and the price comes down.

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amazon22 [273 posts] 3 years ago
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It's 250 G not 250g - acceleration not weight.

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jaylamont [17 posts] 3 years ago
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Once deployed in an accident, they are no longer usable. Not that surprising seeing as they are simply air-bags tied to your neck. But that means paying £300 for a crash, which could actually not even require protection for your head. Admittedly you wouldn't want to use a normal bike helmet after you been in accident where your helmet took a knock, but the accidents I've been in normally impacted my wrist, elbow or hips. No impact on the head. So I can keep using my helmet, which cost me £140. With this device, you could easily blow £300 on a very minor accident where your head was not even at risk!! Pretty major flaw in my opinion.

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jaylamont [17 posts] 3 years ago
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Looks they are selling them.... http://shop.hovding.com/

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jasonbrim [32 posts] 3 years ago
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Not sure this will get me wearing one soon, and some tests on more expensive helmets would have been useful, seeing as a Hövding costs more than top-of-the-range helmets.
I also know my helmet protects me when I need it and know it won't deploy randomly if I have a fall where it's not needed.

Once the pros start wearing them though, then it might be a different story  21

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shay cycles [382 posts] 3 years ago
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jaylamont wrote:

Looks they are selling them.... http://shop.hovding.com/

That means they are offering them for sale - it doesn't mean they are actually selling any yet.

Yes I know I'm pedantic  1

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RichardD [7 posts] 3 years ago
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The acceleration is related to the thickness of the helmet- your head decelerates to rest as it travels the depth of the padding as that padding collapses so thinner padding means more G force. The pictured inflatable looks really deep when inflated, hence the great G force results.

For some perspective a 1.5m drop reaches about 20kph, or 12mph, and for a given thickness of padding the acceleration increases with the square of the speed.

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KiwiMike [1286 posts] 3 years ago
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I believe only abut 1 in 10 bike crashes result in head injury, let alone serious injury. So as drfabulous0 says, that's a hell of a lot of cash. This company will fail and close. I give them another 6 months.

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Wolfshade [198 posts] 3 years ago
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I know they have sold at least one as Royal Mail detonated it as it was returned, oh that is a return not a sale...

As for the price, it is crazy money. It's hard to find any helmet that is more expensive than that.

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divingrob [23 posts] 3 years ago
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Bit old hat now

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mrmo [2092 posts] 3 years ago
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jasonbrim wrote:

Not sure this will get me wearing one soon, and some tests on more expensive helmets would have been useful, seeing as a Hövding costs more than top-of-the-range helmets.

Price makes no difference, the standards that cheap and expensive helmets meet are the same. The difference is that the more you spend, generally, the less you physically get.

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pdw [60 posts] 3 years ago
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amazon22 wrote:

It's 250 G not 250g - acceleration not weight.

No, "g" is correct. It's referring to acceleration under gravity at the earth's surface (g=9.8m/s^2) as opposed to the universal gravitational constant, G.

Obviously the manufacturers have an agenda here, but 250g does sound very high.

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vbvb [619 posts] 3 years ago
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I did always notice how helmet manufacturers, so eager to discuss air vents and great fit, would never discuss the safety benefits of their safety product relative to competitors'. It's not that the helmets are all equal - some pass much more stringent regs than others. Looks like cartel behaviour to me, like the 60s car industry not talking about dangers and safety. Quite humorous that this small player stumbles in and innocently blurts out an Ours-is-Safer argument!

Mind you, I still would not want to pack a £300 explosive charge around my neck.

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pedalingparamedic [94 posts] 3 years ago
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jasonbrim wrote:

Once the pros start wearing them though, then it might be a different story  21

Then one of those 'first week of the tour' pile ups would resemble popcorn being cooked!

vbvb wrote:

Mind you, I still would not want to pack a £300 explosive charge around my neck.

and Royal Mail will apparently not handle them either!

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sfichele [140 posts] 3 years ago
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250g seems to be a massive, massive amount of accel/force.

To put that into context, ever sat in the back of car being driven by an idiot, and thrown around due to the g-force. Well that's around 0.5-1g.

Helmet manufacturers are essentially saying the max accel/force is allowed to be 250-500 times that amount. Seems high to me

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vbvb [619 posts] 3 years ago
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mrmo wrote:

Price makes no difference, the standards that cheap and expensive helmets meet are the same. The difference is that the more you spend, generally, the less you physically get.

Not quite right - Price may make a difference, but it's unknown because they don't test or inform on this point. I suspect cheap helmets clear the minimum regs in the cheapest way, meaning with room to spare, while the dearer ones achieve closer tolerances, maximising those vents and lightness. But none of the manufacturers will talk about safety, oddly.

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Maggers [59 posts] 3 years ago
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.

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jollygoodvelo [1614 posts] 3 years ago
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bikebot wrote:

Has anyone ever seen one of these things in the wild?

I've seen one of them around my neck after winning it in a Schwag Grab from this very website  4

I don't have any trouble 'trusting' the technology of the airbag, in the same way as I don't have any worries about my car's airbag going off if I biff over a speedbump. I could write a proper review, but the overriding observation is that the weight (~700g) of the 'scarf' sitting around your neck is noticeable and doesn't disappear with familiarity - especially in my relatively 'racy' riding position on the CX. In a more sit-up-and-beg position it's fine: so it lives in my desk at work and gets used (occasionally) if I take a Boris Bike somewhere.

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bobcdc [22 posts] 3 years ago
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No comments on how the thing looks but it's a bit dorky. Plus I'd guess it's a sweat factory in the warm climates. If they can get one to look more like an actual helmet and have the price drop a bit that would help but that doesn't look likely.

On the plus side, it would be nice not to have something covering my head like a traditional helmet but the neck brace look/feel and mass is not attractive.

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Joeinpoole [441 posts] 3 years ago
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bobcdc wrote:

No comments on how the thing looks but it's a bit dorky.

Some of us think that cycling helmets "look a bit dorky" anyway. On a scale of 'dorkiness' I'd say that the air-bag collar (uninflated) is a lot less that most cycling helmets. Obviously, when it is inflated, then it is so dorky that it is off the scale.

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Beaufort [270 posts] 3 years ago
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These look to be excellent. How many of you that drive cars would buy one without airbags ? If it saved my life I'd be happy to spend the necessary wedge on one.

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cycling science... [5 posts] 3 years ago
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So, do we believe a commercial company or do we believe research scientists? Only last week scientists published research confirming 100% the efficacy of helmets.
It's likely that Hövding hasn't seen the most recent paper, published online in the peer-reviewed journal Accident Analysis & Injury Prevention, starkly titled "Bicycle helmets are highly effective at preventing head injury during head impact: Head-form accelerations and injury criteria for helmeted and unhelmeted impacts".
The paper is by people who work in engineering, orthopaedics and biomechanics and who don't appear to have a vested interest in airbags.
They conclude that helmets reduced peak accelerations in all impacts, helmets reduced head injury criteria in all impacts and, overall, helmets reduced risk of injury.
If anyone has contact with Hövding, tell them they can read it at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000145751400061X

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Joeinpoole [441 posts] 3 years ago
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cycling science - the book wrote:

So, do we believe a commercial company or do we believe research scientists? Only last week scientists published research confirming 100% the efficacy of helmets.
It's likely that Hövding hasn't seen the most recent paper, published online in the peer-reviewed journal Accident Analysis & Injury Prevention, starkly titled "Bicycle helmets are highly effective at preventing head injury during head impact: Head-form accelerations and injury criteria for helmeted and unhelmeted impacts".
The paper is by people who work in engineering, orthopaedics and biomechanics and who don't appear to have a vested interest in airbags.
They conclude that helmets reduced peak accelerations in all impacts, helmets reduced head injury criteria in all impacts and, overall, helmets reduced risk of injury.
If anyone has contact with Hövding, tell them they can read it at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000145751400061X

Wow __ that 'report' is a real glimpse into the future! It's actually dated Sept 2014.

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3cylinder [96 posts] 3 years ago
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cycling science - the book wrote:

So, do we believe a commercial company or do we believe research scientists? Only last week scientists published research confirming 100% the efficacy of helmets.
It's likely that Hövding hasn't seen the most recent paper, published online in the peer-reviewed journal Accident Analysis & Injury Prevention, starkly titled "Bicycle helmets are highly effective at preventing head injury during head impact: Head-form accelerations and injury criteria for helmeted and unhelmeted impacts".
The paper is by people who work in engineering, orthopaedics and biomechanics and who don't appear to have a vested interest in airbags.
They conclude that helmets reduced peak accelerations in all impacts, helmets reduced head injury criteria in all impacts and, overall, helmets reduced risk of injury.
If anyone has contact with Hövding, tell them they can read it at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000145751400061X

It looks like the numbers (HIC values etc) in this paper are similar to the ones Hövding quote in their video for 'normal' helmets, so they aren't saying that normal helmets don't work at all, they are saying theirs works much better. And let's face it, if you do hit your head you would rather be wearing a helmet than nothing, and at the point your face is heading to the tarmac you'd rather it was a massive puffed-up airbag than a little piece of EPS.

Of course this is just more food for the helmet compulsion lobby which can't get past the notion that making everyone wear helmets would save some number of lives a year, to the likelihood that less people would cycle leading to more deaths by loss of 'critical mass of cyclists numbers', more deaths via obesity, heart disease, more congestion, more pollution (more deaths) and so on....

The ideal answer still remains to reduce accidents

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PhilRuss [391 posts] 3 years ago
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jasonbrim wrote:

Not sure this will get me wearing one soon, and some tests on more expensive helmets would have been useful, seeing as a Hövding costs more than top-of-the-range helmets.
I also know my helmet protects me when I need it and know it won't deploy randomly if I have a fall where it's not needed.

Once the pros start wearing them though, then it might be a different story  21

[[[[[ Seems like wearing some sort of horse-collar round yer neck...in warm weather, nice and sweaty? (Pass).
P.R.

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PhilRuss [391 posts] 3 years ago
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Beaufort wrote:

These look to be excellent. How many of you that drive cars would buy one without airbags ? If it saved my life I'd be happy to spend the necessary wedge on one.

[[[[[ I feel there's an enormous "if" there, for 300 smackers!
P.R.

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felixcat [486 posts] 3 years ago
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cycling science - the book wrote:

So, do we believe a commercial company or do we believe research scientists? Only last week scientists published research confirming 100% the efficacy of helmets.
It's likely that Hövding hasn't seen the most recent paper, published online in the peer-reviewed journal Accident Analysis & Injury Prevention, starkly titled "Bicycle helmets are highly effective at preventing head injury during head impact: Head-form accelerations and injury criteria for helmeted and unhelmeted impacts".
The paper is by people who work in engineering, orthopaedics and biomechanics and who don't appear to have a vested interest in airbags.
They conclude that helmets reduced peak accelerations in all impacts, helmets reduced head injury criteria in all impacts and, overall, helmets reduced risk of injury.

We have known for years that this sort of study shows that helmets ought to reduce head injuries and deaths.

We also know that the real life "experiments" in making cyclists wear helmets have failed to reduce the rate of head injuries and deaths in every country where mandatory helmet laws have been tried.

Here is one example.

http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/12/17/the-effects-of-new-zealands-cycle-helmet-law/

It would be more useful to look into the disparty between theory and practice, in order to find out why mass helmet wearing does not have the expected result.

To carry on doing this sort of study will not tell us anything about why some countries have failed to reduce their very high cyclist casualty rates by forcing cyclists to wear helmets.

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