THERE is an age old argument when it comes to cycling. It involves whether you should don some plastic and styrofoam atop your skull in an attempt to make you immortal. In the UK wearing a helmet is still a choice as the nanny state is staying out of this dispute for the meantime.
I have always questioned the reason for wearing helmets and whether they actually save your life. I admit I exercise my right to decide not to wear one every single day just on those days I cycle out of town or perhaps down some great big mountain.
I have friends on either side of the debate including medical staff who wouldn’t dream of cycling without one and then colleagues in the cycle industry that wouldn’t dream of cycling with one. Those that do, choose varying fashionable disasters ranging from Bradley Wiggins-style go faster looks to regal horse riding style helmets.
My colleague even wears one with a built in eye shield, he wears it without irony and swears he is not a Star Wars fan even though he arrives at work looking remarkably like a stormtrooper.
If you have always hated your plastic cycling hat now there is a new system on the market to choose.
Technology has done its job of surpassing the old style skidlid and produced something more like an airbag for cyclists called the Hövding. It is a helmet that inflates on impact to cover nearly all of your head and face and while not in use it looks rather like a nice scarf around your neck.
When turned on sensors register how you are moving 200 times a second and in the event of an accident they register the irregular movements of your body and decide to inflate.
In the process of marketing the new helmet the manufacturers of Hövding rather than point out why their system is so nice, have gone to the extreme lengths of discrediting the cycle industry testing of traditional helmets.
Well, with a hefty price tag of €300 (£248) they had to come up with something extreme to persuade us to part with a good proportion of our month’s wages.
Controversially they have attacked the minimum standards of the European Directive that states a helmet must dissipate under 250G force if dropped at 20kmph.
They state while most helmets do this around 250G their air bag system excels at 65G. For the less technical explanation they also state this helmet brings the risk of fatalities at 25kmph down to almost non-existent whereas the probability of death with traditional helmets is more than 30 per cent.
I am yet to see a Hövding in action on an Oxford road but maybe that is because they are so discreet.
I’m not sure we are ultra-concerned about the fashionable side of helmet wearing but from past experience I know there are many concerned cyclists in our city who feel a helmet is a must. I might even switch to one myself. You can find out more at www.hovding.com