What’s it like to wear an invisible bike helmet?


The hands-down most striking piece of bike kit to arrive on the European market in recent years is Hövding, the so-called invisible bike helmet.

The result of a seven year design mission and oozing with Scandinavian urbanity, Hövding has garnered swags of design and innovation prizes and is currently a frontrunner for the European Business Awards 2013-14.

The best introduction to the product is this viral video (well worth watching!), which has now been seen by over 12 million people. Then there’s the website, which makes you want to move to Sweden and hang out with super attractive people, hair blowing in the wind, laughter rippling through the streets…

So Hövding certainly looks good, but what’s it like to use?

On first unpacking Hövding from an enticing yellow cube (the team has spared nothing in their attention to design), I was struck by the serious tech that is packed in the neck. At 780g, the collar is somewhat weighty in your hands, and certainly heavier than a piece of sealed styrofoam. Most of the weight comes from a carriage at the rear, which holds a gyroscope, accelerometer, helium canister, lithium-ion polymer battery, black box data system, and a full-scale airbag for your head. Nevertheless, careful ergonomic design means that the collar sits comfortably once riding, with the weight evenly distributed across your shoulders. My favourite aspect is the moment when you put it on; zipping, clipping, and being rewarded with a satisfying set of Rocketman blips and lights. The collar is certainly not unnoticeable, but after a week of cruising around with one, I’d adjusted fairly well. For greatest comfort, I’d recommend the Medium, as the Small is pretty tight.

Hövding is currently only available in Europe, but the company is looking to launch globally, particularly in upwardly mobile markets where helmets are compulsory such as Australia, New Zealand, and scattered states in North America. Of course, in parts of the world where the sun always shines, the somewhat bulky high neck might prove tedious. After a couple of longer, sweatier rides, I felt ambivalent about the prospect of using Hövding for a long-distance cycle tour (particularly because the battery needs recharging every 18 hours), but if you’re casually commuting in chic, wintry European cities, then it seems just the ticket. There’s also the fact that it currently blows all competitors out of the market on safety testing.

Hövding works by constantly computing your movements while cycling and comparing them against clever algorithms developed from extensive analyses of patterns of normal riding and cycle accidents. In the much-vaunted Internet of Things, one might legitimately ponder what data is being collected as you ride. You can, nevertheless, cruise easy. The box constantly tracks and records movement, ready to react in milliseconds, but that information is only retained in the event that the unit inflates (something I didn't actually test), and then is only accessible upon returning Hövding physically to the company for analysis.

All in all, Hövding stands unparalleled in two respects. The first is style. Hövding lends immediate street-cred, particularly with its suave range of patterned cotton scarf covers, or shells. The second aspect, and the reason you may be seriously tempted to fork out the hefty RRP of €399, is safety. Hövding has significantly and consistently outperformed all competing helmets on the market. The debate about traditional cycle helmets is long and controversial, but there is certainly evidence that they need to be replaced frequently (as often as every three years), and that they can occasionally do more harm than good. Hövding allays all those fears. Further, although it is single use only, in many countries where it is available, it can be insured for replacement if inflated.

Beyond the lucrative urban cycling market, Hövding is looking to expand into other areas, from equipping alpine explorers and ocean adventurers to providing support for those prone to life-threatening falls. As uptake rises and the company starts to claw back the very significant costs of innovation, testing and design, we can all look forward to being just a little more Scandi.

Scores: Aesthetics 5/5; Functionality 3/5; Quality 5/5; Fit 4/5; Value 3/5.

Review: ProBikeKit website and Bianchi jacket

Here we review road cycling website ProBikeKit UK and the Bianchi Milano Modica jacket. This review is assisted by Neil Houlsby, who recently competed in the Team GB age-group team at the World Triathlon Championships. 


ProBikeKit was established by cyclists in Cumbria in the early 1990s and began trading in its current state in 1998. It has become a globally-recognised brand for bicycles, gear and accessories, particularly in the road cycling sector. Taken over in March 2013 by The Hut Group, a leading online lifestyle and sports retailer that holds brands such as Myprotein and Myvitamins, ProBikeKit remains expert-driven and stocks the highest quality global brands for road riders and weekend warriors.

The vision of ProBikeKit from the beginning, which The Hut aims to strengthen and enhance, is to be a portal or hub for a community of cyclists (and, eventually, triathletes and runners) – “to demystify the technology and advise you on the perfect choice”.

We found the website slick, fast and easy to search. In appearance and coverage, it is quite similar to Chain Reaction Cycles. It has a much cooler, cleaner interface than Wiggle, though doesn’t quite replicate that site’s streamlined Collect+ returns policy, with a slightly more convoluted (but still straightforward) online message centre. We appreciated the nascent Triathlon & Running section of the site and found it on the whole easy to navigate with great product availability. ProBikeKit also offers free UK delivery and has a massive January sale, so check it out now!

In keeping with its emphasis on community, ProBikeKit maintains a blog, updated on average twice a month but it has really ramped up in 2014 and looks to be updating weekly with interesting content. The blog is supported by The Peleton newsletter (not this Peleton), a Facebook page, and a Twitter feed. ProBikeKit also offers Cycling Clubs Sponsorship and an Affiliate programme with special incentives for affiliated groups, plus discounts for customer reviews, which are a great resource. We know that the team at ProBikeKit is keen to keep increasing the functionality of the site, to make it more comprehensive, more interactive, and more communal. We look forward to seeing it evolve!

Bianchi jacket review

From Neil: First impressions mean everything, and mine were positive – the Bianchi Men’s Modica Jacket looks great, with a vibrant Italian style. With a comfortable lining, I would also wear this jacket as a casual, non-training top, but I shall assess it on some more objective measures.

My first piece of advice would be to purchase at least one size larger than you would normally. ‘Large’ is advertised as a 38” chest; at 5'11 and 68kg I would not consider myself large, but this jacket is certainly snug. The sleeves are a bit short and I would certainly not go smaller. Perhaps this is why the available sizes range S to XXXL. However, the material is fairly stretchy, and being a technical piece of kit, having a cut that fits close to the body is appropriate, as nobody wants to take a parachute for a ride.

Regarding weather resistance, the jacket is advertised as warm, wind resistant with a ‘500g/m2 permeability to water vapour’ (whatever that means in practice!). The top is lightweight, but despite this I found that it was surprisingly warm. Worn over one thin base layer, I was perfectly content on a breezy 5oC winter morning. There is some resistance to wind chill, and I would describe it as ‘splash proof’, but in more extreme conditions I would require a more heavy duty top. With a high neck line and full-length front zip one can adapt to changing temperatures easily.

The jacket scores well for practicality. Like most good cycling tops it contains two deep back pockets that can hold ones phone, keys, spare tube etc. The waist and cuffs are elasticised to stop them flapping around.

All in all, this top has a high-quality lightweight feel and looks great. It is certainly suitable for your average cool British autumnal/spring conditions, but if you are a "whatever the weather" rider you will need a more heavy duty top also. Even at a reduced price of £99 (RRP £135.99) this item does not come cheap, but I would consider it a worthwhile addition to one’s technical (and casual-wear) wardrobe.

Scores: Aesthetics 5/5; Functionality 4/5; Quality 5/5; Fit 2/5; Value 4/5.

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