Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Hövding: innovation or idiocy?

The Hovding uninflated, permitting this fashion-
conscious young lady to maintain her oh-so-stylish
topknot ponytail...
"What the world was waiting for. An invisible bicycle helmet. That wouldn't ruin your hair." (Haupt and Alstin)
With the BBC and Daily Nazi - er, Daily Mail, rather - both carrying reports on crop circles this week, it seems that Silly Season is officially under way (the Mail has a peculiar love of crop circles, much as the Nazis were into all sorts of stuff nowadays more commonly associated with hippies; yesterday's report being a prime example of pseudo-scientific woo-woo rubbish).

Searching the news this morning (because Google Alerts always miss the best stories), it looked as though the good ol' Grauniad had been getting in on the act early, displaying Silly Season symptoms right back in October last year when it reported on something called the Hövding - which means chieftain in Swedish, as you all know.

The Hövding is intended by its designers, Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin, to be an alternative to the conventional cycling helmet for fashion-conscious riders, allowing them to avoid that awful plague of modern life, helmet hair. As such, it surely deserves to be up there with the continuing battle against cancer, the defeat of smallpox and the invention of the artificial heart; glorified among the most panegyrized* of human accomplishments thus far.
"We want to encourage others to follow in our footsteps and dare to demand something better, to stand out from the crowd, and believe in themselves and their own capabilities." (Haupt and Alstin)
...and inflated, permitting her to preserve her
brain. Perhaps.
Consisting of a specially-designed helmet-shaped airbag, a canister of compressed helium and a sensor, the device utilises gyroscopes and accelerometers in the same way as do airbags in a car; sensing a crash in progress and inflating the airbag in a fraction of a second, and thus - in theory - negating a knock on the noggin. The whole shebang is stowed away in a sort of scarf to be worn, as is the way with scarves, about the neck.

Unfortunately, it seems that Haupt and Alstin are probably not cyclists themselves. This is clear from the fact that the Hövding is a big, bulky unit which would seem to be of little use when unzipped, as would be necessary when the wearer became overheated or on a hot summer's day - which is, of course, probably the only time that anyone so concerned about their hair will ever ride a bike. Funny that they'd overlook that really, since their research discovered that one reason people don't wear helmets - other than vanity - is that they can't fit a warm hat underneath.

Anyway, you can have one for just £300 - about ten times what a decent conventional helmet will cost you. They work once and will soon be available from the Swedish retailers listed on the Hövding website which has lots of pictures of models in terrifyingly expensive haute couture and no pictures of cyclists. Whether or not you do buy one is dependent on your own choice and whether or not you can recognise utter pointlessness when you see it.

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