Okay…Invisible may be a stretch. But the Hovding helmet certainly qualifies as the stealthiest helmet on the market. The helmet is fully disguised as a short, over-padded scarf that gas-inflates with a burst of helium when internal accelerometers and gyrometers indicate abnormal movement. Think of it as an airbag custom-designed to cover your head, one powered by a rechargeable battery that plugs into a USB port (approx. 18 hours of coverage per charge). The product is the brainchild of two Swedish cyclists who were annoyed by the clunky, fashion-frozen helmets on the market and set out to make an invisible one. Seven years later with more than $1 million in venture capital funding, the Hovding hit the market in 2012, and has received a slew of European awards. Question is: will it win the hearts of the helmet-abstaining urban hipster? The different “shell” styles (which retail for $75) that cover deflated helmets should help.
Check out a cool video profile of the inventors.
Available in M and S sizes; If the bag inflates during an accident you can’t re-use the helmet. You can return it to be recycled and Hovding will offer a replacement discount. They also analyze the “black box” inside the helmet, which records ten seconds of crash data to help inform future product iterations.
As one tester who’s spent over a decade urban cycling can attest, 2012 marked the year of the hard helmet. Legions of single-speed city riders (like our tester) have gotten over the vanity of biking sans protection. And most of ‘em have eschewed the cycle-obsessed, aerodynamic designs for skateboard-inspired models like those made by Bern. In East Coast locales it seems as if Bern has cornered the market. With helmets like their G2, it’s easy to understand why. But let us not pigeon-hole the G2 as solely a cycling helmet. Bern has made its mark on the ski and riding scene as much as in urban cycling circles, and this versatile helmet is equally at home on the slopes as it is in the saddle. The all-weather helmet is made of Bern’s proprietary “Zipmold” hard foam, a liquid foam-injection process that delivers better weight-to-strength ratio, resulting in a lighter, low-profile helmet that meets all the safety standards. The snap-in winter liner adds additional warmth—a feature we loved on blizzard-condition days, or when we faced temps in the teens during our daily commute. Up top, an easy-access slide lets you adjust the airflow through eight strategically positioned vents, which is a great feature as you ride (or ski or bike) into spring. And when the snow melts and you are relegated to just the bike, swap out the winter lining for the EPS Summer Comfort Liner ($15) and keep on pedaling. We tested it in warm fall temps, and didn’t overheat (thanks especially to the vents), but we suspect the helmet could prove hot in the humid, 100-degree-plus days of late July and August (likely something specific to this helmet). One bit of advice: before ordering, assure your fit is spot-on. Unlike some bike and snow helmets, there’s no fit adjustment here, a feature that certainly reduces the weight but also could prove prohibitive if your hair style (and corresponding hair volume) varies more than David Bowie’s.
The helmet includes a goggle strap clip in the back; audio knit liners with speakers in the ear pads are available for $60
Inject a bit of joy into your daily ride by ditching the boring helmet of yore and wear burst of mad color and design from Portland, OR-based Nutcase. The structure of the helmet itself is fairly straightforward: an injection-molded ABS shell with a poly inner foam for high-impact protection, paired with three sets of differently sized internal pads to help achieve the perfect fit. Up top you find two front intake valves, with seven top-mounted and two rear-mounted exhaust vents, an adjustable spin dial for the perfect fit, and a great, anti-pinching cloth-lined magnetic chin strap that clasps together like magic—all of it CPSC-certified for safe bike riding. But Nutcase’s dedication to design—bright, brilliant patterns and colors (as well as more subdued varieties)—really set these helmets apart, from watermelon to polka-dot to paisley. The helmets do run hot compared to the more race-friendly models on the market. A midday urban ride in Portland and Washington, DC, left more than one tester warmer than a traditionally vented helmet, though they were great on 40-degree autumn mornings.. But these aren’t made for century rides in the heat of summer; they’re to let you express your inner child while on your daily commute. And naturally they make a bunch of equally fantastic (and equally safe) children’s helmets for $60.
The colorful wall of helmets at Nutcase HQ.
If you hear the story of how Portland, OR-based Nutcase Helmets got started, you’ll understand how they so effortlessly captured the whimsical part of the market for adult multisport helmets. Back in the fall of 2000, Nutcase creator and founder Michael Morrow was looking for a graphic way to show his support for the Oregon State Beavers at the “Civil War” football game against U of O. His solution? Four-inch metal screws super-glued to the top of an old orange-and-black Oregon State helmet; he then impaled yellow rubber duckies on the screws to demonstrate the fate awaiting the Oregon Ducks.
The response to the helmet was instantaneous—as was Morrow’s light bulb moment: adult helmets are boring, and not indicative of the fun everyone has while biking, skiing, and skating. What started out as a garage operation with Morrow and his kind-hearted wife has now blossomed into company with 12 employees, with orders flooding in from all over globe and annual deliveries in the hundreds of thousands.
The decal-applied helmet designs come in all variety of color and style, from watermelons to polka dots to graphics that support your favorite team or city. The chinstrap boasts a one-handed magnetic buckle that works like magic and a simple dial to adjust the helmet’s fit. All helmets comply with U.S. CPSC Safety Standards for riders ages five and older. The line includes street sport helmets as well as models for cycle/skate, snow sports, motor sports, and water sports.
We also love the whimsical collection of bells.
And we really like that their spacious HQ is above Portland’s amazing Ford Food and Drink, which makes a breakfast buttermilk biscuit with mozzarella, pesto, and organic relish that has no business tasting as good as it does. Craft beer goes for $4 a pint—which was almost enough to convince us to have one with our biscuit.
Fun fact: In Portlandia, the mayor of Portland (played by Kyle MacLachlan) wears the first official Nutcase helmet.
We’re testing one of their helmets right now and will report back soon.
www.pocsports.com, 11.9 ounces
POC makes some of the most protective helmets available. The company has upped the stakes in the alpine ski industry with standard-breaking technology, now that same advanced protection is available to mountain bikers. The new Trabec Race helmet has it all: a tough outer shell with an internal aramid shell bonded to a shock-absorbent expanded polystyrene liner. Aramid fibers are used for ballistic-rated body armor fabric, exactly what you want when you’re charging at top speed down rocky singletrack or playing virtual pinball with lodge pole pine. The design offers more head coverage than most traditional helmets, coming down lower on the sides and back of the head. Our first reaction was concern that the helmet would be hot and sweaty—16 passive vents on the top, sides, rear, and front of the helmet alleviated that worry with a gentle flow of fresh air. Inside you’ll find comfortable foam padding that can be personalized for a custom fit, and can be removed for cleaning, a boon if you are riding in muddy conditions or prone to head sweat. Adjustable straps and a rear harness keep the helmet secure on the head without pinching or slippage. The price tag might seem steep, but the helmet is designed to withstand multiple impacts, and, compared to a trip to the ER for a CAT Scan, a flat-out bargain.
Comes in XS/S, M/L, XL/XXL, three colors (we like the Orange for extra visibility)