Two French brands, Helite and Urban Circus have joined forces to create an airbag jacket for urban cyclists.
An airbag for cyclists, the idea is not new. But it is not that easy to transform, in less time than it takes to say it, a slender silhouette in Michelin man. As early as 2013, the Swede Hövding proposed to protect cyclists' heads with airbag technology, which is now in its third version. In this case, it is for convenience that we will speak of a helmet because, before activation, the object appears as a sort of large textile collar. The fall triggers the "explosion" of the huge inflatable and protective hood.
Strictly speaking, it is therefore an alternative allowing you to ride your hair in the wind, without feeling in danger. You put the Hövding around your neck, and the magnetic buckle closure activates the system. In its rear part, a rigid plastic shell immobilizes it on your shoulders: no risk of it turning and being triggered against your face.
An annual subscription at 29 euros
The effectiveness of the protection is not in doubt, and the deployed helmet envelops the head, neck included. But its usefulness raises questions. The effectiveness of traditional helmets is sufficiently proven, and they are much less expensive. Expensive, the Hövding 3 might not be that much, given the onboard technology (observed retail price: between 280 and 300 €, while the price of a very high-end helmet rarely exceeds 180 to 200 €), if it was reusable.
However, this is not the case: the first tumble will force you to replace it. While an annual subscription of € 29, a sort of warranty extension, allows up to two replacements per year, but a reusable version would be more practical. Would this only be to highlight the incomparable, very haute couture look of the deployed airbag?
The head, yes, but the trunk?
If the head is eminently vulnerable, the fact remains that 40% of cyclists seriously injured are in the thorax, and 25% in the spine. In 2017, while 2 million French cycled daily (a figure now almost doubled), 4,551 accidents were recorded, 40% of which caused serious injuries.
Faced with this observation, the Dijon-based company Helite, specializing in the development of individual airbags, and already known in motorcycle or horse riding circles, has designed B'Safe. This is the first airbag vest for cyclists, awarded the Road Safety Innovation Prize in 2019, two-wheeler category.
Thanks to two sensors placed in the vest and on the bike, which detects the fall, two scenarios are possible: in the first, the vest sensor alone detects the movement anomaly and triggers the explosion of the airbag; and in the event of an impact, the bicycle sensor reacts and transmits the signal to the jacket. The airbag inflates in 80 milliseconds. After each triggering, it suffices to replace the CO2 cartridge.
Today, the equipment manufacturer Urban Circus, specializing in the production of clothing and reassuring accessories (visible, reflective, illuminated), is joining forces with Helite to offer the Cirrus jacket. The technology is identical: sensors placed in the clothing and on the bike: detection in 60 ms and triggering in 80 ms. The airbag hidden in the lining of the jacket contains, depending on the size, 17 to 25 liters of gas, and deploys to protect vital areas: chest, abdomen, neck, and back. Rigidizing the entire trunk, prevents hyperflexions, protects the spine, and maintains the cervical muscles.
The icing on the cake, like all Urban Circus products, the jacket is ultra-visible, waterproof, breathable, water-repellent, and windproof, equipped with practical pockets and an ergonomic hood. And elegant: the idea of the brand being to take the opposite view of this famous 2008 campaign for the wearing of the reflective vest (which did not make it compulsory for cyclists) and which made Karl Lagerfeld say: " It's yellow, it's ugly, it doesn't go with anything, but it can save your life."