Jul 07, 2023
Everything You Need To Know About Motorcycle Airbag Vests
Not long ago airbags for motorcycles seemed like something only MotoGP riders could use, today there are more options than you might think If you thought that airbags designed for motorcycle riders
Not long ago airbags for motorcycles seemed like something only MotoGP riders could use, today there are more options than you might think
If you thought that airbags designed for motorcycle riders was nothing more than an interesting product you'd see in your Instagram feed or on Shark Tank, you would be mistaken just how common they are in the marketplace. Given that riding a motorcycle is already a dangerous activity, safety is always on every rider's mind. That's why we suit up with protective gear from head-to-toe. While helmets, boots, gloves, and jackets certainly do provide a level of protection, nobody is never fully 100% covered. That is where motorcycle airbag vests come in to play. With quality vests ranging in price from $400 to $1,000, you will definitely get what you pay for. After all, can you really put a price on your own personal safety? With interest in these vests growing every day, more riders are happy to part with a few hundred dollars over receiving a broken rib anytime. Much like any new piece of riding equipment, it's important for you to do your due diligence, and this brief summary is the perfect place to start with your research.
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Obviously, not all airbags are created equal. But they all aim to serve the same basic function: to provide optimal safety and protection to its wearer in the event of an accident. With brands like Alpinestars, Dainese, and Helite among many manufacturers investing valuable resources into these life-saving devices, a motorcycle airbag vest is starting to become as necessary as a helmet. Some vests are activated through an A.I. crash detection system. Others are activated when they are abruptly unplugged from the motorcycle, indicating that the rider has been involved in an accident. But once it is deployed, the vest rapidly inflates itself with air, providing large amounts of protection to the neck, chest, shoulders, spine, and internal organs. Overall, these vests can be real life-savers. Whether it be from a careless driver, a pothole, deer, or slippery surface, airbag vests can be the big difference between a few bruises and a funeral.
One could assume that literally anyone that rides a motorcycle out on the street would be the perfect candidate to reap the benefits of an airbag vest. They can come in handy under any kind of circumstance that would result in a rider being thrown from their motorcycle. Not to mention the amount of confidence that comes with the amount of safety their vest provides, as well as a fair price that won't break the bank. Weekend warriors would find airbag vests to be invaluable, especially if they live in a busy area with lots of traffic, which also brings distracted drivers. Should they be a victim of a motorcycle accident, they can breathe a sign of relief knowing that despite the levels of damaged sustained to them and/or their motorcycle, they will still be around for their families. A motorcycle can be replaced. You, however, cannot.
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Urban riders will also see the value behind investing in one of these vests because most motorcycle accidents involve sport bikes traveling at excessive speeds. From there the rider can lose control of the bike, be involved in an accident with another vehicle, and so on. By equipping themselves with an airbag vest, they can save themselves a trip to the hospital (or the morgue), and live to ride another day.
Those that race motorcycles professionally will also find these vests to be a necessity. When riding in an environment where one must learn to ride aggressively and at high speeds, it is fair to assume that some riders may find themselves taking a tumble on the track. But rather than rest entirely on the protection of their suits, an airbag vest can really boost one's levels of safety in the event of an accident.
The tethered airbag vest was the first version to arrive in the marketplace for jackets and vests. The system is quite simple in its design. The vest's trigger is attached to a cord that is plugged into the motorcycle. Should the rider be ejected from the motorcycle, the cord will be disconnected, thus setting off the trigger and causing the airbag vest to inflate with air. Basically, a tethered airbag system acts like a life-saving grenade. The technology for this system is pretty straightforward, and it has been available on the market for a while. These days, newer airbag vests are a lot more refined in their design, as well as being more affordable to the average consumer. After all, a simple trigger-activated airbag system isn't the most complex thing in the world. They don't require batteries. They follow a simple cause-and-effect system, and many of them can be reused after being activated.
However, there are a few downsides to a tethered airbag system. While the methodology behind them is simple, not every accident involves the rider being completely separated from the bike. Also, if you are the forgetful kind of rider, you may find yourself neglecting to unclip yourself from the bike before dismounting. Because failure to do so could unintentionally set off the air cartridge in the vest, making you look a bit foolish.
These days, Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is everywhere. From our smartphones, cars, and work applications, this ever-growing technology has proven to be both fascinating, and worrisome. Unlike tethered-based systems, the algorithm programmed into these cordless vests used a complex collection of sensors (GPS, accelerometers, etc.) to detect when the rider has been involved in an accident and deploy the airbag. Because this system is constantly monitoring the rider's position and movement up to 1,000 times a second, its reaction time to a real-life accident is faster than the human brain can process.
Naturally, because this is newer, and more effective technology, they will tend to be more on the pricier side when compared to tethered airbag vests. Many of these vests also require to be recharged in order for them to function properly. Not to mention that some can only be recharged and inspected by a specialized tech before use. Neglect to recharge the batteries in the vest, and the airbag inside will not go off.
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Whether you've been riding a motorcycle for fifteen years, or you just got your license yesterday, safety is, and will always be a top priority. There is a reason why we invest hundreds of dollars in protective gear for a fifteen-minute ride. It's because riding a motorcycle is already a risky activity, and anything can happen at any time. So when it comes to airing on the side of caution, an airbag vest is as about as necessary to protect your chest, neck, spine, and internal organs as a full-face helmet is protecting your head, face, and brain. Some may view the concept as a little too cautious, and would prefer to ride with just a protective leather jacket and/or vest. That is a valid concern and choice on their part, but there are some moments where an airbag vest will prove to be more effective than layers of leather. Others may be turned off by the hefty price some brands are setting for their airbag vest collections. Another fair criticism. But if you are willing to invest a few hundred dollars in a piece of gear that you would rather have and not need, then need and not have, it is money well spent.
Anthony has been a longtime motorcycle enthusiast for ten years where he doubled as one of the top sales associates for Harley-Davidson in New England. Aside from motorcycles, Anthony moonlights as a stand-up comedian and amateur bodybuilder. A Swiss Army Knife of a human being.