Last Updated on
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Airbag vests have been used by motorcycle police around the world since the mid 1990's. They are now commonly used by riders on race tracks. After making an impact in these markets, manufacturers have now switched their attention to us everyday riders.
The vests and jackets available today strike a nice balance between safety, comfort, and looking good. Airbag vests are lightweight and offer great protection. They easily fit over your normal jacket or clothes.
In this article, we look at how these work, and answer the most common questions riders have about personal airbag jackets.
Click on the link below to take you to the answer of your most pressing question, or keep scroll to read the entire article.
Is it worth getting a motorcycle airbag vest?
Are these worth it? Absolutely, they are.
Unfortunately, some accidents are unavoidable. If you are a safety conscious rider, or have kids or a partner who regularly rides, then this is a personal protection item that's really worth considering.
Motorcycle airbag vests and jackets act as a body splint to keep the spine and neck immobile during a fall. This will significantly reduce the risk of spinal cord injury.
You only need to come off the one time, to be glad you invested in either a full airbag jacket or vest.
How do Personal Airbag Vests work?
These are all fitted with a high-speed airbag deployment system. This is controlled by a coiled wire lanyard. The lanyard is attached to a point on the bike and linked to the chest area of the vest by a quick release connection.
The airbag is activated as soon as the rider and motorcycle become separated during an accident. The coiled wire pulls a 'key' out of a gas release system and inert gas inflates the air cushion.
The airbag inflates before the rider hits the ground and provides impact protection for the back, neck and chest. The neck is kept aligned to avoid whiplash and significantly reduces the risks of major spinal injury.
The key box itself acts as a chest protector and can't injure the rider as the airbag is directly beneath it. Due to the design of the connector, the airbag can be activated from any angle or position.
After a few seconds, a release valve starts to slowly release the gas. Vests and jackets generally take between 3 to 5 minutes to deflate.
So many choices - Motorcycle Vests versus Jackets
In terms of protection, there's no difference between the vest and the jacket. The shape of the airbag is the same on the vest as the jacket. They provide equal coverage.
The first thing to ask yourself is whether you're looking for an airbag jacket to replace your regular gear, or something to wear over the top of your current jacket.
An airbag vest worn over the top of a traditional jacket will stop your jacket from 'riding up' or being stripped off, exposing skin during an accident.
Some riders want Hi-Viz and reflective stripes, while others prefer something that looks just like a regular bikers jacket.
There are waterproof or lightweight rain-proof models available. Some have removable winter linings. Other optional extras include a separate additional waterproof lining, and chest and back protectors.
Here's some answers to your most FAQ's about Personal Airbag Systems
Will I be dragged along during a fall?
The wired cord separates completely from the jacket - you will not be dragged with a bike or horse in the event of an accident.
Will it go off accidentally if I forget to unclip myself ?
The airbag won't go off accidentally if you forget to unclip yourself as you're getting off. If you do forget to untether, you'll feel a strong tug to remind you to disconnect the coiled wire. It takes a reasonably strong force of around 66 pound (approximately 30 kg) to release the key and deploy the airbag.
Can the vest/jacket be reused after being deployed?
These are designed to be used more than once if required. As long as there's no damage to the air bags, the fabric or supports, and the safety mechanism remains intact, you can start to use it again as soon as you replace the CO2 cartridge.
How does the Reflective Black vest material work?
Some vests are made with reflective Lumidex material. This is black material that is very bright and reflective at night. During the day, it blends with normal riding gear and just looks black so it doesn't stand out.
Can my pillion rider also wear one?
These are safe for passengers to wear. Just make sure there is minimal slack between the tether point and the jacket.
Can I wear a raincoat or backpack?
You can wear a loose fitting rain protection. The same goes for a backpack - It will be ok as long as it's not tight and has room for the airbag to expand into.
Video - Man says wearing an Airbag Vest saved his life
Which are the best airbag jackets currently available?
The best airbag vests and jackets currently available are the Helite and the Hit Air range. There are differences between these, so it depends on what you're looking for personally as to which is best for you. Both of these manufacturers make vests and jackets in different materials, including leather, and hi-viz.
Airbag vests can be used not only by motorbike riders, but also for equestrian riders, snow boarders, and many people while quad bike riding.
#1 - Hit-Air - A good all rounder
Hit Air make vests and jackets designed for different activities and also for each individual rider's preferences. There are motorbike models available for Sport, Touring and regular everyday city commuting.
Some riders want Hi-Viz and reflective stripes, while others prefer something that looks just like a regular bikers jacket. Hit Air covers both of these options.
The things we liked:
#2 - Helite - Built in Armor
Helite Airbag vests and jackets are high end, high quality products.
These come in a large range to cover different activities, and riders preferences.
Many of these come with built in armor making them heavier and warmer. This type of jacket may not suit riders in some climates. If you live in a more temperate climate, you should consider going for one without the armor.
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