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Helite e-Turtle 2 Airbag Review

Review Summary
The Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest provides substantial coverage of vital organs for riders and provides maximum protection in the case of a crash. It can be worn over a rider's jacket and features user-serviceable C02 canister replacements following deployment.
Build Quality
Comfort
Protection
Value for Money
Reader Rating460 Votes
Pros
Can be worn over existing jackets
Excellent vital organ coverage
No physical tether
Air bladder expands more than competitors
Restricts head movement when deployed to prevent neck hyperextension or clavicle fractures
User-serviceable CO2 canister replacement
Incorporates a removable level 2 back protector outside of the actual airbag
Comfortable and does not restrict head movement
Available in Hi ReZ color
CDU can be sent to Helite for algorithm updates, at no charge, only shipping to/from
Cons
The Fork Sensor option is not currently offered in the USA pending FCC frequency approval (as of this review)
Upper and middle adjustment straps don’t offer as much adjustment as the bottom adjustment strap
Level 2 back protector is solid except for a few small holes. The vest may be cooler if the back protector was designed for better airflow
4.9

Review Summary

  • The long-awaited non-tethered version of the successful Helite Turtle 2 is now available in the electronic version.
  • User self-serviceable after airbag is deployed, no need to send it in like other brands.
  • Fork sensor reduces cartridge reaction time – Pending FCC approval in the US. Been proven for years in the EU
  • 25 hours of usage time, tested by the author
  • Cartridge replacement is easier than the tethered version

The Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag

I reviewed the analog version of the Helite Turtle 2 (HT2) vest in August of 2022 after wearing it from April of 2022. Since then I have never ridden without it. In my piece about Why I Wear Safety Gear, I detail my reasons. The primary difference between the HT2 and the just released in the USA, e-Turtle 2 (ET2) is the elimination of the physical tether on the HT2 which is replaced by an electronic trigger on the ET2 called the Computer Display Unit or CDU. Don’t ask me why it’s called a display unit, I didn’t name the thing!

HT2 physical tether

ET2 electronic trigger
HT2 physical tether vs. ET2 electronic trigger

About Helite

Helite was founded in 2002 by Gérard Thevenot, a French engineer who specialized in fluid mechanics and was passionate about light aeronautics (ULM, hang gliders, paramotors). The high accident rate in these sports led him to look for solutions for pilot protection, and so a first patent was filed for individual protection airbags.

As airbag technology applies to all high-risk activities, Helite has become an expert in this field, dedicating itself exclusively to the development of individual protection systems. Helite airbags are already used in a wide variety of fields such as motorcycling, horse riding, cycling, health, aeronautics, and industrial work; they are also highly appreciated in top-level sports.

From Helite’s website:

Our Ambition:

Helite’s mission is to make the world safer by developing new intelligent solutions to protect people in their sports and daily activities. Our special recipe: innovation, technology, and simplicity, all made in France with our touch of authenticity.

Our R&D Approach:

From the idea to the design of an airbag, a long process and many skills are involved. In this sense, our airbag technology is still validated by numerous prototypes and crash tests.

Sayings I Appreciate

“Just think how happy you would be if you lost everything you have right now, and then got it back again.”Frances Rodman

“You don’t get something for nothing.” 

To me, these both apply to almost everything I do in life. But in the context of the vest, it’s especially poignant. Had I not worn great safety gear, some of my track crashes would have resulted in me losing things like bone connections, vertebrae, dermis, or worse. Had I lost any of those things and then through some miracle they were restored, YES I’d be damn happy! DUH. Because I chose to wear great gear, I didn’t have to face ‘losing something’ since those body parts never left…aka Happiness. And sure things I choose to wear while riding may be hot, bulky, etc., but I’m trading some comfort for protection. Second-chance bulletproof vests are both hot and more uncomfortable than a simple t-shirt. If I was a law enforcement officer and given the choice of which to wear, I know which I’d choose. You never get something for nothing and I’m really happy to retain the important things in my life through the choices I make. But everyone is different.

Let’s move on to the features and performance of ET2.

Construction

  • Interior textile 3D mesh for maximum air circulation
  • Vest 100% polyester 600D textile 
  • Airbag 100% polyurethane
  • Exterior pocket for small objects such as credit cards or cash
  • Reflective stripes on the back for added visibility
  • Soft neoprene collar for better comfort around the neck
  • Comfortable and light allows full body motion
  • Multi-sensor technology enables 360° detection and covers a wide range of accidents: from 0km/h, at low speed, and any angle of impact
  • Fork sensor (optional and sold separately)
  • The system can be reactivated in 2 minutes to change the e-cartridge, no tools are needed
  • TURTLE technology with SAS-TEC 1621 level 2 back protector
  • 100% autonomous system
  • 25 hours of battery life (USB charging) – Verified by my own testing
  • Adjustment straps for a fit over any motorcycle garment
  • Big protection volume: between 17L and 28L depending on the airbag size
  • Water-resistant
  • CE Certified Airbag System

Front of the Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest Back of the Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest

The back of the vest incorporates vertical reflective accents along with the Helite logo which is reflective when exposed to lights like headlights. The small Helite logo on the left chest area is also reflective.

Front view of rider wearing Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest Rear view of rider wearing Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest Side view of Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest Side view of Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest

Please note that Helite sent me an XL e-vest which is too large for me. I wear their L in the tethered version and it fits me well. Sitting on my bike the tail of the vest is too long in an XL size, as is the overall size.

Interior label
The label on the interior of the vest.

It includes a SAS-Tec Level 2 back protector which can be removed by separating the Velcro seam on the right side of the vest (as you are facing the vest with it on a surface buckle side up) and then sliding the back protector out from the vest.

Back protector Zipper for vest protector Protective padding Protective padding

The stitching of the vest is excellent with no fraying threads to be found anywhere on the garment. On the left side of the chest is a small zippered pocket covered with a Velcro flap. The pocket is relatively small and can hold currency, credit cards or ID, and a key or two. I’ve included photos of a ruler in photos to illustrate its size.

Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest Chest Zipper Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest Chest Zipper Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest Chest Zipper

Underneath the pocket is another Velcro flap that houses the three adjustment straps to custom fit the vest to the person and jacket it’s worn over. On the HT2, both the right and left sides of the vest front contain straps to adjust the fit. On the ET2, only the left side contains adjustment straps. Because only one side can lengthen the straps, I would like to see the middle and upper adjustment straps increase in length. Examining the straps shows that the bottom strap’s length extends the entire span of the matching Velcro portion. The adjustment straps above it do not. This is the only area of construction that I have issues with on this vest.

Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest Canister Flap Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest Canister Flap

I would choose to store an extra CO2 canister in this area. Having fallen with my HT2 vest. I know firsthand that having the extra canister close at hand is key when being mentally rattled just after a crash.

The right side of the front of the vest houses both the Computer Display Unit (CDU) that contains the sensor, battery, and the CO2 canister inside a zippered pocket.

Under the right zipper is the CDU on the left with two wires coming out. One is a female 5mm x 10mm charging cable, the other is the CO2 trigger wire. The 5x10mm pigtail is a standard size utilized by many battery makers.

  1.  If the CDU trigger wire is not connected to the CO2 canister wire and the CDU is powered on, a red light will flash alerting you that the CO2 cartridge is not connected. 
  2. The CDU cannot operate while the USB power wire is connected and the CDU is being charged. So if you’re hoping the vest can be charged whilst riding, nope it cannot. But fret not, I explain how I’ve tested the battery life later in this article.

Here is the CDU removed from its elastic mesh pouch.

Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest C02 Canister Canister CDU

The back side of the CDU has its information label that contains the serial and model numbers.

Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest connector unplugged Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest plugged

The CDU wire connection is shown with the female tab with the locking tab and the male portion with the locking pin. The image shows the connection fully and properly seated.

Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest connector

A close-up shot of the female portion of the CO2 canister’s CDU connection reveals two separate channels along with the locking tab at the top.

Testing the ET2’s Battery Life to Verify Helite’s Claim of 25 hours of Operation

I’m a bit of a stickler about battery life claims. So I tested the battery life by removing the CDU from the vest and attaching the CO2 wire to the CDU WITHOUT A CO2 cartridge attached to the wire unit. I didn’t want to chance the CO2 going off in the middle of the night.

CO2 cartidges

The top canister shows the CDU wire unit disconnected from the CO2 canister. That’s the one I plugged into the CDU. I strapped the CDU to a simple fan with the CO2 canister’s wire attached and let it run for 25 hours. The small vibrations from the fan ‘tricked’ the CDU into thinking there was constant movement. I was very impressed that the slight vibrations from the fan provided enough movement to register on the CDU. Even though I stopped the test at 25 hours, I feel that the internal battery would have lasted another hour. I didn’t want to stress the battery by taking it lower than designed. I do not doubt that the CDU battery sleeps after 45 seconds of no movement. This makes the actual life of the battery while riding even better. Stop to eat, piss, etc? Take the vest off and either leave it on a chair where you won’t be wiggling it and it will sleep while you do your business. It is a brilliant piece of technology.

Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest

At this point, I charged the CDU at the recommended 5v (4.99v for those who LOVE TO split hairs) and it took 3 hours and 47 minutes to fully charge the battery, indicating full as per the user manual when the CDU light turned green.

Voltage of the Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest charging port Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest charging port

The female 5×10 mm USB charging port is attached to the CDU. The male portion of the USB charging cable is supplied with the ET2.

E-Turtle2 Triggering information (information supplied by Helite USA)

    • Detection time of the CDU sensor in the airbag vest: 62ms  
    • Detection time for non-Helite autonomous airbags: 95 ms
  • Detection time of the SDU sensor on the motorcycle fork: 31 ms Please note that the fork sensor is not yet available in the USA due to supply issues and pending FCC approval so the ET2 will NOT work with the EU fork sensors. They are a different frequency and will NOT pair with the USA e-Turtle 2 vest.

Mechanical Turtle2 (information supplied by Helite USA)

  • Inflation time: Very fast in less than 100 ms (faster than the blink of an eye) before ground impact.

The 25-hour battery life got me thinking about multiple long-day rides…bike camping to be specific. A six-day, five-night trip riding 8 hours a day would theoretically deplete the CDU’s battery in three days. What I plan to do is take my little portable USB battery along with me. After three days of riding and I’m going to assume I’m not near AC power, I’d simply plug the CDU into my battery to charge it at night. Then plug my battery into the USB charge socket on my bike as I ride during the day. Using this method I could keep the CDU charged as long as I’m out on the road. I have also used a small solar panel that easily fits in my top box to charge my little battery…..

USB charge for Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest

OK, I got distracted, so let me move on to how the CO2 cartridge is deployed.

Triggering the Vest

Since the ET2 utilizes a completely different triggering mechanism than the HT2, no spring forces a sharp pin into the CO2 canister to release the gas. Instead, it uses a small ‘nib’ which releases a small explosive charge which forces a rupture pin into the canister thus releasing the gas. After disassembling the CDU and CO2 canister, this process is very apparent.

CO2 cartridge CO2 cartridge CO2 cartridge CO2 cartridge

The CO2 canister, the CDU wire removed from the canister, the view looking straight down into the CO2 canister with the CDU wire removed. The nib is electronically triggered by the CDU and finally, the nib’s small ballistic charge forces the pin down rupturing the cartridge and releases the CO2 gas. This short video illustrates how this functions.

CO2 cartridge CO2 cartridge

Here is how the ruptured CO2 cartridge appears after being pierced, along with the nib that electronically initiates the penetration.

CO2 cartridge CO2 cartridge

This is the connection where the CO2 canister is inserted. It’s important to note that a good seal must be achieved when screwing down the canister during replacement.

Inserting the CO2 canister into receptacle Inserting the CO2 canister into receptacle Inserting the CO2 canister into receptacle

It’s also important to be cautious when screwing the CO2 canister into the ET2’s receptacle so as not to allow the wires to twist and tangle. Simply holding the canister and the housing receptacle allows the wire to turn as you are tightening the canister into the vest.

Because I have first-hand experience replacing a CO2 cartridge on the HT2 mechanical vest, immediately after a fall(s), I can appreciate not needing any tools to replace the canisters on the ET2 vest. Even though a cartridge replacement is relatively easy on the HT2 when adding in the emotions of having just fallen, making anything more simple is a welcome feature. The canister replacement on the ET2 is very easy.

Here is a video of the ET2 being remotely deployed by using a wireless trigger Helite sent with the vest, along with photos of how the vest looks inflated.

Inflated Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest Inflated Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest Inflated Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest Inflated Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest Inflated Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest Inflated Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest

I really appreciate how the Helite air chambers cradle my spine area when the vest is deployed. It gives me a real sense of security, especially since a level 2 back protector resides on the exterior of the back air chambers. Helite’s data for the inflation time of the e-Turtle is listed at 62MS versus the HT2 tethered version at 100MS. This is a complete seat of my pants (or chest) ‘feeling’ but when I deployed the vest with a Helite-supplied remote control trigger, I COULD FEEL THAT IT INFLATED FASTER than the HT2. I was shocked at just how fast it inflates! Can I feel 38MS? I would not have mentioned it if I couldn’t feel the difference, that’s for sure.

“Really Mark, who gives a good hot sh!t about all of this anyway? I just care that it works.” Yep, I get that, but I’m a guy who likes to know how sh!t works and I’m the one writing this review. I often marvel at great design and engineering and ignore those who do a sh!t job. I explain why I’ll buy, trust in, and wear Helite vests in my Conclusion section.

Updating the ET2’s Algorithms

Helite’s e-Turtle 2 has been selling in Europe for many years and the FCC just recently approved the CDU’s radio frequency for the USA. As such the development and continuous updating of the CDU’s algorithms have been ongoing and incorporated into Helite’s CDUs for years. If further updates are implemented, Helite will notify customers and they have the opportunity to send their vests in which would then be updated. The only charge is shipping the CDU to/from Helite, no charge for the software update.

Storing the ET2 (or HT2)

In my previous HT2 review, one of the commenters asked if the vest could be stored in panniers or other carrying methods. I was not able to illustrate how since the review was already published so I will discuss this later in this article. I can show you how the vest can be rolled up with the back protector removed. I have folded the back protector like a taco when I want to store it in a tail pack but doing so length-wise. My hand is shown for size reference in this photo. It easily fits in this tail pack I own when it’s expanded. I can ‘almost’ fit it in there when the tail pack is not expanded, but I don’t want to force the back protector into an overly contorted shape.

Storing the Helite eTurtle 2 Airbag Vest Luggage storage for motorcycle

Since my review of the HT2, I purchased a new bike, a 2022 Ducati Multistrada V4S which came with side panniers. I can store the HT2 vest into the right side pannier, the much smaller one due to the clearance needed for the exhaust.  I placed the ET2 into the right side pannier without needing to remove the back protector or the need to contort the vest in any extreme way. Of course, everyone’s available storage is different, but I hope this helps you decide if it will fit in your luggage. And before having ANY LUGGAGE. I use to run a chain through the sleeves of my jacket, the chin bar of my helmet, and through the rim of my bike to lock things up. No not the most elegant method, but I did this at an untold number of World Superbike race events at Laguna Seca without any issues. Just adding the vest would be no big deal. I never use a cable, only a chain. I can cut through the cable, even thick ones with side cutters…easily.

Motorcycle luggage pannier Motorcycle luggage pannier Motorcycle luggage pannier Motorcycle luggage pannier Motorcycle luggage pannier Motorcycle luggage pannier Motorcycle luggage pannier

Conclusion

Having used an HT2 since April of 2022 and experienced it firsthand in crashes, I won’t ride without one. In my review of my Ducati Multistrada, I explain my falls. In the time I’ve used one I have not had an issue removing the tether after a ride, but instead FORGETTING to tether myself to the bike. Having those senior moments would be eliminated with the ET2. Charging? Forget to charge? Not likely for me. I’m religious about charging my phone, my portable air compressor for the bike, etc. I’d simply run the charging cable to where I hang up the vest and plug it in when I return home. The ET2 has been available and used in Europe for years now, Helite had updated the firmware to incorporate new algorithms.

They notify dealers when new algorithms are available so customers can choose to have their units updated. All that’s needed is to send the CDU to the dealer where you purchased the vest or to Helite. No subscription fees, and no need to send the unit in if it gets inflated. Sure if you crash hard enough where the fabric is compromised, send it in. The E-Vest Replacement Canister is more expensive than the canister replacement for the HT2, but even at $85.00 to me, that’s a bargain since replacing one does not mean sending the vest in, simply screwing out the old and replacing it with the new one.

I may buy two, one tethered, and one electronic. When my gf rides with me, I want her to wear a Helite. And if by chance I forget to charge the ET2 (unlikely but possible), then I have the tethered one to ride with. Expensive? Compared to what?! Broken ribs? Broken neck or clavicle? Ruptured vertebrae? Missing work? Depending on someone else to take care of me because I chose to not wear something!? No effing way, I’m old school. I go back to one of my favorite sayings, “Just think how happy you would be…” Reference my piece, “Why I Wear Safety Gear” and you’ll understand or not. To each their own. I’m just damn happy someone developed this incredible piece of kit, in the same way, I’m happy that Bell developed the Star full-face helmet back in 1968 and the off-road full-face in 1971. Yeah, some bitched about those too when they were released. Some still do….it’s called Natural Selection.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Helite
  • Price: (When Tested) $679-$799
  • Colors: Black, Hi-Viz Yellow
  • Sizes: Adult X-Small, Adult Small, Adult Medium, Adult Large, Adult XL, Adult Large+, Adult XL+ 
  • Review Period: January 2023

Important Links / Where to Buy

  1. Is it reasonable to change the back protector to a D30 unit? , I think these roll up more readily

    1. I’d check with Helite. The D30 back protectors are more maliable so I’ll try it in the one I have that I’ve removed from the Knox jacket in the photos I wore.

      1. Michael, Helite USA confirmed that you can substitute a different back protector. I’ve found the KNOX one works well. More malleable and ventilated too.

  2. Can the ET-2 be worn *under* a jacket with a looser fitting body? Or say an Aerostich? Or does it simply inflate too much for that? Also: it’s disappointing that one can’t apply any updated firmware in their own home and will have to be “down” for the time it takes their CDU to make the round-trip to the dealer although the user-replaceable canisters is a big plus. The Alpinestars Tech-Air Street and Tech-Air 5 both inflate faster (20-40ms depending on size), have an app for firmware updates but they don’t have user-replaceable canisters (so, again, “down” while waiting for the round-trip to Alpinestars). At 75mph (about 120kmh), the 62ms inflation time for the ET-2 amounts to about an extra 2.5 feet (about 0.74m) traveled vs. the Alpinestars vests. And, just from images online, it looks like the Helite provides better/more neck protection while the Alpinestars provides more collarbone and shoulder protection. Tough call.

      1. And more: it seems that the Alpinestars vests also require a servicing (unknown cost) every 2 years or 500 hours of usage. Does the Helite have any such requirement?

      2. TBP, if/when Helite gets FCC approval for the fork sensor that is used with the eTurtle it reduces that time to 32MS. I’ve fallen with the tethered version and even with 100MS it worked well. Buy what you feel fits your needs the best. For me, updating firmware via the air is great, but not good enough to offset the price I’d have to pay for repacking/recharging a vest. Unless the Helites are torn or damaged or have inflated five times, there is no need to send them in at any period. If you want to wear one UNDER a jacket, I’d ping Helite to ask.

        Life itself is a tough call. You never get something for nothing. EVERYTHING is a compromise of some sort.

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