Helite Turtle 2 Airbag Vest: A “Compressed” Review

Various angles of the Helite Turtle 2 Airbag Vest
Last updated:
Review Summary
The Helite Turtle 2 is the company’s second generation airbag vest. It is intended for street use since they have another product specific to the track. It is both comfortable and provides incredible protection to riders of any skill level at a price comparable to a quality full face helmet.
Build Quality
Comfort
Protection
Value for Money
Pros
Can be worn over existing jackets
Excellent vital organ coverage
Air bladder expands more than competitors
Restricts head movement when deployed to prevent neck hyperextension or clavicle fractures
User serviceable CO2 canister replacement
Flows air well
Comfortable and does not restrict head movement
Available in Hi ReZ color
Cons
Same cost as high-end full-face helmet
4.9

The Closest Thing to Action Spy Gear

This review is for the most current analog Helite 2 Air Vest for motorcycles. I say analog because their model uses a physical tether to deploy the trigger for the firing mechanism when the rider departs from the motorcycle (i.e., crashes). I tend to only depend on things I have tested myself—firsthand experiences.

There are a number of videos about the Helite vests; most simply show the airbag’s deployment and then being hit by someone with their fists or more potentially damaging instruments like a golf club. There are a handful of videos where actual users have fallen while doing vlogs of themselves riding. All are very impressive.

I’ve written for webBikeWorld about other items and have told stories about my crashes at the racetrack. I’ve had three in total; one at Laguna Seca in turn three, one at Pahrump NV in turn two, and one at Thunderhill Raceway in turn 10. Even though that crash resulted in me being airlifted to the Enloe Trauma center, I had no broken bones or road rash of any kind. Rung the snot out of my bell, but I’ve had no spinal injuries in any track crash.

Keep in mind that racetracks are designed to contemplate crashes—they have corner workers, runoff areas, kitty litter, soft barriers, and a minimum of two ambulances at the standby along with EMTs. My custom-made leathers and back protector saved me from becoming a paraplegic for sure. Fortunately, not many street riders have to test their safety gear. But we have different dangers that don’t exist at the track. There are no ambulances on standby along with EMTs; no corner workers or flags. There are curbs, cars, texting, pedestrians, trucks…. you get the drift.

So my review will compare my firsthand experience with safety gear that has saved me from dire physical harm in the past to my observation of the preventive qualities of the Helite Turtle 2, which I will refer to as the HT2. I have not crashed in this vest, so as of now I cannot speak firsthand of its effectiveness in a high-speed crash.

My custom-made team leathers and back protector (seen below) were both worn during all crashing events. In two cases, the leathers had to be repaired after the crash.

Author's custom leather racing gear Front of author's custom leather racing gear Author's back protector Author's back protector

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 is applicable 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, 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.

Helite Turtle 2 Airbag Vest Features

Let’s start with the protection offered by the coverage of the Helite Turtle 2:

Author wearing Helite Turtle 2 Airbag Vest

The front of the HT2, when inflated, offers support around the neck and head, preventing fore and aft movement as well as side-to-side. This greatly reduces the potential for neck/spine injuries and the fracturing of the clavicle bone.

Most clavicle fractures occur when the lower edge of the rider’s motorcycle helmet impacts the clavicle bone upon impact. The HT2 does not restrict my head movement at all in any direction when not inflated. My leathers did not prevent head/neck movement in the event of an impact.

Helite Turtle 2 Airbag Vest First Impressions

In addition to the vest itself, here is what’s included with the HT2:

An instruction manual with a plastic pouch and 5mm hex key used to replace the CO2 cartridge when necessary.

Instruction manual with a plastic pouch and 5mm hex key used to replace the CO2 cartridge in Helite Turtle 2 Instructions for Helite Turtle 2 Airbag Vest

Next up: one 60 cc Helite CO2 cartridge.

60 cc Helite CO2 cartridge

A lanyard tether, which attaches to the bike frame, and which incorporates an elastic portion for ease of movement when dismounting the bike.

Lanyard tether for Helite Turtle 2 Airbag Vest

Examining the HT2 revealed to me just how well engineered and executed the vest is. Seams are consistently sewn with no thread fraying. I have a size large and have worn it over a leather riding jacket as well as a KLIM Marrakesh, Alpinestars, and Aerostich Darian jacket. The side arm hole area is generous in its size, allowing complete freedom of movement and great airflow as well.

Side of Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

The reflective accents on the rear of the HT2 reflect well when illuminated by headlights.

Reflective elements on Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest Front of Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest Rear of Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

The length of the rear of the HT2 covers the tailbone area, which is much appreciated by someone who has crashed. No, not in the HT2, but wearing full leathers and being able to examine damage to them after the fact in two low-sides and one high-side. Later in this review, I will explain how the HT2 protects the tailbone area.

Helite’s V1 and V2 models differ primarily in cosmetic changes. Helite USA notified me that the internal workings of the vests are the same. Here is Helite’s video of the changes between the V1 and V2.

Helite Turtle 2 Airbag Vest Construction

I have previously mentioned that the quality of construction in the HT2 is excellent. Let’s go over the components step by step.

I had previously mentioned the size of the side arm holes. It’s more accurate to describe them as arm openings. They’re huge, and I appreciate the amount of movement and airflow this offers. It also makes putting the vest on and off with a jacket a breeze—no pun intended.

Close-ups of arm holes in Helite Turtle 2 airbag jacket

Both sides of the front of the vest contain Velcro panels, which open to allow adjustment of the three straps, which hold the vest to your body. On the right-hand side, the vest contains the CO2 cartridge and the firing spring mechanism. Velcro straps sewn into each side panel allow the user to adjust the length of each strap.

Helite recommends that when adjusted over your riding jacket, enough space should exist between the vest and your jacket to fit a full fist on each side of the front panel. This is an estimate of how much room will be needed when the vest expands in deployment. My video in the Deployment section will show this.

The vest does not ship with the CO2 cartridge installed. It’s very convenient that the vest pocket shows the correct size cartridge to be used with the vest size you’ve purchased. Helite cartridges come in 50, 60, 85 and 100cc sizes depending on the vest’s size. Retail pricing for the replacement canisters ranges from $32.00 to $37.00 USD, depending on vest size.

Mine is a large, which uses a 60cc size. The black portion on the left of this image is where the female portion of the lanyard attached to the ball passes through when the flap is closed.

Lanyard on Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest Lanyard on Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

On both sides of the vest’s front, the interior panels have zippers where their pulls are hidden beneath elastic keepers. These zippers are used by Helite if the vest’s airbag needs to be serviced. There is also one of these zippers located in the neck area just above the Helite logo tag. Again, these zippers are not intended to be opened by the end user.

Hidden zipper on Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest Hidden zipper on Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

Like the right side, underneath the front panel on the left-hand side of the vest’s front exists Velcro straps, which are used to adjust the sizing straps.

Velcro panels on Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest Velcro panels on Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

In addition, the V2 Helite Turtle has added a small zippered pocket under its own Velcro panel. Although not stated in their literature, it appears that the zipper is the waterproof type. I’m not certain if the pocket is waterproof.

Small velcro pocket on Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest Small velcro pocket on Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest Small velcro pocket on Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest Small velcro pocket on Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

Nowhere in Helite’s literature do they state what should or should not be placed into this chest pocket. My personal view is I would not store anything in it other than a credit card, ID, or some cash—and certainly not my cell phone. When the airbag activates, I don’t want anything sharp or anything that could be damaged upon impact when the airbag deploys to be in there!

The back of the HT2 houses a solid piece of CE rated material between the vest’s material and the airbag. In examining the inside of the rear panel, I found that a vertical velcro patch exists that can be lifted on the right hand side.

Velcro patch on Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest Velcro patch on Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

Lifting this panel revealed hard armor on the interior of the airbag.

Hard armor panel in Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest Hard armor panel in Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

The airbag portion in the rear of the vest appears to line the perimeter of the back offering excellent spine protection. Later in my deployment video and imagery you can view how the spine is cradled between two air chambers.

The CE rated back protector that resides between the air bladders can be removed. This then allows the vest to be folded up to store in a rider’s panniers or top box. When the back protector foam is removed and the vest is folded it easily fits in my Givi top box.

Helite has stated that folding or rolling up the vest after removing the CE foam pad will not harm the vest. This makes it very convenient for storing during long breaks off of the bike. Very slick.

I want to say here, before I discuss how the vest operates, that for me, dying is not my primary fear. But I don’t believe I have the strength of will to endure what people like Wayne Rainey and Christopher Reeves experienced. Anything I can do to prevent that from happening is something I will do.

Helite Turtle 2 Airbag Vest Operation

In this section, I will combine Helite’s own user guide instructions with my own imagery. First off is the process of installing the partial elastic tether to your bike.

Helite's instructions for connecting the tether for the Turtle 2 airbag vest to your bike

This is how I installed the tether on my Zero DSR:

Tether for Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest connected to Zero DSR motorcycle Tether for Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest connected to Zero DSR motorcycle Tether for Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest connected to Zero DSR motorcycle

Since I use a dual sport strapped tank bag on my bike, I can store the tether this way when I’m not using it.

Tether for Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest stored in tank bag

Installing the CO2 Canister

Push the female end of the lanyard clip through the vent hole in the right-side flap. Open the right-hand flap. It’s best to adjust the length of the velcro straps before installing the CO2 canister on the right side. Once the canister is installed, it’s tough to get your fingers under the vessel to lift the velcro strap. So adjust the size of your straps first.

And as with all threaded things, be sure to not cross thread the canister as you screw it into the airbag’s housing. Conventional threads, ‘righty tighty, lefty loosey’, finger tight.

Cannister installed in Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest Cannister installed in Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

Thread the female end of the lanyard attachment clip back through the flaps vent hole.

Lanyard on Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

Close the right hand flap over the canister.

Lanyard on Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

I noticed that once I inserted the CO2 cartridge the Helite logo patch appears in between the small seams on the right-hand side panel. Not sure if this is intended, but a cool way to check that the canister is installed. Of course, just feeling for the bulge in the panel works too. I just appreciate small details.

Helite logo visible through seams in Turtle 2 airbag vest

I wanted to examine the mechanism after the HT2’s trigger was deployed. Here are Helite’s instructions to perform that operation, along with their company’s video:

Helite's instructions for installing airbag cartridge in Turtle 2 vest

Helite’s video on how to install a new CO2 cartridge:

Here is how the CO2 canister appears after being pierced:

Cannister for Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest after being pierced Cannister for Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest after being pierced

After removing the pierced CO2 canister, this is how the trigger mechanism appears. The ball and exterior ball frame are out of the trigger housing and the trigger spring appears where the ball and ball’s frame resided before deployment.

Trigger for Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest after canister is pierced

Here are all of the pieces for the user serviceable canister replacement:

Components for canister replacement in Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

Canister piercing trigger:

Canister piercing trigger for Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

Ball tether pull:

Ball tether pull for Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

Trigger spring:

Trigger spring for Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

Place the 5mm hex wrench into the housing’s hex space.

Close-up of bolt for Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

Use the 5mm hex wrench to loosen the bolt. Helite recommends that you do not completely remove the bolt like I did. I just don’t listen; ask my ex-wife.

You can push the piercing trigger down from where the canister is inserted, either with your finger or the hex wrench.

Once the trigger plunger’s hole aligns with the hole in the housing, reinsert the ball and its frame. Be sure the ball frame is square against the housing.

Spring in housing bolt for Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest Spring threaded into trigger housing for Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

Using your thumb to hold the ball and its frame into the housing, insert the spring into the housing bolt’s hollow portion and thread it back into the trigger housing.

Trigger spring for Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

I found that by folding the lower portion of the vest up out of the way it’s much easier to continue to tighten the bolt using the longer end of the hex wrench. Don’t gorilla tighten the canister bolt. Snug it down securely.

Canister bolt snugly installed in Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

Try moving the ball lanyard around to ensure the ball moves freely and the ball’s frame remains steady. After that all you need to do is insert the new CO2 canister, thread the female buckle through and you’re all set to go.

Helite Turtle 2 Airbag Vest Fit & Feel

Because the HT2 has such a wide range of adjustments via the six velcro straps, their location, and the ultra-wide side arm areas, it’s extremely comfortable. I had expected the vest to be just a tad confining or hot when worn over my numerous jackets. Nope, not at all.

I have weighed the vest with the 60cc canister. It measured 4.00 pounds. Around the weight of a helmet, but distributed over a much larger area on my body.

Scale showing weight of Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

There isn’t a lot more to be said about its comfort. It’s as if you wore one of those CalTrans or construction safety vests over your t-shirt. At some point you just forget it’s there. That’s how the HT2 feels to me. And heck, I’d venture to say that if you choose their hi-viz version most would just think you’re wearing one of those safety vests. Except this one is WAY SAFER.

Helite Turtle 2 Airbag Vest Deployment

For those who worry about accidentally activating the HT2 by forgetting to disconnect the lanyard, I too was worried. When seat belts were first required, I rushed home because I really had to take a leak, and when I flung open the door to exit I forgot to disconnect my seatbelt. I pissed a little in my pants as the belt squeezed my stomach. I ended up just pissing in my own front yard.

Since the tether has elastic in a portion of the line, I get a tugging reminder when I have forgotten to disconnect it. Plus, Helite states that it takes 60 ft pounds of torque to exert enough force to dislodge the ball from the trigger housing. If you think about how often you torque a bolt down to 60 ft pounds it’s not often. Granted, the force would contemplate distance, but my view is that it would take a substantial accidental pull to activate the vest while purposely dismounting the bike.

The following are images after the vest has been deployed:

Author wearing deployed Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest Author wearing deployed Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest Author wearing deployed Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest Author wearing deployed Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest

It’s very evident from these photos just how much protection is offered by the HT2 compared to other armor, be it Level 1 or 2. Here are images of the vest after I removed it and it had been deployed for 3 minutes.

Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest after being deployed and removed Front of Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest after being deployed and removed Rear of Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest after being deployed and removed

For me, this image is the one that really displays the amount of spine protection the HT2 offers. As you can see, the spine area is cradled in protection. And I had mentioned earlier that because of how the airbag inflates in the lower portion of the back, my tailbone is also protected well.

Spine protector of Helite Turtle 2 airbag vest after being deployed and removed

Helite Turtle 2 Airbag Vest Warranty & Service

You can find the Helite Turtle 2 user manual on their product page or the PDF itself.

Final Thoughts on the Helite Turtle 2 Airbag Vest

The thing about safety gear is this: most of us don’t like to wear it. In a perfect world, we would ride in a t-shirt and shorts, flip flops, and sunglasses. Hell you can still ride like that in Hawaii where my cousin lives. He actually rides like that still. Sure, most will wear a jacket, and in states where helmets are mandatory, you gotta wear one to ride (legally, anyway).

But an airbag, Mark, really? Come on—isn’t that going a bit too far? Are  you such a sissy that you feel you need to do that, or are you just a s***y rider? Maybe both? And don’t you have to send the thing in if it deploys? I visited a motorcycle retailer who carries Helite and he told me I’d have to send it in if it deploys. Shows how little he knew about the product. How about $32.00 to $37.00 USD (depending on your vest’s size) to replace the cartridge with a simple hex wrench?

I will simply say that the Helite Turtle 2 is something I will enjoy wearing whenever I ride. Because I’ve crashed a few times at the racetrack, I know the value of great gear (plus having two ambulances and EMTs on site at all times, corner workers, flags and rules, safety runoff areas, etc.).

But on the street, none of those things exist. Instead, there are people texting, having lunch, drinking beers in paper bags, talking on their phones, and looking at their GPS for directions. And cars/trucks/SUVs are all my enemies. Curbs, light poles, and gravel are all things I can hit. I prefer to not become a paraplegic, so if I can wear something I don’t even notice and it will keep me from being in a wheelchair, I’m all for it. And for me, that’s the Helite Turtle 2.

When someone asks me why I feel the need to wear a motorcycle airbag vest, I present them with this question: “If you were (or are) a police officer, would you wear a second-chance bullet proof vest if it was not required? If not, why not, and if so, why?” As they try to justify that people may try to kill you, I say that stats show the number of injuries to motorcyclists far eclipses the number of times a police officer is shot at. Ask any officer whose second-chance vest saved their life if they even question wearing one now. Ask me after crashing at the racetrack three times if I ever ride without great gear. Both answers are the same.

Pros

  • Worn over existing jackets
  • Excellent vital organ coverage
  • Air bladder expands more than competitors
  • Restricts head movement when deployed to prevent neck hyperextension or clavicle fractures
  • User serviceable CO2 canister replacement
  • Flows air well
  • Comfortable
  • Does not restrict head movement
  • Available in Hi ReZ color

Cons

  • Same cost as high-end full-face helmet

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Helite
  • Price: (When Tested) $679-$699
  • Colors: Black, Hi-Viz Yellow
  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL, 2XL, 3XL, 4XL
  • Review Period: April – June 2022

Important Links / Where to Buy

Leave a Reply

  1. Hi Mark, that is a great in depth review. I have been contemplating getting one for a while now, to go over my Aerostich R3. I’ve been held back by the storage issue. Question: could it be stuffed into a pannier without rolling or damaging anything? That would get me to purchase it. I love my Aerostich because you can roll it up with armour and stuff it into a big top box with helmet. I don’t want to walk around with a vest…thank you again for the comprehensive review. Gear at this price point needs detailed overview – which you provide!

    1. Hey Dave, thank you. Nice to ‘virtually meet’ another “Stich” lover. After your question, I went out into my Man Cave to see. If you take the Turtle 2 and hold the bottom and ‘fold’ it to the top to make a taco I believe it would fit. I could fit it that way into my Givi top box. I had never even considered trying it until your question here. The two plastic back protectors that sandwich the air bladder are more pliable than I had thought. I’d check with Helite to make sure this would not damage the vest. Hell I will ask them too.

      And I try to write my reviews to answer questions I myself would have before seeing something. All of the videos left no doubt to me that the Helite’s are effective. But like you I wanted to know the practical aspects of owning gear like this. And I like to know how stuff works too. Thanks for asking and making me check. If I could edit my review I’d add it.

  2. Hey Dave I contacted Helite and they said the vest can be folded or rolled and it will not harm the air vest. They suggest removing the foam back protector. I tried it and it works great. I’ve updated this review to reflect that and it should be edited soon. Thanks for asking and now I can store mine in my top box when I’ll be away for a good amount of time.

  3. I have the HT2 and bought one for my girlfriend, too. Now part of my ATGATT ensemble. Yes, it’s bulky and another item. But I feel much safer knowing I have the maximum protection possible – way more than the Klim, AStar, and other bags.

    Also, it’s remarkably cool in hot weather. I went MC camping with a buddy. It was 80-90 degrees and he was sweating bullets with his Klim under his jacket. The HT2 has excellent airflow through the center and along the sides. I didn’t really notice any additional heat.

    When I ride offroad, I do disconnect the tether because it’s so common to drop a bike ADV bike in low-speed situations and there’s not as much risk of injury. But once I hit the pavement, it’s click in the tether and away we go.

    Also, I opted for the mechanical tether after considering all the electronic versions. (Helite offers the “e-Turtle” in Europe and you can have one shipped over here from a European moto retailer.) One less thing to recharge and it’s always ready to go; no temptation to ride without it just because the battery is dead. The mechanical ball thing is foolproof and doesn’t suffer software glitches, error messages or require updates.

    Thanks, Mark for your review. I’m hoping that more people purchase the HT2 vest. I think it’s the best product out there.

    1. Hey Craig, I freaked out a bit when I saw your name. My Gf’s brother has your name, and I didn’t think he rode. I have debated about whether I prefer the upcoming eTurtle or the analog one I have. I think I will stick with the analog version. I ride a Zero DSR and don’t want another thing to charge. Great call on disconnecting the tether on my off-road excursions. Falling off of my bike in the dirt is way more often than on pavement. And off-road does not subject me to the same injuries.

  4. Hey Mark,
    Great review! I picked up one of these several months ago and agree with all of your observations – including the ease of reset. I had the unfortunate opportunity to test mine in a simple parking lot tip over when out on a group ride 3 states from home. It took less than 20 minutes (including time to dig out the packed spare CO2 cartridge) to reset the vest and be back on our way.
    The only challenge I’ve had is remembering to attach the tether every time I get on. I small dymo label “tether” by the keyswitch solved that problem!
    Cheers!

    1. Hey Mike, wow I thought I was the only knucklehead who forgets to plug the tether in. I was worried about unclipping it but I more often forget to clip in. Maybe I’ll do the Dyno Label thing you’ve done. I carry an extra canister and the 5mm hex key in that little zippered pocket on the left side of the vest. We guys like symmetrical breasts. LOL but in all seriousness, it makes finding the canister and wrench easy after a fall and deployment. We all know that our minds may not be the clearest after a crash. I’ll see if my editor will allow me to add that tidbit to the review. Sorry for overlooking my little hack.