Motorcycle Airbag Protection, Do You? Would You?


Hit-Air Motorcycle Airbag Vest

Motorcycle protective equipment is something I’ve been getting progressively more concerned with as I get older. Having started riding on the street nearly 25 years ago (has it been that long?) I’ve been fortunate to have what I would consider less than my share of spills and get-offs. I’ve also been fortunate to have been able to walk, or limp, away from the crashes I’ve had.

In the 90’s I had a couple of minor get-offs that left me and my bike pretty much unscathed and considering the lowly state of my protective gear at the time, I was very lucky. Fast forward to the present and I have a lot of protective riding gear. This includes the usual suspects such as armored jackets and pants, gloves, boots, and a full face helmet.

Last year I reviewed the EVS R4K race collar, a neck protection device designed for off-road use. It has worked well for me over my street gear for nearly a year now but lately, I’ve been looking more closely the benefits and options involving airbag vests and jackets.

Manufacturers Helite (below) and Hit-Air (pictured above) are probably the best-known manufacturers of airbag-equipped protection for motorcycle riders. Both companies offer several options of vests and jackets with integrated airbags and use a lanyard system to “fire” the airbag if the rider is separated from their ride.

Helite Motorcycle Airbag Vest

While these manufacturers would likely argue they are each better than the other, there is little dispute that either airbag systems is certainly better than none at all. After reading numerous threads on the subject of airbag jackets and vests at ADVRider.com I decided it was time I take the plunge.

After weighing the various options of one brand or the other AND a vest versus integrated jacket, I pulled the trigger this morning and have my first piece of airbag-equipped riding gear on the way. Which did I choose?

You’ll have to wait to find out when I post my preview in a couple of weeks which will, of course, be followed by a complete review not long after.

In the meantime, I’m very interested to know what my fellow riders think of airbags for motorcycle riders. Would you use one? If not, why? I get that price might be a factor but if that isn’t it I’d like to hear the reasoning for or against. Leave comments here and let me know.

*Article originally published at Motorcycle Words by Brandon Jackson.

9 Comments

  1. Seth
    January 14, 2019
    Reply

    I purchased the Helite vest a few years ago. The reason was for more protection and I didn’t want to give up riding.

    My father was killed in an accident in 2016 and if he had any protection on he might have survived. Of course this brought up re-evaluating ridding in general and if I continue riding what can I do to be as safe as possible. The extra level of protection along with the visibility on the road gives me a some peace of mind knowing that nothings 100% but, at least I’m trying.

    Friends have question the Hi-Viz color choice. This comes back with 2 responses. I don’t have to look at it, I’m busy riding and “you saw me right?”. Having the airbag vest has kept me riding and exploring the world on 2 wheels.

    Also, go to your local shop and ask if they will give a demo. After that I was sold.

    • John
      January 18, 2019
      Reply

      That’s my problem I can not seem to find anyone that stocks them.

  2. January 14, 2019
    Reply

    Thank you for your comment, Seth. Just like you, I appreciate the peace of mind that comes with additional safety gear. As you stated, nothing is 100% effective in all situations, but it certainly has great potential to reduce injuries to the upper body. Another thing I appreciate about vests like yours and mine is that they typically will immobilize the head once inflated against the helmet. This can greatly reduce the chance of spine/neck injury which is one of the greatest concerns I have about getting into a crash.

    Ride safe and I hope neither of us ever have to find out how well these devices work.

  3. Chris
    January 14, 2019
    Reply

    I became interested in air bag vests a few years ago after reading on the NT-Owner.org forum of one of the members who had an accident.

    The rider was very experienced and leading a small group. The road turned, and he didn’t. He says that he doesn’t remember anything. His protective gear protected him from head injuries and road rash. But he had something like 17 broken bones in his chest area, a crushed vertebrae and a fractured vertebrae. For months, it was touch and go if he would live.

    I read that and had a couple thoughts go through my mind. First, I considered him a more experienced rider than I am. If it could happen to him, it could happen to me. Second, if he had been wearing an air bag vest…would he have walked away from the accident? And lastly, while the cost seems high, one night in the emergency room is more expensive by far.

    I asked my wife about whether to spend the money, and there was no question in her mind.

  4. David B
    January 14, 2019
    Reply

    I realize this is a short article but why no mention of Alpinestars Tech-Air system? I was in a bad accident last June and broke my collar-bone, scapula and four ribs. Only after the accident did I discover rider air bags. I looked at the Helite and other add-on/external systems but frankly they’re ugly. For people on more of a budget that’s great and I’m glad they have options, but I was happy to discover Dainese D-Air and the A-stars system. I ride a sportbike and have been wearing mostly A-stars gear for years so it was a natural buy for me. I bought the Tech-Air with a matching summer jacket and now have the Drystars jacket too. I’ll never again ride without an airbag.

    Btw, people really need to beg, borrow, or steal to get into some kind of airbag system because just one accident could easily wipe one out in medical deductibles, the cost greatly outweighing the cost of the airbags.

  5. David Behr
    January 14, 2019
    Reply

    I will also add that I think the tether system is inadequate protection in plenty of types of collisions with cars. There can be plenty of situations in which the rider’s upper body can be impacted before the length of the tether has been exceeded. Not good enough for me.

  6. January 14, 2019
    Reply

    Thanks for your input, David. I admit when I wrote this first of the three articles about my airbag protection purchase, I didn’t call out Alpinestars’ or Dainese’s airbag systems. ( I did mention them in subsequent parts). At the time I was more focused on systems that I could afford and that was tempered with “what if I end up not liking the system” :).

    I wrote this for my own site originally so webBikeWorld wasn’t arranging for getting and airbag system for me and dealing with budget issues. This came out of my pocket.

    That said, I still feel that tethered devices are right for me. I like the versatility of being able to wear various types of gear under my vest depending on the weather. I feel like coverage on the MLV-C is rather generous compared to the electronic based systems BUT this opinion is based on the small amount of actual data on that coverage for both systems. I have yet to find a decent view of how these other systems cover the body.

    Also, again for me, I prefer the idea of being able to re-arm the system by simply changing out the cartridge and repacking the air bladder.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I really like the A*’s and Dainese systems due to their speed of deployment and no need for a tether. I think as these products gain market share we’ll of course start seeing the prices drop and the ease of use (and reuse) improve.

  7. David Behr
    January 14, 2019
    Reply

    Interesting to hear any rationale to choose these add-on vest systems that isn’t about money. I don’t see any real upside to them beside cost. You mention the option of wearing different jackets under the vest. The A-stars vest is modular and the jackets that are compatible cost only a little more than otherwise. I need only the summer and winter tech air jackets – done.

    1. Re-arm: if I’m in an accident bad enough to set off the A-stars vest I think I’ll be more than fine sending it to them to have it recharged and dealing with the couple weeks of downtime. Not at all a concern to me. I mean how often does one expect to have to do this?
    2. Before the accident I had a few top of the line leather A-stars jackets. They were also aesthetically … both bad-ass looking and beautiful to me. The idea of covering them up with one of these vests was painful to me and not an option. Better to just sell them to go towards the purchase of the A-stars tech air jackets.
    3. Before I hop on my bike there are already so many steps before I’m rolling. I made a list and it numbered over 20 things (just a few being changing into ATTGAT gear, turn on both Sena units, insert earplugs, put on headsock etc.) and I didn’t want to add even more steps of having to put on a 2nd jacket and attach and detach the tether. Since I commute often, every additional step is a hassle.
    4. I wanted to retain the choice to be able to wear a back-pack or use my tailbag, or both. Can’t see putting a backpack over the top of one of these external vests.
    5. And again, admittedly, it’s about looks too. I don’t mind paying more for great looking sporty jackets vs. these goofy looking vests.
    6. I’m actually glad that the A-stars system requires compatible jackets that cost a little more: I get so many emails from retailers with jackets on sale and far too often I’d bite. Now there’s a cheesy reason to argue for my preferred system 😉

    If both of these types of systems cost the same amount of money, I have a hard time believing people would choose these external vests, at least not often.

    FWIW, I’m a working stiff, I’m not some rich guy; I’m simply someone who was already in a very bad accident so my perspective on costs is likely different. I was in a great deal of pain and was out of work for a month. My medical bills will total over $60,000 (I’ll owe $7,500) so the money saved for the cheaper but uglier setup is irrelevant to me.

    The upside is that we sometimes have different needs and priorities so it’s good to have options and every positive article like yours might save lives.

  8. Paul E.
    January 14, 2019
    Reply

    I hit a deer at 55 mph last October. Don’t recall if I even saw it. It was 1:00 am rural Indiana, county road.
    I was wearing a 2 pc Aerostich roadcrafter, my Helite vest, Held gloves and Sidi boots as well a Kabuto lid. My FJ-09 was totaled and all my gear, save the Helite were totaled. I was able to have the vest repaired for about 125.00 and it was returned looking brand new. No broken bones or road rash, but I did have a concussion and was sore for about a week. I didn’t go to the hospital, but got checked out the following day. I will continue to use the vest and all my gear.

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