Injury-saving motorcycle airbag system reaches NZ
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The evidence suggests that World MotoGP champion, Marc Marquez, won the 2017 and 2018 titles by adopting a crash-on-Saturday/win-on-Sunday strategy. He appeared some kind of human rubber-ball, riding over the limit during practice and qualifying sessions, then bouncing back to win the races on Sunday through a better understanding of the capabilities of his bike and tyres.
Marquez crashed no less than 23 times during the 2017 season, and has already amassed a similar number of ‘dismounts’ this year with two rounds of the championship still to run. How did he escape serious injury? He had a layer of extra protection from the Alpinestars airbag system than he wore beneath his leathers. The system senses when a crash is imminent and inflates the torso-protecting airbag before the rider’s body suffers an impact.
Under-leather airbags have been mandatory in Grand Prix motorcycle racing for several seasons now, and Alpinestars released a similar system for street riders back in 2015. This is now being rolled out to world markets and New Zealand became the fifth market where the system went on sale this week, through just three dealers, each located in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.
Alpinestars under-leather airbag vest. Photo / Alpinestars
The careful roll-out of the system is due to Alpinestars taking full control of the manufacture and quality of the system, says New Zealand distributor, Shayne King. Dealers also need to make a decent investment in training their staff to service the airbag system.
“We’re starting carefully because we want to make sure we have the right support systems in place before we increase availability,” says King.
Riders also need to make an investment in the new technology, but the benefits are absolutely convincing. The Tech-Air airbag under-vest, with its sophisticated sensors (three accelerometers and a gyroscope), electronic control and patented dual-inflators housed in a passive plastic back protector, costs $1899. A new jacket or set of leathers also needs to be budgeted for, as the system is compatible with specific Alpinestars products. Add a further $699-$1499 for one of those.
The airbag system will certainly prove a canny investment in a crash. Research by Alpinestars has shown it reducing impact G-forces from 25-g to just 2-g. Meanwhile, Grand Prix racers like Switzerland’s Tom Luthi, who attended the New Zealand launch of the Tech-Air under-vest, have provided lots of the data used to guide the design of the product.
“When I look down at my forearm on the starting grid for a race, and see the stand-by lights of the airbag system flashing, I know that I’m ready to go.