New airbag vest set to drastically reduce motorcycle injuries
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In my 50 years of riding motorcycles, the good times have sure outweighed the bad.
But the bad experiences over that half-century include several injuries that probably could have been prevented had I been wearing the new torso-protecting airbag under-vest from Alpinestars at the time of those crashes.
There are now three fully autonomous airbag vests from Alpinestars. The Tech-Air Race vest has been at the leading edge of motorcycle racing safety for several seasons now, while the slightly different Air-Tech Street variant was released here through two NZ motorcycle dealerships in our largest two cities in 2018.
Alpinestars released a third airbag vest at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Enter the new Tech-Air 5, an airbag vest that’s lighter, comfier, and more affordable.
New Zealand Alpinestars distributor, Crown Kiwi Enterprises, is aiming to release the Tech-Air 5 with a recommended retail price of around $1200 when it goes on sale later this year. This represents a $600 saving over the current prices of the Street and the Race. The Tech-Air 5 vest also offers a longer battery charge life (30 hours instead of 25), comes with a Bluetooth-linked phone app that allows you to monitor the battery and GPS track your rides, and has better ventilation thanks to a honey-combed back shield where those of the Street and Race versions are solid.
The patented Tech-Air dual-inflation system makes the vests capable of use in at least two crashes in the case of the Race version, while the Street and Tech-Air 5 use both inflators in tandem in a single crash. With the inflators depleted, the vests then need to be returned to the dealer for servicing.
The vests are programmed to deploy the airbags woven into them in between 20 and 40 milliseconds, well before the rider suffers an impact. When deployed, the airbags in the vests inflate for five seconds before slowly deflating. This provides cushions of air between 2cm and 4cm thick at all the critical parts of the rider’s torso.
A MotoGP crash at Laguna Seca by Jorge Lorenzo during early data collection for the Tech-Air Race’s development showed the impact G-force on Lorenzo’s shoulder was reduced from 25g to just 2g. The Spaniard could still ride hard enough to grab pole position in qualifying later that afternoon.
Alpinestars say the active vests absorb 95 per cent more crash energy than a passive back protector. You’d therefore have to wear 18 passive back protectors to enjoy the same spine protection as one Tech-Air vest.
If only these active torso-protectors had been available 50 years ago.