Air-Tight Safety: The Device That Could Save Your Life!
Safety features for motorcycles are always advancing; usually the advancements come in the form of stronger carbon fibre protection and re-enforced Kevlar padding for your gear or the more just technologically advanced on-board computer systems with ABS, traction control and a whole range of rider settings. However in recent years many leading manufacturers have been looking at a rather unorthodox form of rider safety equipment: the airbag.
Airbags may be a prominent feature in cars and other four wheeled vehicles but having any type of airbag on a motorcycle has always been deemed impractical. Honda for one, have been experimenting with airbags and have developed a compact system that has been trialed and proved useful; in fact many of their Goldwing series are already fitted with the technology. Sure, the Goldwing is big enough to warrant and house the technology but is it setting the standard for the future of motorcycling? Or is it a passing gimmick that will never catch on?
The Honda Solution
Since 2006 Honda have been fitting airbags to their world famous Goldwing model but amazingly, they weren’t the first to experiment with airbag technology : the 1990s saw numerous airbag experiments from the Transport Research Laboratory that including fitting an airbag to a Norton Commando, obviously…
Honda refined the Norton Commando idea and took it more than a step further by utilizing a whole host of sensors and on-board technology to detect frontal impacts; the front fork mounted sensors scan ahead and detect impact and when danger is imminent, an airbag is deployed to protect and cushion the rider. The downside is that not all accidents happen at the front and if you want 100% protection, you’re just not going to find it here.
As Honda are the only manufacturer to regularly install the airbag system, you’d think that they’d have all of the answers and solutions to hand but if you want data analysis about the effectiveness of air related safety measures, you’ll have to talk to Dainese.
Dainese And Ducati
Earlier in 2014 two prestigious Italian companies, Ducati and Dainese, teamed up to produce an air inflated jacket that could very well be the future of motorcycling safety. Together they designed and built a jacket with an inflatable safety measure that works like an airbag, for any type of accident.
Airbag jackets aren’t a new concept and the original idea came about in 1976, when a Hungarian inventor saw the benefits of an air cushioning device for motorcyclists. Despite it’s relatively long history, the airbag jacket has only really come into the foreground in recent years. The Ducati/Dainese jacket, the Multistrada D-Air, uses wireless technology and clever sensors that detect potential impacts and fire a series of airbags within the jackets lining.
According to Dainese, their air jackets can give the rider a 90% reduction in energy transfer, lessening the force of an impact incredibly, especially when compared to regular, Kevlar, leather and carbon fibre body protection. Of course, the energy transfer doesn’t protect you completely and injuries can and most likely will still occur but 90% is pretty impressive.
It’s not just Dainese and Ducati that have caught on to the idea; in fact, there are many similar products out there already but none that have the wirelessly integrated sensor system or a price tag that looks attractive to the average motorcyclist.
- There are jackets that are very similar in design to life jackets that can be inflated with a small Co2 canister. They’re relatively cheap and easy to maintain but they do come with a small downside: the lanyard. They use a lanyard device that inflates the jacket when the rider loses contact with the bike. If you accidently forget to disconnect the device properly, you’re going to make a fool of yourself and let’s be honest, we all have a mate that would have no problem pulling on the cord for a cheeky laugh.
- Modern racing suits come often come with an integrated airbag system but they come with quite an unattractive price tag too; that’s why you mainly see them on television or at the races being worn by racers who have the sponsorship to pay the costs for them. Even top level racing suits aren’t faultless though; it’s not unusual to see a rider have a wobble but quickly regain control of the bike and despite not crashing out, their chances at victory greatly decrease as the area between their neck and shoulder blades has increased to the size of a child’s play pool. Ideal for racers but perhaps a bit over the top (in price and function) for the average commuter.
Due to the sheer complexity of building a practical airbag related system, motorcycle air products are still largely unknown and unused but the figures have shown that there is a benefit to the whole idea. Maybe they’ll be a thing of the future but until they can prove that airbags are superior to regular body armour in every single way, will we be ready to accept them? Many riders weren’t ready to accept the idea of wearing a helmet back in the day but now it’s foolish to even consider riding without one…
Should I Buy One?
You can only answer that question yourself; the Japanese Motorcycle Police wear them, top-level racers wear them and research has shown that airbag jackets can reduce the speed of a riders head by 64% and head velocity by 75% in a crash at 30 miles per hour and that a motorcycle equipped with an airbag can reduce the forward momentum or a rider by up to 62%, which can reduce the chances of serious head trauma by up to 83%. With statistics like that, it seems that we should all be rushing out to buy them; although, the technology is still very much in its infancy. Perhaps it’s best to wait a few years and see how the technology moves forward, how manufacturers can reduce costs and wait for the percentages to get a little higher? Maybe so but until then, try to keep yourself upright!