Little known in the US, Spidi is a major motorcycle safety innovator in Europe, releasing the first wearable airbag for bikers way back in 1999. Now seen as the next big step in safety gear for racers, Alpinestars and Dainese are actively developing sophisticated systems capable of using gyroscopes to detect big crashes, then deploying airbags to prevent neck injuries. Spidi just beat both its major competitors to market, albeit with a much less high-tech solution.
Like the original DPS 01, Spidi’s new airbag is worn over traditional
jackets or leathers and is activated by a lanyard attached to the
handlebars. Crash, separate from bike, pull cord, inflate airbag,
bounce down road on a cushion of air. In the last 10 years, the DPS bag
has gotten slimmer, lighter and more efficient, now inflating with two
CO2 cartridges for faster response. It’s also now compatible with race
The problem is it has the same problems the system’s always had; namely
high risk of accidental inflation, the inability to self-inflate if the
rider doesn’t separate from the motorcycle in a crash and unpredictable
results upon inflation. Because Spidi relies on a lanyard to set off
inflation, it’s easy for riders to forget to disconnect when
dismounting while life-threatening impacts could go unmitigated if the
rider remains in a lanyard’s reach of the bike. The violent inflation
of the bag could also exacerbate injuries if it goes off at the wrong
time or even after the accident is all done with.
It’s those issues in which Alpinestars and Dainese are investing
millions of Euros researching, developing detailed sets of data about
what happens in a variety of crashes both on- and off-track and thereby
developing airbags that will inflate predictably in the right
circumstances. Until we’ve seen racers crash in those ‘bags, we’ll be
sticking with our tried-and-tested quality leathers, expensive helmets
and hefty back protectors.