The universal, retrofittable motorcycle airbag

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While Dainese and Alpinestars have only shown track-use airbag-equipped racing suits, the other big gear maker in Italy has been busy selling airbags for both road and track, fitted to both leathers and jackets. Now, Spidi is releasing an airbag vest that promises to be work with anything you’re wearing. The Spidi Neck DPS Vest is the first universal motorcycle airbag.

The big difference between Spidi’s bags and those from rivals is the presence, on the Spidi, of a lanyard connecting the firing mechanism to the bike. Hit something, fly off, the lanyard is pulled and the airbag fires in 200 milliseconds. The more sophisticated systems being developed by Dainese and Alpinestars use an array of gyroscopic sensors, accelerometers, GPS sensors and complicated programs to active their bags. As such, those systems are also very expensive, Alpinestars TechAir will double the price of the $2,500 Racing Replica suit. This Spidi vest costs around $460.

Of course, Spidi’s airbag differs from others in more than activation. Where both D-Air and the Alpinestars system will inflate a contoured bag inside the wearer’s leathers, encompassing the outside of the shoulders in addition to the collar bone, Spidi’s looks more like a neck roll, inflating on the outside and standing proud like a traditional neck roll. While it doesn’t look like the Spidi system will provide much protection for a wearer’s shoulders, it should be better than D-Air or TechAir at preventing neck injuries through extreme movements of the helmet. Spidi says the airbag is reusable and rechargeable.

All that seems a little pedantic in comparison to this vest’s main advantage: it’s a one-time purchase, universal solution to wearing an airbag. You can wear it with leathers, a jacket or anything else, it even adjusts to work with aerodynamic back humps. The vest also incorporates a CE chest protector as standard and can be retrofitted with a CE back protector. Put it on with anything and you’ll be safer. Rival systems are all-in-one, meaning you’re paying a premium for an airbag that’s incorporated into and only works with that single set of leathers.

There is a significant disadvantage to Spidi’s lanyard activation. In accidents where the rider is impacted before departing the bike, such as being sideswiped by a car, it will not activate. The lanyard must pull the firing key free from the vest, requiring the rider to separate from the bike in order to do so.

Having said that, the semi-affordable price, ability to wear it with anything and the extra protection — even if it won’t be there in every conceivable accident — makes the Spidi Neck DPS Vest look like an awfully appealing product.

Spidi (translated)

  • Darren

    I can see this becoming the 2011 equivalent of forgetting you’ve got a brake lock on and dropping your bike in a parking lot. I still chuckle recalling times I’ve watched that happen…

    It will be even entertaining to watch a squid get off their brand new ‘busa at Starbucks and walk away with this thing attached. Poof!

    • Darren

      even *more* entertaining.

      Ok, now that I’m paying for this, give me comment editing!

      • Wes Siler

        Ha, once we’ve got money we’ve got a whole wish list of things that we’d like, that’s one of them.

        I was a lanyard skeptic for ever, but everyone keeps telling me that need a properly hard yank to fire. More than what you’d do just forgetting it’s there. Having said that, I haven’t tested one yet, I’d like to.

      • Johndo

        Ok, now that we’re paying we should all get one of those airbags free. :D

    • Mark D

      It might be hard to do, but could they simply tie it into the ignition? Turn the key to the off position, and it disables the vest. Presto, no “Doh!” moments where you all of a sudden are wearing a life preserver.

      You’d have to prevent an engine-killing wreck from disabling it, though.

      • Grive

        Not really. If you key it to the ignition, as long as you have the key in the on position, it should work (if you have battery charge). Even if the engine dies, as long as you haven’t hit the killswitch or turned the key off, it’s going to activate.

        The only thing you need is the battery feeding a current to the system. Just like the headlight, your engine can die, but the light doesn’t go out.

      • seanslides

        I have a friend that works for an un-named gear manufacturer that’s developing exactly that.

        That said, he thinks it’s a super lame band-aid solution, and wishes for more R&D money.

  • Tim

    The slammed and extended ‘Busa boys that troll around here don’t wear much safety gear of any kind, so they are probably safe from walking away and being bagged. This doesn’t look much more effective than an AStar Bionic jersey and Bionic Neck support? I know those are dirt pads, but just saying..?

  • Steve

    A nice looking product, I might even get one for track days or other higher risk rides. But do these European manufacturers really thing we want to look like a scruffy Euro-douche? Can’t they find any clean shaven happy people to model this stuff?

  • dan

    These have already been in the marketplace in both vest and jackets.

    • Wes Siler

      I was always under the impression that hit air was a scam.

      • Dan

        Depends on your definition of scam. My buddy has a hit-air jacket and it does inflate when the pin gets pulled. But, the “disc lock” scenario is a real concern.

        In his case, he jumped off his bike to help me when i fell over in some gravel – he didn’t remember to disconnect, so I had my bike pulled off my leg by the Michelin man.

        The Hit-Air jacket itself seems nice enough. It’s not very heavily padded, but for $400 it’s not a bad jacket considering the airbag. I just think it’s not worth the hassle until a non-tethered system is available at an affordable price.

      • UrbanRider

        Hit Air were first imported in the UK about 5 years ago, but the design of the jackets with the system integrated were awful, the big seller has always been the vest that can be worn with your existing jacket.

        Looks like Spidi are waking up to that fact.

  • slowtire

    The universal, retrofittable motorcycle airbag.
    I thought for sure that when I clicked on this storey I was gonna see a picture of my ex wife. This is much more interesting!

  • Ed

    I think this is on the right track. The tether system could be improved with a some minimal cost electronics without having to go the full gyroscope route. Just an accelerometer from a cell phone that armed it when the bike was in motion would help. How do you “test drive” motorcycle airbag system? Expect HFL to pioneer this research with my $1.99.

  • seanslides

    The one thing I’ve always thought was lame about these is the fact that there’s a neck roll keeping you from getting into a proper tuck. If it weren’t for that, I’d probably have bought one by now.

  • James Dean Meyer

    I’ve been there Dan. Not exactly a Hit-air, but similar nonetheless.

    Early one Autumn morning I went fly fishing with my girlfriend’s step-dad. Famously unprepared, I had to borrow some of his gear, including a vest. No fish and three hours later I thought it would be funny to wear all the gear to a staff meeting at work. Mid-management-mid-spiel, I felt something in the chest pocket and gave the Velcro flap a quick tug. POOOF!! The entire jacket inflated. Apparently it was an emergency life preserver disguised as a fishing vest. Needless to say I was asked to leave.

    Moral of the story: Be wary of the social (and employment)implications of testing new technology!

  • J C

    I think one weakness on a pull-cord airbag system is that when you fall down and do not eject from your bike, airbag will not inflate and will therefore be useless.