Are Motorcycle Airbag Jackets Worth Buying?

When riding a motorcycle, your safety is of the utmost importance. Sure, feeling the speed and the open air are the best parts of riding, but what happens if you get into an accident? Unlike a car, there’s no glass, plastic, sheet metal, or airbags to shield you from harm, however, with an airbag jacket or vest, you can ensure more safety. But is it worth it to buy one?

Your safety is important

Whether you would like to admit it to yourself or not, there is motorcycle accidents are very common. In fact, motorcycle accidents make up for about 14 percent of traffic-related deaths in the U.S. and, according to NHTSA, 4,985 riders lost their lives in 2018 alone. And while preventing death or injury might not be completely possible, a motorcycle airbag jacket or vest can do much to ensure your safety.

The airbag vest and jacket technology were first invented and patented in 1976 by a Hungarian inventor named Tamas Straub. After the patent expired in 1980, the technology lost steam until 1995 when Mugen Denko, a Japanese company, started doing more research and development on the idea and came out with the HIT-AIR system in 1999. This system has flourished since then as the Hit-Air vest and jackets have been used by police officials, street riders, and racing riders alike.

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yellow airbag vest
COLOGNE, GERMANY – OCTOBER 02 : The Helite airbag vest is displayed at the 2018 Intermot trade fair on October 2, 2018 in Cologne, Germany. Intermot is the worlds second-largest motorcycle trade fair and will be open to the public from October 3-10. (Photo by Marc Pfitzenreuter/Getty Images)

How does the HIT-AIR system work?

The HIT-AIR system is quite simple in its operation. There’s an airbag vest houses the airbags, a CO2 cartridge, a ball-style release valve, and a tether system that connects the release valve on the vest to the bike. When a rider gets on the bike, they just need to connect the vest to the bike frame via the tether. And in the event of a crash and the rider falls off the bike, the release valve activates in the airbags in 0.25 seconds, which means that it should be inflated by the time the rider hits the ground or another surface.

Considering the airbag vest is tethered to the bike at all times, you might think that there’s a possibility of it going off accidentally. However, according to Best Beginner Motorcycles, the vest requires 60 to 66 pounds of force for it to deploy and the tether is also long enough for the rider to stand on the pegs, so there are no worries there.

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There are other airbag jacket systems as well

Of course, the HIT-AIR system is just one of the many other airbag jacket systems on the market today. Other brands like Alpine Stars and Dainese have jackets that use GPS telemetry, accelerometers, gyroscopes, and even microprocessors to calculate 1,000 times per second whether or not a crash is detected and the airbags need to be deployed. These jackets are typically lighter weight although they can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $2,500 while the HIT-AIR system costs around $650.

COLOGNE, GERMANY – OCTOBER 04: A Helite airbag vest at the 2016 Intermot trade fair on October 4, 2016 in Cologne, Germany. Intermot is the worlds second-largest motorcycle trade fair and will be open to the public from October 6-9. (Photo by Marc Pfitzenreuter/Getty Images)

Is it worth the investment?

Considering wearing an airbag jacket or vest can save your life or, at the very least, prevent serious injury, we would say that it’s worth every penny of the investment. After all, your life is priceless and every ounce of protection that you can get while riding a motorcycle is worth it.