Author: Ollie Rooke

The piece of gear that saved this police biker’s life

When a car pulled out on the police motorcycle rider in this video, he expected the worst.

He’d been travelling along the road while assessing a student on an advanced riding course when a driver emerged from a shaded layby. Despite braking, a crash was inevitable, so he took avoiding action by riding onto a grass verge at the side of the road, leading to his bike cartwheeling and throwing him from the saddle.

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It’s a collision that many would expect to have serious consequences, but the biker escaped with bumps, bruises, and little else. How? He swears that his Helite Airvest played a key role in saving him.

The video, which you can see for yourself at the bottom of this feature, sparked some debate in ABR HQ when we stumbled across it.

As more and more bikers emerge unscathed from nasty collisions, claiming their wearable airbags prevented a much worse outcome, why is it that we still see so few of them out on the road?

Gloves, helmet, airbag?


Are we unsure whether they’ll really help, or perhaps crashing is just something we don’t like to think about? Maybe it’s both, as the biker in the video suggests.

“Our Turtle Airvest is supplied through work, and I will admit to being a little bit sceptical… I guess I never thought it would happen to me.” the police biker said.

In fact, he’d pulled it on that morning for the first time ever: “It was honestly the first time I’d worn it since it was supplied to me!”

It was lucky he did, as the car emerged and left him with no other choice: “The bike dug in and flipped. All I can remember is riding onto the grass, then being face down in nettles. My student came running to me, in his words expecting me to be dead, and asked what the hissing was.”

The hissing was from the Airvest. During the crash the lanyard, connected to the motorcycle’s frame, had been pulled, triggering the in-built gas canister and causing the vest to inflate in a tenth of a second.

Despite the rough crash, the Helite had done its job. After being rushed to hospital in a back brace, he underwent a range of scans and checks, and was surprisingly (for all involved) given the all clear.

“The doctor looked baffled. Yes, I was sore, my chest hurt like hell and I had some bumps and bruises, but that was it. What saved me, or at least limited my injuries? The Airvest. Without a doubt.”

Why are we not all wearing one?

Despite first-hand case studies like the one above, plenty of bikers still raise objections when you talk to them about wearable airbags.

When Airvests first appeared on the market cost certainly put some off, after all new technologies tend to come at a price. But Helite’s pricing now starts from £350, a reasonable price for safety, around what you’d spend on a good helmet.

The second objection tends to revolve around looks. I know, safety should trump looks every day of the week but there’s no denying that it’s a consideration for some of us.

Perceptions of Airvests tend to be that they’re hi-vis and a little bit unsightly but, as you can see above, they come in a range of colours (including black) that look pretty subtle.

Finally, a few bikers I’ve spoken to have been concerned about how wearable airbags work in different types of crashes, such as low sides, or being side-swiped or rear-ended. But Helite has an answer to that too with a new innovation that does away with the traditional physical tether.

Instead of a fixed lanyard operating the gas canister, sensors on the vest detect sudden movement and trigger the airbag in a collision. Helite has even developed fork sensors that can detect when your bike is hit while stationary. It’s pretty advanced stuff, and should keep you protected the entire time that you’re in the saddle.

Watch the crash below

So, perhaps we are moving to a stage when putting on your Airvest is seen as important as grabbing your clothes or slipping on your helmet.

What do you think about Airvests, the future of biker safety or something you don’t think you’d need? Watch the video below and decide for yourself.