A non-motorcycling friend of mine put me on the spot the other day, asking if a wearable-airbag was part of my riding kit after seeing one featured on the news. When I said it wasn’t, she asked why on earth not?
The sad truth is, it comes down to cost. While the use of motorcycle air bags is filtering down from racing to the street, the high cost of the technology means it isn’t a common sight. However, that may all be about to change thanks to British manufacturer RST.
For less than £500 you can now buy the RST Adventure X Airbag jacket, which features an integrated wearable-airbag (catchily nick-named, wear-bag). So, how does it work?
Integrated motorcycle airbag
The airbag, created by specialist designer In&Motion, is built into the Adventure X jacket and has been designed to protect the trunk of your body. Starting at the wearer’s lower back, the airbag continues up either side of the spine, across the back of the neck and over the shoulders, before continuing down the front of the jacket either side of the zipper.
When an impact is detected, it inflates to a full 100% for 4-5 seconds, giving riders full protection during the primary impact and any secondary blows. It then deflates to 80% where it will remain until the rider lets the air out.
The airbag is triggered by a compressed air inflator located inside a back protector. The inflator costs £89 and needs to be replaced if the airbag is is used, although RST do recommend sending the jacket off to them after three inflations to check it’s integrity.
The whole system is controlled by a computer which detects if you come off your motorcycle and inflates the airbag in a fraction of a second. The computer uses data gathered from riders across 45 countries, who have covered 4.5 million miles collectively to ensure the airbag is only put into action when it is needed.
The system is battery powered and will give you 25 hours of use before it needs recharging. Battery life is saved by a sleep mode which automatically powers up when movement is detected. Currently, the RST Adventure X Airbag jacket can be switched between road and racing modes, with plans for an off-road mode in the pipeline.
The In&motion computer, protected in a lightweight back-piece.
Most motorcycle airbags come as separate vests which you wear over or under a riding jacket. However, RST decided to follow a different path and integrate an airbag inside the Adventure X for two reasons.
Firstly, the technology doesn’t impair the basic functions of the jacket, such as blocking up vents in summer or acting as another warmer layer. This answers a common complaint that wearers of airbag vests often have.
Secondly, by partnering with In&Motion, RST believe they can make airbag technology more accessible to riders who may be put off by the high initial costs of other airbags on the market, which can cost around £1,000. However, once you’ve bought the RST Adventure X Airbag jacket, there is the small matter or £12 a month subscription to In&Motion for use of its computer. It therefore becomes a case of spreading out the cost, rather than paying a rather heady sum up front.
A new direction
RST is a British brand perhaps best known for its involvement in motorcycle racing, as well as producing more competitively-priced riding gear for the street and, in many ways, the integrated motorcycle airbag technology in the RST Adventure X epitomises what the brand stands for.
Taking inspiration from the racetrack, where riders have been protected by integrated airbag technology for years, and putting it in a competitively priced package ensures that many more riders will be able to afford the latest technology to help keep them safe on the road.