The airbag is at the absolute pinnacle of motorcycle safety and Alpinestars is one of the leaders of the game. That’s because its system works without any physical tether/connection to the bike and it doesn’t rely on a GPS connection either. Better still, the Tech Air Race vest detects when a crash has initiated and can inflate in 25 milliseconds (four times faster than the blink of an eye) to keep the rider protected in time for the first impact.
Alpinestars Tech Air Race Vest: How does it work?
The functionality is fully self-contained, and the vest works via sensors/accelerometers located in the shoulders and in the back-protector area. These feed the Airbag Control Unit which uses advanced algorithms to analyse the data in real time. If the ACU computes that any sudden or violent movements indicate that a crash has initiated, it triggers the inflation. The ACU is seal-protected within a tough, hard-plastic back protector and Astars claims all-weather functionality between -10⁰C and +50⁰C. The system uses a lithium-ion battery that charges via micro-USB – a full charge takes about 6 hours and lasts for about 25 hours.
The actual inflation is provided via two small argon gas canisters. This is another unique feature because the vest fires only one canister in case of a crash and it self-deflates after about 30sec. If the vest has not been damaged, the second canister is still available for another inflation, so you can continue your track day or race weekend. It’s worth bearing in mind that the Size S vest comes with only one canister.
Alpinestars Tech Air Race Vest: Level of protection
The protection provided is vastly more comprehensive than the usual CE Level II back and chest protectors. Once inflated, the airbag generates full upper-body coverage for the back, shoulders and chest, as well as the back of kidneys and the upper abdomen. This is a very similar system to what’s used by MotoGP riders, and the technology has been developed over years of learnings gained from racing at the top level. Alpinestars started using airbag technology in MotoGP in 2003 and has since clocked millions of kilometres of road and track testing.
Alpinestars Tech Air Race Vest: How to use it
It’s important to consider that this vest will only work when worn under Alpinestars Tech Air Race compatible garments. Sizing is equally important as the vest needs to fit you snugly and the race suit/jacket you wear above it must have a few inches of space to accommodate the vest when inflated. You can follow the Alpinestars sizing guide for this.
The vest interfaces with the compatible jacket or race suit via two zippers and Velcro patches. A small connector built into the garment clicks into the vest and this provides a signal to three small LED lights on the right arm of the garment. These lights indicate whether the unit is armed and functional. The Tech Air Race Vest comes with a fat user manual and it’s important to read through this to fully understand the functionality of this highly advanced product.
The vest powers on via a main switch in the back protector, but it is armed only when the magnetic Velcro flaps in the front are closed. The algorithm is also smart enough and so the vest only works when it recognises a crash above 30kph, so accidental pitlane inflations are unlikely.
Alpinestars Tech Air Race Vest: Comfort and travel
The vest is built using a combination of Lycra, 2D mesh and Cordura. The materials feel soft, comfortable, but, at 2.1kg, it is heavier than a traditional armour vest. Thankfully, there’s decent ventilation once on the move, even in the sweltering heat of Chennai. On the bike, I don’t notice the presence of the vest, both in terms of bulk and heat, but it can feel a little restrictive if you’re just walking around in the pitlane.
In most cases, you will have to travel with this airbag in your luggage, and the Argon gas canisters are CE-certified and travel-safe. The vest comes with a travel-safe certificate that you can show to airport security if you face any issues, but I haven’t so far, in both domestic and international flights.
Alpinestars Tech Air Race Vest: Software and service
The Alpinestars Tech Air vest is available in two variants – Street and Race (which we have here). The Street vest is aimed purely at road use and it uses a completely different algorithm that will also inflate the vest if it detects the rider being hit at standstill – think being rear ended at a traffic light.
It’s crucial to recognise that the Street vest will not run the track algorithms, but the Race vest can be connected to a PC and you can switch it over to the street algorithm if you like. But be careful to use the correct algorithm for the correct situation. The Race vest may not inflate on the street if it is running the track algorithm, and vice versa.
Service is another crucial factor with this product, and it is not something you can do yourself – attempting to do so will void the warranty. When the vest has been inflated, you need to send it back to a certified Alpinestars centre, which will inspect the vest for any damage and replace the Argon gas canisters as required. The pricing for these services is not yet set in India.
Alpinestars Tech Air Race Vest: Price and availability
The Alpinestars airbag vest should have been available in India by now, but the launch has been delayed for obvious reasons – it can only be sold here when local Alpinestars representatives are trained in Italy for service and repair.
A launch is expected in the first quarter of next year and, of course, it won’t be cheap, with an expected price for the Race Vest of around Rs 1.25 lakh. But for those who don’t put a price on safety, this is the very best it gets.
However, if you are looking for airbag safety primarily for the street and not the racetrack, Alpinestars also plans to launch the new Tech Air 5 vest in India. At an estimated cost of around Rs 70,000, this product will cost much less, and it can also be used with any brand of motorcycle jacket as long as certain sizing parameters are met.
We will update this article when the Tech Air Race and Tech Air 5 airbag vests are available in India
Price: Rs 1.25 lakh (estimated)