I generally like to err on the side of safety while riding, but it feels like there’d probably be something extra comforting about having a computer in your jacket running 1,000 calculations a second about whether you are in the process of being launched off your bike.
That’s exactly what you’re looking at here. Italian motorcycle apparel maker Dainese is at CES in Las Vegas this week touting the company’s latest line of wearable airbag technology—and one that’s finally about to be for sale here. This high-tech system can recognize a crash within milliseconds to deploy an airbag inside your jacket to protect you from impact.
Dainese has already offered this type of jacket for a couple years in Europe, but liability concerns in the U.S. meant that until now it has only offered its D-air system in a pricey racing suit for the track.
The good news is that D-air equipped jackets are scheduled to go on sale to North American street riders in April. The bad news is that it’s still pretty darn pricey.
The Cyclone D-air, a Gore-Tex touring jacket, will run about $2,000, while the more sporty leather Misano jacket and the “urban” Continental will go for about $300 less.
That’s going exceed the cost of some of the top-of-the-line (but non-airbag equipped) riding jackets from the likes of Rukka, Rev’It or Klim. And if you have the misfortune of having the airbag go off in a crash, there’s an extra cost and effort needed to send the jacket back to Dainese to have it repaired and re-armed.
But Dainese says its system reduces the force impact transferred to the body by 90 percent compared with CE Level 2 armor in conventional riding suits.
So is it worth it? That’s obviously going a question your collar bones, ribcage or back would have to answer if you get thrown from the bike. MotoGP racers have adopted this technology, and who knows more about crashing than those guys?
On the other hand, this technology can’t help you if you get jammed in a guardrail or skid into traffic. Some amount of risk-taking will be involved when you ride a motorcycle, no matter how much you gear up.
And if you’re afraid of having to foot the bill for getting the jacket airbag-ready again after wreck, there’s a simple solution: The system won’t deploy if you’re going less than 7 mph.
So just limit all tip-overs to the parking lot variety, and you’ll be fine.
Would you spend two grand on a computerized motorcycle airbag jacket?
Erik Schelzig is a Nashville-based journalist who has been trying to sneak his motorcycle on to assignments for two decades.But mostly he just uses the bike to commute to work.