Motorcycle Airbag Jackets: What You Need To Know

What is a Motorcycle Airbag Jacket?

As a safety garment, airbag jackets and vests are designed to decrease potential impact related injuries. According to the CVC (California Vehicle Code) section 27803, a USDOT (United States Department of Transportation) compliant motorcycle helmet is required to be worn by riders and passengers when operating a motorcycle. Additional gear such as heavy duty clothing, boots, gloves and eye protection are highly recommended.

With a handful of airbag jackets and vests on the market, it’s important to know that the areas of protection remain streamlined. These areas include protection around the riders neck, collar bones, chest and back. The purpose of this is to protect vital organs that may be damaged during an accident. In addition, some models offer a greater amount of support in specific areas. For example, there may be additional support provided around the riders neck to hinder rapid movements that otherwise may cause damage to muscles, nerves and the spine.

How Does a Motorcycle Airbag Jacket Work?

The development of these garments started in the late 1970s due to a high percentage of motorcycle injury accidents. With an increase in motorcycle safety technology, airbag jackets and vests continue to advance.

Taking the riders safety and comfort into consideration, there are two systems to choose from:

  1. Wireless Airbag System
  2. Tethered Airbag System

Wireless airbag systems uses accelerometers, gyroscopes, GPS, algorithms and microprocessors to detect accidents. Tethered airbag systems utilize a tether cord that is required to be attached to both the garment and the bike that is being ridden. Once an impact occurs and the rider is separated from their motorcycle, the safety process is triggered. In order to inflate the airbags, both systems use the power of a CO2 (carbon dioxide) or Argon cartridge.

Are Motorcycle Airbag Jackets Effective?

As a standard feature in vehicles, airbags prove effective. Without that same level of safety provided on motorcycles, riders and their passengers need an alternative form of protection. Motorcycle airbag jackets and vests provide just that. Milliseconds from an impact, most airbag jacket and vest models inflate. This rapid alert time has been statistically proven to minimize the severity of injuries during an accident.

Following initial deployment of the airbags, the jacket or vest may be reused depending on the condition of the airbags. In the case that there was no damage done to the airbags, apply the following steps. For tethered airbag systems, you can purchase and insert a new CO2 or Argon cartridge. For wireless airbag systems, the garment would need to be evaluated in order to determine if the system can be recharged or programed for future use. Once the garment is clear to be reused, you would then need to purchase and insert a new CO2 or Argon cartridge.

How Much Do Motorcycle Airbag Jackets Cost?

Competing brands offer a variety of features which result in a wide price range. With some models being more affordable than others, airbag jackets and vests vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Monthly and yearly subscription payment plans are offered by a few brands. Unfortunately, the garment will no longer be active if the subscription is not paid. Aside from the initial cost, additional purchases will be required when ensuring the garment can be reused.

Should I Buy a Motorcycle Airbag Jacket?

Although motorcycle airbag jackets aren’t the only way to protect yourself when operating a motorcycle, they’re an ideal safety precaution to consider.  Wearing an airbag jacket or airbag vest can save your life or, at the very least, protect yourself from sustaining serious injuries.

The Pros of Buying a Motorcycle Airbag Jacket

The pros of buying a motorcycle airbag jacket include:

  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight
  • Reusable (this may vary)
  • Protects vulnerable areas of the body
  • Prevents serious or life-threatening injuries
  • Worn outside or underneath clothing (depending on the model)

The Cons of Buying a Motorcycle Airbag Jacket

The cons of buying a motorcycle airbag jacket include:

  • Mid to high price point
  • CO2 or Argon cartridge(s) sold separately
  • Additional costs to ensuring reusability