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Motorcycle Airbag Suits: What They Are And How They Work

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Accidents happen, and they can be deadly for people who are on motorcycles. There are many ways that motorcycle riders can protect themselves both physically and financially. The industry has been working to reduce that risk by producing airbag suits for motorcyclists. The technology is relatively young, so many riders are unfamiliar with them, but everybody should strive to learn about them in order to stay safe on the road.

What Do Airbag Suits Do?

Motorcycle airbag suits are fundamentally similar to the airbags that have been in cars for years. They will expand as soon as they detect a crash in order to provide cushioning for the rider. That absorbs a lot of the shock associated with the crash and reduces the risk of injury.

The airbags are installed in a fairly normal riding suit. That ensures that they are easy and convenient to use. It also allows the system to focus the airbags on the parts of the body that require the most protection, such as the collarbone and ribs. That may seem simple, but it takes a lot of modern tech to get them to work properly.

How Do They Work?

These suits are complicated pieces of equipment because they need to be able to detect crashes as the happen. They use gyroscopes to track the rider’s position and detect any sudden flips or tilts while also using accelerometers to check for sudden changes in speed. Some models even include a GPS to provide an additional source of information. All of that data goes into a computer system that uses it to figure out if the rider is crashing. They do include fail-safe systems, such as a minimum speed requirement, to make sure that they do not mistake a minor jostling for a real crash. If it does detect a crash, it sends out a signal to inflate the airbags.

The bags themselves also rely on special technology because they need to inflate incredibly quickly. They can do it in roughly 45 milliseconds, which is a little over a tenth of the time that it takes the average human to blink.

Where Do They Come From?

That complex combination of technology is the factor that has kept these suits off of the market until fairly recently. There were some old designs that relied on a tether connected to the bike as the trigger mechanism, but there were never very popular. The modern designs could only come into being once computers got small enough to fit inside the suit, with the earliest designs dating back to the early 2000’s or so.

They started to see competitive use less than a decade later, with the first inflation at a competitive event happening in 2007. They had some early trouble, but these suits have since become very popular in professional races. They finally hit the market for everyone else just a few years ago, and they are getting popular. The technology is likely to get even better in the future as more and more people invest in these suits, so it is an exciting time to be a motorcyclist.

Photo by: Roland Tanglao

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