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Serious motorcyclists have always sworn by a good set of leathers as the best way to save their skin in the event of an accident.
And while that still holds true today, a new generation of protective clothing using airbag systems similar to that found in cars is finding favour among safety-conscious bikers.
Here, specialist insurance broker Bikesure takes a look at five of the best airbag systems on the market from those costing a few hundred pounds to race suits for the fatter wallet.
Bikesure offers cover for helmets, leathers and protective clothing for as little as £32 a year.
Spidi Neck DPS Airbag Vest
An over-vest with a DPS airbag system, this sleeveless jacket is designed to be worn over your normal protective clothing, with numerous Velcro fasteners to ensure it fits over any type of clothing (including race suits).
A double cushion wraps around the rider’s neck, with the airbags activating within 0.2 seconds when its connection with the bike, via Kevlar wires, is broken.
The airbags help to reduce potentially damaging neck movements and should also help prevent rolling.
A good quality, affordable item, but the sizing may be a little on the small side, so it may be worth buying a size or two larger than you think you will need.
Price: From £290 to £315
Hit-Air MLV-Y High Viz Air Bag Vest
This over-vest provides inflatable protection for the neck, back, ribs and coccyx, and also comes in a highly visible yellow with reflective strips.
Attached to the bike with a key system, it inflates within 0.25 seconds and protects the entire torso, not just the neck.
Hit-Air were early pioneers of airbag jackets, having been in the market way back in 1995, and is used by police forces around the world.
It should be used over a normal motorcycle jacket, and can be re-used after inflation just be replacing the CO2 cartridge.
It’s also suitable for equestrian use, if you also happen to ride a horse!
Price: About £450
Moto-Air Wairbag jackets
Wairbag offers a range of vests and jackets as UK distributors of the Moto-Air brand, from lightweight summer jackets to winter wear.
The partially reflective jackets’ airbag system protects the whole torso from front to back, with adjustable sleeves, waist and cuff.
Sizes range from small to a well-fed (or muscular) XXXXL, and the airbags should inflate when the ripcord is activated in about 0.2 seconds.
An added reason for making our list is this incredible promotional video.
Prices: From £298 to £398
Dainese D-Air One Piece Suit
One for the racers, or at least for those who love a track day. The Dainese one-piece suit has been 10 years in the making, and claims to reduce the effects of impact by as much as 92 per cent.
It was worn by none other than Valentino Rossi, who survived a high-speed crash in 2010 with no bruising at all to his shoulders.
As well as providing airbag protection, a GPS unit located in the hump of the suit allows riders to download lap times, speed, angles of lean, track position, acceleration and deceleration.
Unlike the cheaper systems, the D-Air inflates without any connection to the motorcycle, instead of using three accelerometers and three gyroscopes in a “brain” that can distinguish normal riding conditions from a crash situation.
As you’d expect, it’s pricier than the more low-tech solutions.
Price: From £2,400 to £3,240
Alpinestars Tech Air Race airbag one-piece suit
Another high-quality one-piece airbag race suit, the Alpinestars suit provides shoulder and back airbag protection, and inflates from trigger to full deployment in an astonishing 0.05 seconds.
As with the Dainese suit, it provides race data and a crash-identification algorithm, removing the need for ripcords.
Worn on the track by the likes of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa, the suit won a Best of What’s New award from Popular Science magazine on its launch to the public in 2011.
Inflation uses a nitrogen-based gas mix and a dual action system allows the rider to remount after a crash, ready to go again.
Earlier this year (2013), Marc Marquez survived a 210mph crash in practice for the Italian GP when his airbags deployed 30 milliseconds before his impact with the tarmac.
Price: About $5,000 for the full Tech Air system
Helmet, Leathers and Kit, Insurance