Honda Introduces Motorcycle Airbag on 2006 Gold Wing

Airbags come to motorcycles with the 2006 Gold Wing. The airbag just slows the rider, it does not prevent his ejection.

After years of experimentation and research, Honda has released the first airbag installed on a production motorcycle. The airbag system will be available on the premium version of 2006 GL1800 Gold Wing, which goes on sale next spring.

Housed in the faux fuel-tank area just behind the steering hear, the airbag system includes the airbag, a high-pressure nitrogen canister, which Honda says can inflate the airbag in .06 seconds after being triggered, two collision sensors on each front fork leg, and an ECU that uses information from the sensors to determine if an impact is actually a collision.

The Honda motorcycle airbag system is not intended to restrain the rider, but rather reduce the velocity at which he (and presumably a passenger) is ejected from the bike during a frontal crash—a crash where the motorcycle runs into another vehicle or a stationary object such as a guard rail. There was evidently a lot of work done to get the most effective shape and consistency for the airbag, which includes exit vents.

Experiments with airbags on motorcycles were performed as early as the 1960s. However, they have never shown the promise that automotive airbags do, since the rider is not enclosed. The most effective motorcyclist protection has always been that which is attached to the rider. Recently, a few aftermarket rider-worn airbags have come to market, though there are concerns about unintended deployment (which could possibly cause an accident) and inflation speed, which must be extremely quick in order to make the airbag effective. Honda's airbag system seeks to reduce the speed at which the rider impacts the object he collides with or the road. It appears that the deployed airbag may also change the rider's trajectory, and it's unclear what issues may arise when a passenger is aboard. As with cars, the need to replace the airbag after a collision is likely to affect insurance rates.

Honda has doubtlessly considered all these issues and more. The company has done more motorcycle collision and airbag tests and research than any other entity and developed a crash dummy specifically for motorcycle-crash research.

There is little visual evidence of the airbag's presence, just an inscription on its cover and the sensors on the fork. Honda says so structural changes were required.
The airbag module includes the airbag, the inflation canister and the ECU that determines when to trigger it.
Two sensors on each fork leg provide the information that tells the system that a crash is underway.
Honda developed this dummy to conduct motorcycle crash research and help develop its airbag system.