Dainese and Alpinestars Introduce Airbag Suits

Inflatable Armor

Airfence barriers revolutionized circuit safety, covering walls and other immovable objects with a soft cushion of air. New airbag suits from Dainese and Alpinestars, both in development for over a decade, now offer motorcycle racers similar impact-absorbing air protection for their upper body at all times.

MotoGP champions Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, plus AMA Superbike riders Blake Young and Roger Lee Hayden, are just a few of the racers currently wearing airbag-equipped suits—and occasionally demonstrating their effectiveness, as Lorenzo does above. Dainese’s D-air Racing and Alpinestars’ Tech Air suits both discretely conceal bladders that inflate almost instantly upon activation to provide enhanced protection to the shoulder and collarbone areas—resulting in an 85 percent reduction in force transmitted compared to traditional composite armor, Dainese claims. Both systems have been painstakingly tested to ensure they won’t activate unintentionally. The TUV-certified D-air Racing has undergone more than 800 individual tests, and doesn’t activate below 30 mph or unless the monitoring software algorithm specifically predicts the type of crash where the added protection is needed.

Rossi says the D-air Racing suit doesn’t feel any different than a regular suit, and you wouldn’t know from looking that it’s airbag-equipped. Both systems are wireless, and the internal air bladders don’t alter the external structure of the suit or otherwise inhibit flexibility or comfort. Where you will notice a difference is price: Airbag technology adds $2500 or more to the cost of a standard leather suit. But compared to the suffering caused by a broken scapula or clavicle—or worse—that could be a bargain.

alpinestars tech-air airbag technology
Alpinestars Dual-Charge system©Motorcyclist

How Airbag Suits Work
Multiple body sensors, accelerometers and gyroscopes feed real-time data into microprocessors hidden in the back hump, where sophisticated algorithms sense a crash and then deploy the airbag. A compact pneumatic inflation module, also in the hump, uses a "cold charge" of nitrogen to inflate the airbag in less than 50 milliseconds. The bag remains fully inflated for roughly 5 seconds, and then slowly deflates over a period of roughly 30 seconds. The Alpinestars Tech Air suit features a "Dual-Charge" system that will inflate the airbag a second time, so if a racer is able to continue after a crash, he will still be adequately protected.

dainese d-air airbag technology
Dainese D-air©Motorcyclist

D-air Versus Tech Air
Tech Air uses separate air bladders in each shoulder, with a total capacity of 2.8 liters. D-air employs a single 4-liter collar that surrounds both shoulders and the back of the neck. Both offer GPS-enabled telemetry and data-logging, but Dainese's Google Earth-compatible software is more user-friendly. The Tech Air suit, however, synchs to a laptop or mobile phone and allows the user to quickly and conveniently check the status of the battery and sensors. The D-air Racing suit is available right now from any Dainese dealer, starting at $3999. The Tech Air will be available stateside by late June, for $4999.

alpinestars tech-air airbag technology
Alpinestars Dual-Charge system©Motorcyclist
dainese d-air airbag technology
Dainese D-air©Motorcyclist