Airbag motorcycle pants may just save your butt
People keep falling off motorbikes, it seems, no matter how many times we tell them not to. So since the early 2000s, many companies have been working to get airbag technology into the bike world. Honda, for example, started work on motorcycle-mounted airbags back in 1990, Spidi had an airbag jacket on the market as early as 2004 that would deploy via a tethered ripcord, and this fluoro orange monstrosity was promising to turn crashed bikers into big, bouncy balls that would roll down the road (and hopefully not off a cliff) by 2012.
Dainese and Alpinestars, among others, now offer well-refined upper body airbag protection that doesn't require you to tether yourself to your bike, instead deciding when to deploy using sensors built into the jackets and vests. But while the most serious injuries are often in the upper body, the most common are in the legs. And it's only now that we're starting to hear about airbag-equipped motorcycle pants.
It seems there are at least two sets in development. Airbag Inside Sweden AB has been working on a set of airbag-equipped jeans, for which they've built a working prototype using a tether-deploy system. The company is working with researchers from Uppsala University towards a sensor-enabled system, but you can see it in action in the short video below, in which it appears the CEO falls around on the floor in an amusing attempt to demonstrate their effectiveness.
To be fair, there's another video where he speaks lucidly without falling over at all, telling us the company plans to market them in the US and Europe in a range of styles under the name Mo'Cycle, but it's waiting until it's got 1,000 email addresses on its list before it launches a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to get them into production. You can get on that list at airbagjeans.com to get yourself a possible crack at the earliest bird deals.
The other set, brought to attention by Asphalt & Rubber, is by France's CX Air Dynamics. They're a set of tether-actuated airbag overpants you can zip on over your street clothes for commuting or touring. As with the Mo'Cycle jeans above, the CX overpants require you to carry around a gas canister the size of a small hairspray bottle. The Mo'Cycles simply dangle it outside the pants, where the CX team puts it in a pocket on the front of your thigh. Neither look particularly comfortable, but at least the CX one can make people think you're happy to see them.
Where Mo'Cycle is playing a waiting game, CX is off to the races, and has launched a campaign on French crowdfunding site Kiss Kiss Bank Bank. Here you can currently get a 25 percent early bird discount on the €500 (US$612) retail price, making them €375 (US$459), with deliveries promised for March 2021. There are only three sizes (XS/S, M/L and XL/XXL), but the waist is Velcro so there's some adjustment there. Here's the video – you may want to turn on subtitles if your French, like mine, is un petit peu merde.
It'll be interesting to see how well they do their two jobs. One tends to think these inflatable pants will acquit themselves well in gentler incidents, turning the usual bumps and bruises of a slow speed drop into something you can laugh off. Perhaps they'll save some broken bones, and that's always a win.
Their other job, though, is being comfortable to ride around in. And since these large airbag cells are very, very airproof, they may well end up being on the sweaty side in warmer weather. Not to mention the fact they literally chain you to your bike. Another thing to slot into your routine before the gloves go on, and an opportunity to end up with an embarrassing amount of junk in your trunk if you hop off in a rush and forget to unclip yourself.
It's a great idea, though, and we look forward to seeing things develop to the point where bikers can blow up into a full Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man upon crashing. Perhaps even just as a manually-triggered threat display that can make us look scarier in traffic. I'm just glad somebody seems to have got it working; I've been furiously blowing gas into motorcycle pants for many years with no apparent safety benefits.