Motorcycle airbag pants are here, and boy do they look funny
Two companies – France's CX Air Dynamics and Sweden's Mo'Cycle – are now selling airbag jeans for motorcycle riders. They sit flat as you ride, but in a crash, they balloon up like Sam Smith at the Brit Awards, protecting your knees, hips and thighs.
Protective airbags embedded into motorcycle gear are now a staple of top-level racing, inflating in an instant to mitigate rider injuries. They're also available built into jackets for street and dirt riders – I've been getting around for the last couple of years with a very nice breathable AI-powered airbag vest from Klim and In&Motion under my jacket. Can't say I've really tested it properly in that time, given that I haven't fallen off a bike, but I definitely feel safer when it's on.
Pants, on the other hand, seem to have taken longer. Which is a pity, because some of the first body portions we tend to bang on the ground in a crash are trouser-dwellers. But they're here now, in a couple of different flavors – both of which are triggered by clip-on cables connecting the pants to the bike, and both of which can be reloaded after firing with a replacement CO2 bulb.
First on the scene was CX Air Dynamics with its CX Easyriders, a water-resistant set of Cordura textile overpants designed for commuters to easily zip on and off over their office clothes, folding down small enough to stuff into your helmet when they're off. They've got flexible, impact-absorbing Poron XRD armor at the knees and hips, and the airbags extend from the hips down to the lower shins, albeit with an apparent gap in the middle to let your knees bend.
At €599 (US$641), this is a pricey pantaloon, but certainly one of those things that only has to work once to pay for itself. And frankly, I can't begrudge the price given the test process these things have been through. Seriously, you must watch the video below, in which a stunt rider merrily decks his bike at freeway speed, and then deliberately smashes into the side of a Peugeot at 65 km/h (40 mph) to see how they fare when you do "the Superman."
It's outstanding, right up until he flies over the car and lands in a pile of boxes placed there to soften his fall, thus rendering his gutsy sacrifice, not to mention those of the poor, now-deceased Yamaha and Peugeot, completely pointless.
If you're not the Cordura overpants type, you are not alone, and Mo'Cycle has another option in the form of its Airbag Jeans. These adjust the dial away from safety and toward fashion a little, doing a reasonable impression of a regular pair of jeans – albeit a pair with a big Velcro flap down each side.
Inside the jeans is the airbag system, which zips off for washing. The airbags here extend only down to the knee, but there are pockets dangling below them with CE-approved knee armor cups in there.
When inflated, they look for all the world like you've tied strings around your knees and farted yourself a nice set of denim jodhpurs. My advice would be to really own the look, instigate aggressive eye contact with anyone who seems to be giggling, establish dominance, and make for the nearest pony club as if that was your plan all along.
Mo'Cycle is set to launch these things within a couple of weeks, through a crowdfunding campaign, with delivery dates as yet TBC. But for a US$5 deposit slapped down today, you can lock in an early bird price of $445 a pair. Standard crowdfunding cautions apply, as always.
I can see one potentially serious issue here, common to both these brands. I have known and loved many hundreds of motorcycle people in my time, and I don't think I'm spilling too many secrets here if I tell you many of them are ratbags, and enjoy a good prank.
If you stand around in a group of motorcycle riders, with a tag hanging out the side of your pants that can be pulled to make your trousers inflate, the clock will begin ticking. One day, your time will come, and that tag will be pulled. And there will subsequently be smartphone camera footage posted of you chasing the culprit around looking like an Oompa-Loompa, or a first-grader that didn't make it to the bathroom on time.
There, you've been warned. I've done all I can.