The motorcycle airbag took a long time, several decades, before it began to enter the minds of motorcyclists and professional 2WD users. Competition has built its image and credibility. The development of the offer places it in the range of motorcycle equipment now, even if it is still very often considered as a constraint (weight, comfort, wire, autonomy…). Little by little most motorcyclists are at least raising this subject.
A huge technical development
It is undoubtedly the motorcycle equipment that has experienced the most dazzling development over the last decade. And there is no doubt that having had the premier class of motorcycle racing, MotoGP and Moto2, as its laboratory, has contributed greatly to bringing this product into the motorcycle scene, as well as giving it a real credibility.
The technical revolution with the arrival of radio-controlled (electronic) solutions, combined with the arrival on this market of institutional brands with a strong image -Dainese and Alpinestars- from 2011 on for the racing versions, and then in the following years with road products, has put the product in the spotlight, and is gradually finding its way to the consumer.
The subject will not be further developed here, each concept (wired, electronic, stand alone) has its advantages and inconveniences.
What counts – the speech will not change in 2020 at Nova Moto, after its decision to no longer distribute Motoairbag, is the level of protection offered by an airbag to deserve this name, inflating is not everything, here is an important reminder of the quality criteria of a motorcycle airbag.
The quality of the protection offered, which must be the absolute condition to be met by this equipment – and not all of them offer the same level of protection – is a mix of the following criteria:
- The assurance of impact detection by the motorcycle airbag, depending on the circumstances: some are more suitable for certain uses, for this reason some electronic airbags offer several algorithms
- The shock detection speed
- The trigger speed
- The level of protection (protected areas, airbag volume, airbag resistance, residual force (lowest value = most protective product, see V2.0C Motoairbag)
- The Inflation time: for a mechanical system, 80 ms is a very good performance.
- The maintainted inflation time and abrasion resistance capacity of the vest if it is worn on the equipment: protection in case of contact with an obstacle after impact, slipping…
Wearing a motorcycle airbag is now mandatory in competition.
The recognition of official organizations has inevitably had an impact on the growing awareness and acceptance of the motorcycle airbag. Since 2018, the airbag is mandatory in MotoGP Moto2 Moto3 by decision of the FIM, International Motorcycle Federation.
Thus, from 2021, actually from the Dakar 2021, and on all the off-road rallies that will follow in the world, all competitors will be obliged to be equipped with a motorcycle airbag, by decision of the FIM All-Terrain. This is not a surprise, as the subject was raised at the end of the 2020 edition.
The choice went to electronic and autonomous solutions, as in MotoGP, that is to say the so-called “stand alone” solutions without any release cable or sensors on the bike. In other words, mechanical motorcycle airbags, also identified as analogical, and radio-controlled or electronic systems with sensors on the motorcycle, will not be allowed on these editions.
The obligation to wear a motorcycle airbag on international events is an important step forward in the protection of racers, and it is also a strong sign in the integration of this accessory which still often makes motorcyclists smile during demos on events: “are you afraid of crashing, you?”, but less and less. There’s still one – important – step to be taken: the budget. The development of these protections is a financial abyss, and for the moment, even if the product is perceived as very expensive, for most manufacturers it does not cover the R&D costs injected for years, and this is ongoing. Local or governmental actions are here also a significant help to advance this subject and make motorcycle airbags accessible, starting with the lucky ones who have been able to win their airbag in competitions organised by French Road Safety association.
Text: Isabelle Maillet
Pictures: Charly Lopez for Dakar.com