I’d been riding for better than 20 years before I had my first serious motorcycle crash. I’ve always been a careful rider, and was absolutely convinced that my accumulated skill set would be enough to keep me from going down. I was wrong, and when the rear tire locked in a corner (the transmission had floated a gear, going from fourth to second), the bike spat me onto the pavement before I even knew anything was wrong. There was no time to react, there was no rear wheel slide to catch, there was just bumpy asphalt, an Aerostich suit and an Arai helmet.
The suit and helmet did exactly what they were supposed to do, and I walked away with a broken thumb and lots of bruising. Lesson learned? Always dress for the crash, not for the ride, because your skills won’t always be enough to save your ass.
Alpinestars has a reputation as a leader in the motorcycle safety business, and their latest effort pushes the envelope even further. Called the Tech Air Race suit, their newest design incorporates airbags into a race-quality set of leathers. Developed in conjunction with riders such as Ben Spies, Mika Kallio and Dani Pedrosa, the suit relies on a series of sensors to determine if and when a crash is taking place. When the seven embedded sensors detect a crash, the suit’s airbags can inflate in 50 milliseconds. They remain at full inflation for five seconds, and then gradually deflate as an embedded GPS system records the exact location of the crash.
This technology won’t come cheap; Alpinestars projects that their Tech Air system will add about $2,500 to the cost of their leathers when the suits hit the market in 2011. While the initial suits will be aimed at roadracers, Alpinestars plans to produce systems for recreational street and dirt riders as well. Can you justify spending an additional $2,500 on safety gear? That’s your call, but consider this: $2,500 is a whole lot cheaper than an extended vacation in your local hospital.