Every time you get into a “modern” car, there’s a piece of technology waiting for an opportunity to save your life. You probably don’t even think about it when you turn on the ignition. Built into your daily driver is an airbag or system of airbags just waiting to inflate in an attempt to save you from injury and/or death.
Unfortunately, street riding motorcycle riders haven’t had similar protection until recently. Motorcycle gear manufacturers really didn’t give airbags much thought until certain race series like MotoGP mandated their use in riders’ race suits.
The development of airbags for motos
A few different companies then designed systems that use complex algorithms, GPS and sensors to determine whether a rider is experiencing a crash. If the brain of the suit/jacket determines that a crash is occurring, the airbag within the race suit or jacket deploy automatically.
And as time passes, autonomous inflation airbags make it into full-body racing suits, jackets, and vests. But, because of the relatively new technology, airbag racing suits and jackets are quite a pricey proposition. Early suits are priced for between $2,000 and $2,500. At that price, airbag-equipped protection was out of reach for most street riders. Jackets were somewhat less costly but still were $1,000 or more.
Lower cost lanyard systems
As an additional alternative, lanyard based airbag vests are available at a lower cost. But these vests utilize a lanyard to activate the airbag in a crash. When the extent of the lanyard’s length is utilized, the airbag is deployed. But this is a purely manual system and the user must take action to ensure proper deployment and eliminate inappropriate airbag deployment.
While the vests could work well, they did have some shortcomings. First, they required the rider to attach the lanyard to the motorcycle. If a rider forgets to attach the lanyard, the airbag will not deploy. On the other side of the spectrum, if a rider forgets to untether the lanyard when getting off the motorcycle, the rider can cause inadvertent deployment. For those reasons, many find the lanyard system is a less desirable method.
Now, motorcycle airbag technology has become more robust and there are a few manufacturers making motorcycle airbag gear at more approachable prices. But to get to those price points, tradeoffs have to be made and we’ll get to those tradeoffs shortly.
With a bit of the history of the motorcycle airbag, let’s get to the crux of this article; a discussion of the KLIM / In&Motion Ai-1 Airbag Vest. The two companies have come together to develop an innovative approach to airbag motorcycle safety and pricing.
KLIM invited ADVRider to the Elkton, MD plant of well-known textile manufacturer W. L. Gore for a demonstration. We were at Gore principally to see how KLIM and Gore work together and observe what KLIM and Gore do to test KLIM gear.
But we were also treated to a preview of KLIM’s 2020 motorcycle and sled riding gear. Part of that preview included KLIM’s 2020 gear line-up and the new KLIM/In&Motion Ai-1 Airbag Vest.
KLIM Ai-1 Airbag Vest
So let’s chat about the vest. It uses a lightweight, breathable moisture-wicking stretchy material as the main body component. At the back of the vest is a CE approved EN1621-2 level 1 back protector. The back protector also houses the vest’s brain which is called the In&Box.
The Ai-1 has is available in unisex sizing and in sizes S to 3XL. All up, the vest weighs about 3.3 pounds (1.5kg) including the back protector, the In&Box and the inflator cartridge.
The KLIM Ai-1 vest is an autonomous (i.e. automatic) airbag system designed to be worn under your riding jacket. When triggered, it provides additional airbag protection in the event of a crash. Using complex algorithms, sensors, and GPS, the Ai-1 determines the appropriate time to automatically inflate the protective airbag.
Once inflated, the vest’s airbag will slowly reduce its pressure to a preset point. Thereafter, it will maintain pressure to provide support and protection to your spine, neck, thorax, and abdomen.
Another nice feature is that the Ai-1 can be inflated 3 times before needing replacement. And, you don’t have to send the vest back to KLIM. Following the supplied directions, you simply remove and replace the inflator cartridge and you are ready to go again. Other brands may require you to send the suit/jacket or vest back to the manufacturer for refurbishment.
More importantly, the Ai-1 system uses “smart” technology to constantly update and perfect its crash algorithms. When you charge the Ai-1, your riding data is automatically collected. That anonymously collected data is anused to further update the algorithm. This consistent updating of the algorithm is one of the things that sets the Ai-1 Airbag Vest apart from much of the competition.
Other autonomous algorithm-based systems may have only a single algorithm written when the vest was first manufactured. Others may have inconsistent updates from the manufacturer which is better than just one that is not updated. But as In&Motion learns more about crashes and riding habits, it is able to adjust its algorithm to account for real-world riding conditions. When you recharge your vest via Wi-Fi, In&Motion receives your riding data and updates your inflatable vest’s brain with the latest algorithm.
The Ai-1 has a 5-star SRA rating and CE prEN 17092-6 level certification. The SRA and CE prEN 17092-69 rating/certifications have standards for motorcycle clothing that test a garment’s properties. Tests include things like impact abrasion resistance, the strength of seams, tear strength, impact energy absorption, dimensional stability, fit and ergonomics, and garment restraint. Yeah, that’s a lot of testing.
Vest inflation video
The business of protecting your body with an airbag is complex stuff. And, you are probably wondering what it’s like if you experience airbag inflation. Well, we’ve got a brief video of the inflation process. It’s worth a view. The vest inflates very, very quickly. All it takes is approximately 60 milliseconds.
Two writers volunteered to experience inflation. Both said that the vest has a good kick when it does. You can judge for yourself by watching the video.
Was that inflation too fast? Here’s a video of the vest inflating at less than 1/4 speed.
Two riding modes
The Ai-1 comes equipped with two crash detection options. You can set the vest for either street riding or track riding. The In&Motion recognizes that the street and track require different two very different styles generating very different forces and lean angles. Obviously, the forces the bike and rider are subjected to on the track are significantly different than those occurring on the street.
When set to track mode, you can now brake, accelerate, and lean harder and the Ai-1 takes this into consideration before inflating. That’s a nice feature for when you decide a track day is in order.
If you decide to purchase the Ai-1, you must download its Android or iOS mobile app. The app allows you to register your vest/In&Box and set up a user account. Once registered, you can set your Ai-1 to street or track mode. The app also will tell you the battery level, and whether your algorithm is up to date. If it’s not, you can update your In&Box to the latest algorithm using your phone.
The Ai-1 has a claimed continuous battery life of 20 hours. In day-to-day use, it’s claimed to be longer than that. The system has an automatic standby mode that reduces battery drain when the vest is no longer in motion.
Once the battery is drained, a 100% charge takes about 3 hours from a normal wall outlet. The lighted indicators on In&Box can give you a quick idea of the battery’s state of charge. If you want a more precise reading of the battery charge, you can use In&Box’s mobile app.
As you can imagine, the forces a rider experiences on the pavement are quite different from those experienced while off-road. The environments are totally different and a different algorithm is necessary for off-road riding.
Currently, the Ai-1 is only for use on pavement. But In&Motion says that an off-road algorithm is already being worked on and should be out in less than a year. For me, the ability to take an airbag vest both on and off-road is a game-changer. I’m already impressed by the vest, I’d be even more so if I could use it on both types of terrain.
There are two options for purchasing the KLIM Ai-1 Airbag Vest. The first option is an outright purchase. When you purchase, you get the KLIM Ai-1 airbag vest, the In&Box, and a single inflator. That will set you back $399.99. For that price, you get a 2-year warranty on the In&Box.
But, if you want additional protection, you can choose to participate in In&Motion’s “Revolution” program. The Revolution program lets you lease the same equipment for $12 a month or $120 a year. If you choose the monthly lease, you can cancel anytime.
Under the Revolution program, you get an unlimited warranty on the In&Box and VIP service in case of a problem with the In&Box. If the In&Box can’t be fixed over the phone, In&Motion will send you a new In&Box. After 3 consecutive years of leasing, you then have the option to purchase the In&Box for $99.
If you crash and the vest is inflated, you’ll need a new inflation cartridge which can be purchased for $99.
Motorcycle airbag vests have the ability to be a game-changer for riders. Having something more than armor between you and the ground during a crash is a big deal. Had I had one during my crash in 1983 which I wrote about in Riding Is Life Until It’s Not, I believe guessing that my injuries might have been less severe. And, less traumatic on my wife Kim.
Those two factors are the reason that an airbag vest will likely make its way into both Kim and my ATGATT strategy come the spring and the beginning of riding season (aka mud season) in Vermont. The Ai-1 is now available at KLIM.