Protection doesn’t have to be bulky and hot.
If you’ve been a loyal Mojo subscriber lo these last few years, you’ll know that I’m a little conflicted when it comes to airbag jackets. Oh, of the protection they offer, there can be little doubt. I’ve been beaten with a baseball bat while wearing inflatable protection, tried denting their “armour” with other blunt instruments and have rigorously — some would say religiously — studied the data detailing their protective abilities. I am convinced that airbag clothing is, by far, the best protection offered to the motorcyclist, bar none. No passive armour comes even close.
The only problem — the conflict part of the introduction above — is that airbag garments have not been the most comfortable nor the most versatile. Early versions were positively huge, weighing as much as four kilograms (and feeling like more). They were also, in hot weather, impossibly sweaty. The airbags themselves are impermeable and, combined with the bulk of a minimally vented adventure jacket, they were virtual sweatboxes in the heat of summer. If you’ve never worn one of the early versions, put on your heaviest winter riding jacket, add its thermo-insulated inner layer, and then go for a ride when it’s 35 degrees out. Yes, it is that bad.
A Variety of Solutions
Manufacturers have tried all manner of solutions. Mesh airbag jackets — from Helite, Alpinestars and Dainese amongst others — allow in some refreshing air. But face the same issues of all perforated clothing, namely what do you do when the mercury falls.
More popular have been the introduction of stand-alone airbag vests that can be worn with any outerwear. But then, again, what are you going to do on a long ride? Bring along multiple jackets for every climatic condition? Besides — and I can speak of this from experience — a standalone vest with a heavy adventure jacket is no less bulky and uncomfortable than the old Dainese D-Cyclone I used to wear or the Alpinestars Revenant Tech-Air that still serves as a deep-freeze-in-Canada winter jacket.
There have been recent improvements, however, the most notable I’ve tested lately being Dainese’s new-to-market Stelvio D-Air. Remarkably lightweight, the Stelvio nonetheless packs a protective punch. Besides the airbags front and rear — essentially lifted from the standalone Smart Jacket — it boasts Level 2 Pro-Armor 2.0 inserts at the elbow and shoulder and abrasion resistant D-Stone material at the elbows and shoulders. In other words, the Stelvio can ward off some serious blows.
A Lighter Weight Jacket
But then, so can, as I have said, many…