I know from personal experience just how hard asphalt can be. For maximum safety in a motorcycle accident, you want something to cushion your fall, and that’s exactly what an airbag vest does.
Always searching for ways to increase my safety while riding, I took a look at several options in this rapidly expanding market. These five in particular stood out to me for their protection, features, and comfort.
Best Motorcycle Airbag Vests Reviewed
Helite Turtle 2 Airbag Vest
My top recommendation is the Helite Turtle 2 because it has just about every feature you could ask for in an airbag vest without getting too expensive.
My favorite thing, though, is probably the highly adjustable fit. The buckled chest straps allow you to change the vest’s tightness, which is important not just for comfort but also correct function.
My only complaint is that it can feel a bit heavy, especially for summer riding. You get used to it, though, and it’s certainly worth it for the 600D textile construction that helps prevent abrasion in addition to the air bags. Plus, the 3D mesh helps keep you cool despite the thickness of the vest.
Another thing I really like is that it’s reusable. Hopefully, you won’t be deploying it on a regular basis, but considering what large investments airbag vests are, reusability lets you wear it with confidence.
Other great features of this vest are an included back protector, storage pocket and comfortable neoprene collar. It also has a high-vis option, and the mechanical trigger system deploys in an impressive 0.1 seconds.
- Great value
- Adjustable fit
- 600D textile construction with 3D mesh
- Included back protector
- High-vis option
- Feels heavy
Helite GP Air Track Airbag Vest
This vest is my recommendation for motocross and off-roading. That’s because it’s lightweight with a flexible fit that allows for maximum range of motion.
Crashes and accidents are much more likely when you’re off-roading, so you want maximum protection. The GP Air Track vest achieves this with an airbag deployment time of just 75 milliseconds, and it’s made with tough 1.2-mm-thick leather on top of a foam lining.
The safety is also improved by the adaptive fit that uses VELCRO back sliders and accordion stretch panels so that it stays positioned to protect your torso and pelvis. Just keep in mind that it runs pretty small and you should order two whole sizes larger than you usually do.
Lastly, this vest is one of the easiest to reuse. You just have to replace the CO2 cartridge, and you can get back on the horse just minutes after falling off your bike. Again, that’s pretty important for motocross where falls are more likely.
- Lightweight and flexible
- 75-millisecond deployment
- Tough leather construction
- Foam lining
- Accordion panels
- Easily reusable
- High price
- Runs small
Klim Ai-1 Airbag Vest
Do you want the latest, most innovative safety technology? That’s definitely the Klim Ai-1.
It’s an autonomous airbag vest with a battery-powered electronic deployment system that doesn’t use a tether but still deploys in just 60 milliseconds.
Now, this isn’t exactly the cheap option. While the stand-alone vest’s price tag is pretty manageable, you also have to purchase a subscription and download the associated app. The best service comes with the yearly subscription, but you can get a lifetime subscription for a higher one-time payment.
Besides the short deployment time and high level of protection, you also get a number of good features with the Klim Ai-1.
For example, it’s made of moisture-wicking mesh fabric and has an integrated back protector. It’s also reusable after replacing the charges, though it does require a technical evaluation after every three deployments.
- Tetherless 60-millisecond deployment
- 25 hours of battery life
- Support services included with subscription
- Moisture-wicking mesh fabric
- Integrated back protector
- Subscription required
- 3 hours to charge
- Technical evaluation needed every 3 deployments
Helite Custom Airbag Vest
This other Helite vest is a good choice for anyone who wants the modern safety of an airbag vest with the classic look of a leather motorcycle vest.
Specifically, the leather is 1.2 mm thick for additional protection from abrasion. The airbags then deploy after just 0.1 seconds to protect your spine, back, chest, ribs, and kidneys from impact. Oh, and there’s a removable back protector too.
The downside of the leather design is visibility. There’s no high-vis option, and the black coloring definitely doesn’t make you stand out, especially at night. If you ride a cruiser, though, it’s a stylish match, and there’s even zipper access in the back and on the left side so you can sew on patches.
As for utility, you get five full pockets, three on the outside and two on the inside. It blends seamlessly into your riding gear since you can use it just like you would a regular vest.
- Anti-abrasion leather
- Removable back protector
- Zipper access for customization
- 5 pockets
- Classic motorcycle jacket style
- Low visibility
- Runs small
Spidi Air DPS Airbag Vest
What I like about this Spidi vest is the extent of its 24-liter airbag coverage with a large protection zone around the waist and pelvis as well as airbags at the neck and chest.
The airbags deploy slightly more slowly than other models at 200 milliseconds, but that’s still pretty fast and enough to help break your impact in an accident.
Spidi added more safety features to this vest, too. For example, it’s ready for chest protection, though it’s sold separately. Plus, it has high-vis yellow and reflective patches to provide visibility even at night.
The fit is generally comfortable as well. The adjustable waist lets you position the vest in the best way to give you range of motion on your bike while still protecting vulnerable parts of your body.
- 24-liter airbag volume
- Compatible with chest protection
- Reflective patches
- Comfortable fit
- Adjustable waist
- Slower airbag deployment
- Chest protection sold separately
Care, Considerations and Cost
The majority of airbag vests use a mechanical deployment method. A tether runs from the CO2 cartridge of the vest and attaches to the motorcycle. If you’re thrown from the bike in an accident, the tether is pulled out, activating the inflation process.
This mechanical tether system is simple and reliable, but it does have a couple of downsides. First of all, you have to remember to attach it each time you get on the bike. Additionally, it’s prone to accidental deployment, and it can be a hassle to replace the CO2 cartridge.
A more advanced option is an electronic sensor. This is much more convenient, but on top of being more expensive, it requires a battery. You then have to recharge the battery to use the vest.
The time it takes the airbags to fully inflate is also an important factor to consider. All vests take just a fraction of a second, but some are still faster than others. 0.1 seconds, or 100 milliseconds, seems to be about the average.
Motorcycle accidents happen fast, so the faster the vest opens, the better. You should especially look for a faster vest if you race or ride motocross where accidents and falls happen quickly.
Fit and Adjustability
Fit is even more important when it comes to an airbag vest than your other gear because an airbag vest can only function properly when it fits correctly.
Otherwise, the airbags may not cover the part of your body they’re supposed to protect, or they may shift in an accident and not provide adequate cushioning.
Make sure to look over the sizing guide of any vest you’re interested in buying. Many run large or small compared to other gear, so you’ll need to choose a size based on your measurements.
Besides getting the right size, adjustability can make a vest fit better and therefore protect you more effectively. Look for features like adjustable straps and buckles, accordion panels and zippers.
Also, see our guide to the best motorcycle airbag jackets.
Hopefully, you won’t be getting in too many accidents, but you may accidentally deploy it. Plus, if you’re off-roading or riding motocross, well, accidents may be a little more common.
Reusability is a big convenience, you don’t want to have to buy a new one just because you forgot the tether was still attached. Usually reusability means changing out the CO2 cartridge for a new one, but it’s worth checking just how easy this is to do.
Extra Safety Features
If you’re interested in an airbag vest, you obviously take your motorcycle safety seriously. So you probably want to pack all the safety features you can into the vest itself.
Besides the airbags, these include things like:
- Protective back armor
- Foam lining
- Abrasion-resistant leather or other material
- High-vis yellow patches
- Reflective detailing
In addition to keeping you safe while riding, safety features like these increase the value of the vest since you don’t have to buy them separately.
An airbag vest is a smart way to maximize your safety and confidence while riding.
For its value price, abrasion-resistant design and highly adjustable fit, I recommend the Helite Turtle 2. However, if you primarily need the vest for motocross or off-roading, take a look at the Helite GP Air Track.