Features 18 May 2017

Tech: 2017 Alpinestars Tech-Air Street system

How airbag technology will ultimately result in safer motorcycling.

We’ve seen the best racers on the planet utilise airbag technology for years and, now, you can benefit from the sophisticated safety technology that has been largely developed in MotoGP. Alpinestars Australia has officially launched Tech-Air Street, with over a decade of relentless research, development and testing to its credit.

During the Australian launch directly prior to Phillip Island’s Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK) opener, headed by Alpinestars media communications manager Jeremy Appleton, it was incredible to hear just how much R&D has gone into the Tech-Air system. That includes on-track with its top-level athletes and also in extensive crash-testing laboratories.

“The development of the Alpinestars Tech-Air system started in 2001 and has been a very significant research project ever since,” Appleton explained. “We believe that airbag technology is the future for motorcycle safety. Active protection systems with an airbag system offer much, much greatest levels of impact protection and are ultimately very convenient as well.

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“The systems are self-contained in the suits or jackets and inflate when required during an accident, so we’ve been able to create the first fully independent, full upper-body protection system that doesn’t rely on any sensors on the motorcycle, nor any form of external sensing device. It’s extremely usable in any condition, with any type of motorcycle.

“For the development of Tech-Air, we did a lot of the analysis and testing in MotoGP. That’s a very controlled environment and we also have full technical support at the track, so we’re working very closely with the riders that Alpinestars supports. Looking at the data that’s collected and the results of the accidents, particularly the loss of control type of data, has given us a very good lead for the research and development of the system that is now a customer system.

“The street is a different environment to the race track, so we had to do a complete research project on the street technology in its own right, but for sure, MotoGP played a big part in giving us data and feedback on the use of the system.

“In terms of rider confidence, the Tech-Air definitely makes a difference. Like wearing a good helmet, you feel completely different riding a motorcycle without it. We see this as the future of safety and also something that is going to inspire confidence. Ultimately, come the time, it will make a difference if the worst happens and you experience an accident.

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Double defending WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea was in attendance at the launch and shared his fascinating experience with the Tech-Air. Now, he admits, riding without the airbag functioning isn’t an option whether he is testing or racing. And he’s completely serious when he says so, despite having his doubts when the technology was first presented to him.

“In all honesty, when it was presented to me I was quite reluctant,” Rea reflected. “Vainly, I was thinking about added weight and uncomfort, but as soon as I had my first suit made and I got into it, I thought ‘well, this isn’t so bad’. I persevered and felt really, really comfortable.

“The first time I tested the suit was in Lausitzring in race one last season. I had a pretty nasty fall, which threw me down into the ground and I couldn’t really feel a massive explosion or anything go off. It was surprising, because I knew the airbag had gone off, but the biggest proof was in the hours after the crash and the next morning – I felt completely fine and went out the next day to win a race. I’ve tested it even more recently at Jerez. It was an ambulance job, a turn three high-side, so they carted me off. Less than one hour later after lunch I went out and went even faster.

“So now, on Monday we arrived [at Phillip Island] and my assistant hadn’t plugged something in. Checking the Tech-Air lights is part of my ritual now and they didn’t come on… I had a heart failure and my confidence had gone! I was actually thinking that I’d have to jump into another suit and that I won’t ride a motorcycle without this now – it’s almost like a helmet. But anyway, he plugged a wire in and we didn’t lose much time at all.”

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Tech-Air is a ground-breaking electronic airbag system that offers riders upper-body protection and the freedom to ride both on- and off-road and in a wide range of weather conditions. The system incorporates the airbag’s electronic control unit, componentry and airbag, which when inflated covers the back, kidney areas, chest and shoulders.

The Tech-Air system, sold separately and completely self-contained, offers the possibility for the airbag to be used in conjunction with an Alpinestars airbag-compatible textile outer jacket, initially either the Valparaiso For Tech-Air or the Viper For Tech-Air, for superb protection in all-weather and warm weather riding conditions.

The innovative and versatile Tech-Air street airbag system can be used with any type of motorcycle and/or scooter without the need to set-up, pair or reconfigure bike-to-rider or bike-to-passenger settings. The system is therefore immediately ready to be used at any time for any bike on any surface and can be used equally for road riding and off-road adventure touring.

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Tech-Air Street features:
– The Tech-Air system has been designed to be used in conjunction with airbag-compatible outer jackets, which for the launch includes the Valparaiso For Tech-Air Jacket and the Viper For Tech-Air Jacket.

– Comprehensive inflatable upper body protection for back, shoulders, kidney area, chest and upper abdomen.

– Electronic sensors are securely and unobtrusively incorporated within the system’s chassis (in the shoulder area), meaning the vest is completely self-contained and allows it to be worn interchangeably between compatible jackets.

– Constructed from a strong and durable mesh main shell with stretch poly-fabric on shoulders and torso for a compact and secure fit that is close to the rider’s body while allowing complete freedom of movement.

-Incorporates removable inner mesh and elastic Velcro waistband to position airbag system to customize fit and improve adjustability.

– Full internal back lining constructed from 3D mesh for optimised levels of ventilation and breathability.

– The Airbag Control Unit (ACU) of Tech-Air is incorporated within strong, lightweight polymer back protector, which features an ergonomic plate construction for structural strength and a fit to follow the natural contours of the back.

– Tech-Air ACU is seal-protected within vest to ensure its all-weather performance and the vest and componentry are certified to function between -100C and +500C.

– Tech-Air ACU includes two connector cables allowing the rider to quickly and easily connect up to the outer jacket. ACU has been homologated to ECE R10 04, which ensures the electromagnetic integrity and stability of the unit.

– Tech-Air uses an integrated, certified lithium ion battery, with a battery life of 25 hours and a recharge time of approximately six hours. Micro USB charger allows convenient recharging of system, with one hour of charging time giving four hours of riding coverage.

– Colour-coded front YKK zippers allow for vest to be easily and securely attached to outer jacket.

– Argon inflator cartridges are CE certified to ISO 14451 standard, meaning that they will only fire if commanded by the electronic unit. It also certifies that the cartridges can be safely handled, assembled and transported.

– System’s firmware is upgradable and external service record will be managed by a custom-made data portal.

– Tech-Air is Category II CE Certified to the 686/89/EEC European PPE Directive, using a version of EN1621-4:2013, which guarantees impact protection performance from 25 milliseconds to five seconds.

– Certified to function at -10C and +50C to guarantee system’s use in wide range of weather conditions.

– Tech-Air design and manufacture is CE certified to the 2007/23/EC pyrotechnic directive, guaranteeing it has been assembled following all pyrotechnic handling and safety regulations, which means the system can be transported by car, ship, train or airplane.

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The recommended service interval of the Tech-Air system is every two years. The service is carried out by Alpinestars and it includes a full service and diagnostic check, including software updates, as well as cleaning and washing of the vest (shipping charges to and from Alpinestars dealers are not included).

Following an airbag deployment, a system recharge service is carried out by Alpinestars and will include replacement of inflators and airbag, as well as a full system service, diagnostic check, as well as cleaning and washing of the vest.

Alpinestars Australia had current Australian Superbike Champion Troy Herfoss, of the Crankt Protein Honda Racing team, on-hand to take part in a live demonstration (triggered remotely) and everything stated during the presentation was reflected in that live inflation. It’s never been a better time to be a motorcyclist, in terms of rider safety.

The cost of the high-tech airbag system is $1599.95 for the Tech-Air Street vest (S-2XL), primarily suited to the Valparaiso jacket (S-2XL) at $1149.95 or Viper jacket (S-2XL) at $699.95. Alternatively, it’s $1599.95 for the Tech Air Race vest (M-L-XL), which is compatible with the GP Tech V2 leather jacket (48-60) at $1299.95, GP Tech V2 1PC suit (44-58) at $2595.95 or GP Pro suit (44-64) at $1795.95.

For further information on the Alpinestars Tech-Air Street system – or the Race version – head to your local dealer. Additional details on Alpinestars Australia can be viewed via national distributor Monza Imports’ website at www.monzaimports.com.au.