Alpinestars’ Tech-Air motorcycle airbag project has been around since 2003, but back then it was strictly the preserve of world championship riders only.
1. Alpinestars Tech-Air 3 Stella
- High levels of protection
- Won’t do anything if you forget to charge it
Since then, Tech-Air has gone commercial and spawned a range of products, the newest of which is the Tech-Air 3 vest – the Italian brand’s first airbag vest aimed at commuters and everyday road riders, designed to be worn over the top of a jacket rather than underneath, as is the case with the rest of the Tech-Air range.
Is the Alpinestars Tech-Air 3 Stella comfortable?
I’ve spent significant time in most of the major electronic airbag vests and have to say, the Tech-Air 3 is the most comfortable and best fitting. The vest itself is tailored and features accordion stretch panels at the sides so that it easily fits over the top of a regular jacket without neither being too tight nor too baggy.
The electronic brain element, alongside the inflation cannister, sits low down to the rear of the vest, positioned just above the left hip. The hard plastic that retains all this electronic wizardry is shaped on the inside so that it contours against the body.
You honestly don’t feel the vest at all it at all when you’re wearing it. As I’ve only worn it during autumn, winter and spring, I can’t yet comment on whether it feels too hot or not during summer use. Obviously, it’s another layer over (or under) your riding kit so it is going to increase the heat a little.
There aren’t any vents and the airbag bladder does not allow any airflow through it, but I think for the type of weather we get here in the UK most often, this won’t ever be a problem.
When I first got the Tech-Air 3 I thought it felt much lighter than its direct rival, Dainese’s Smart Jacket, but after weighing them both the Astars vest is only 150g lighter. The fabric material, however, feels a lot less bulky and it seems to fit more flush over the top of your jacket.
Is the Alpinestars Tech-Air 3 Stella practical?
Even though it’s got some brilliant and unique details, such as the self-locating zipper and the magnetic closure system, the Tech-Air 3 vest can still be fiddly to put on.
With the vest on and over your jacket, the diagonal zip closure sticks out as you’re trying to look down to do it up, meaning that, even though the bottom of the zip self-locates, it can still be tricky getting the zip started. You also need to ensure that you’ve clipped the internal chest bladder element in place via the magnetic button inside prior to doing the zip up.
Then, of course, you need to keep on top of the charging. Although each four-hour full charge (via USB) promises 40 hours of use, which on paper is about 10 hours more than my Dainese Smart Jacket, in practise however I’ve noticed that my Tech-Air 3 vest somehow drains itself or doesn’t retain charge between uses.
I think it could be that the vest somehow arms itself (via its magnetic button, which automatically arms the system as soon as the two sides of the jacket are pressed together) when the vest is stored hung up on a clothes hanger.
This means that I have to be both really careful how I put it away and also that I make sure that I charge it prior to each ride. Numerous times I’ve gone to put it on only to find it's completely flat – que hasty charging! Luckily, a quick 30 min charge will give it enough battery life to do 6hrs of riding.
The haptic feedback you get from the vest, which is its way of communicating its status to you alongside the chest-mounted LED light system, is strong enough to feel on the move, unlike other systems which are pretty much unnoticeable.
There are two waterproof zips on the outside with handily large pull tabs so they’re easy to open with gloved hands. The fabric itself is water resistant, and I’ve happily worn it in the rain without any issue.
As it’s Astars’ first vest designed to be worn on the outside of jackets, that’s exactly how I’ve worn it. I guess the system can also be worn on the inside of garments too, but if you were more interested in an interior airbag system then you might be better off with the Tech-Air 5 which, although more expensive, does provide additional protection for the side of the ribs, shoulders and upper arms, as well as a traditional back protector (which the Tech-Air 3 does not have.)
The Tech-Air 3 also comes with Bluetooth connectivity, which allows the vest to connect to your smartphone via an app, which allows you to view the battery status of your vest plus record your journey on a map. Although I have to say, other than updating the firmware, I don’t use the app function at all.
Does the Alpinestars Tech-Air 3 Stella look good?
It’s top marks here. The Tech-Air 3 has to be the best looking of all the airbag vests currently available. The fabric, cut, fit and detailing is all spot on. Plus it’s cool that it comes in both womens’ (Stella) and mens’ specific cuts/sizing.
Is the Alpinestars Tech-Air 3 Stella good quality?
It’s another strong performance in terms of quality. From the materials, to the functionality and build, everything looks and feels premium. It’s still looking and performing as good as new.
Does the Alpinestars Tech-Air 3 Stella offer good protection?
I always wear an airbag vest as it provides huge peace of mind, and I do trust the technology from Astar’s Tech-Air 3 to provide protection when I need it. However, I do sometimes miss the ‘failsafe’ of having a hard back protector, which systems such as in&Motion and Helite have as standard.
The Tech-Air 3’s airbag bladder covers the whole front of the chest, back, and collarbones. A total of six sensors inside the vest (three accelerometers and three gyroscopes) work an AI-based system biased for road use that controls when the airbag is deployed. When an impending crash is detected, the system inflates in 50 milliseconds and remains fully inflated for five seconds.
When inflated, the Tech-Air provides protection that is Category II CE Certified to the EN1621-4:2013 airbag certification standard, which guarantees an impact protection performance of not less than five seconds after the activation. The impact attenuation performance is Level 2 both for full chest and full back.
There’s a pocket at the rear for an optional back protector (sold separately).
Is the Alpinestars Tech-Air 3 Stella good value?
It’s an awful lot of money as an initial outlay, but unlike other airbag systems on the market, does not require a monthly subscription to use. However, it does need servicing every two years or 500 hours use, which costs £99.
Plus, if you have an accident or trigger an inflation it needs to be sent back to an Alpinestars dealer to be reset and checked, at a cost of £199.99. Unlike the Tech-Air 5 under-jacket vest (£669.99) the Tech-Air 3 does not have an additional mode for track riding or racing, so it’s just for road/touring/commuting use only.
If you do more varied riding, the Tech-Air 5 will be more value for money, especially as it also offers a broader spread of protective coverage and also features a traditional hard back protector too.
It’s a high tech and good looking piece of kit, that does away with bulky and unflattering airbag vests of old. It’s slightly lighter and slimmer-fitting than the Dainese Smart Jacket and a bit cheaper too. If you ride solely on the road and wouldn’t ever wish for track or off-road protection, and don’t want to be tied into a subscription, it could be the airbag vest for you.