There is an argument that in addition to providing crucial exposure for brands, motorsport helps to improve road-based products. One area this is undoubtedly true is motorcycle safety products, with one of the most recent is the dawn of airbag technology.
Mandatory for all riders in MotoGP for several years now, airbag technology has become available to road riders in various formats, including zip- or clip-in inserts for several manufacturers’ existing jackets and others who build the technology into their garments at the construction stage.
However, one of the most flexible ways to get airbag protection is in the form of a universal-fit vest that is designed to work with any jacket, in any situation. While several manufacturers produce large-budget airbag vests, this one from Furygan is very affordable, ensuring the choice to wear a personal airbag is an even easier one to make.
The Furygan system uses technology developed by French firm In&motion which also provides the technology to other manufacturers, such as RST, Klim, Held and previous Furygan zip-in inserts. In&motion has been producing airbag technology for some time, initially for winter sports athletes, but now it's the turn of motorcyclists.
1. Furygan Universal Airbag Vest
The system is based around a compressed-gas canister housed in a D3O back protector on the vest itself. The back protector is CE-rated at Level 2 so that even if the inflation system doesn’t work (for example the battery runs out) it still provides the same protection as a traditional L2 back protector.
The key to the In&motion system is the removable brain, which does the work. It contains accelerometers, gyroscopes and a GPS sensor to monitor the rider’s speed and movement. Data from all users of In&motion products are fed – anonymously - back to the central database when updated. This means there are millions of kilometres of data detailing what 'normal' riding looks like, and, more importantly, what an accident looks like.
When the digital brain determines that the rider is having an accident (which can include both low- and high-sides, direct impacts and being hit when stationary), it will fire the inflation system which will reach full protection in around 50 milliseconds.
The bladder, which is normally folded within the vest, expands to protect the back, the neck, the chest and the abdomen. I’ve had a vest inflated on me as a demonstration and it is quick and offers an amazing level of protection.
Once inflated, the user can deflate it and replace the gas canister themselves, rather than having to send the vest to a dealer for service, like some other brands. The battery on the brain is quoted as giving up to 30 hours of riding time and in practice, I have never run out of power.
I have been using the Furygan vest for thousands of miles and the reassurance it gives is huge. It is bulkier than a normal back protector – of course it is – but by the time you have removed the back protector from your jacket, it’s not that bad and you soon get used to it – it has a rather reassuring feel to it.
I initially thought that there would be a problem with size – not necessarily the vest itself but the jacket that it would sit underneath. I figured that if the jacket was a decent fit, then by the time you have added the airbag vest, it would be uncomfortable and bulky. However, again you soon get used to it and actually, the only thing I have worn it with that it didn’t work with was a set of two-piece leathers.
In that case, the leather jacket was the right, tight fit and I felt it didn’t allow expansion room for the bladder should it be triggered. Remember, you need some room for it to be able to expand into, otherwise, it won’t protect you.
In&motion produces a smartphone app that shows the status of the battery and the airbag generally and lets you update it over the air. It also allows you to choose between three different profiles: Road, Track and Adventure. These modify the conditions under which the airbag will deploy, depending on where and how you are riding. For example, you may not want a low-speed tumble on a Greenlane to trigger the airbag in Adventure Mode, as it's part of the fun of off-roading, but in Road Mode, you may want the full protection.
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The model on which the Furygan system works with In&motion is that you buy the airbag outright, then take out a subscription to In&motion for the data and the algorithms that control inflation. Some people don’t like this, but I have no issue with it.
The subscription will cost you €12 a month, or you can pay a one-off installment of €120 for the year and save yourself a little money. You can also add either Track or Adventure on a month-by-month basis for €8.
The only real complaint with the system is that you need to remove the brain to charge the battery. Not a huge deal on this vest, as you always wear it separately, but I know others who have used an integrated system and find it a real pain when delving inside a garment to find and release the brain.
I went one size smaller than I usually take for the vest as I wanted it snug and it works well. It can get a little sweaty – the vest breathes but the plastic bladder doesn’t and although it is folded to minimise its presence, it is still there – and sometimes, depending on the jacket, it can pull down a little at the back. However, this can be alleviated if the jacket and trousers in question can be joined, with the garments supporting the vest’s weight.
Globally, wearable airbags can only be a good thing to improve rider safety. This one works really well for me – I find it comfortable and it doesn’t interfere with the jacket of choice.
It can be worn under any jacket, assuming you have enough room for the bladder to inflate and slips on and off as easily as any waistcoat. Some don’t like the subscription-based model but it does keep the initial cost down (much like mobile-phone contracts) compared with other, standalone airbags that can cost two or three times as much.
The smartphone app is incredibly useful, as is the chance to use different profiles for appropriate protection depending on the riding you are doing. For me, it’s as important as a helmet.
Airbag protection in any jacket
30-hour battery life
Multiple riding profiles
Can make some jackets feel a little bulky
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