Harley-Davidson Announces New Airbag Safety Vest

The new Smart Vest can fit over or under other riding gear. PHOTO CREDIT: Harley-Davidson

For years now, in-the-know motorcyclists have sneered at cruiseratti who ride with just a vest and no full-armor jacket, saying that the vest won’t offer sufficient protection in a crash. They’re right; obviously sleeves, and elbow and shoulder padding, are very welcome if you fall off your bike at speed. But a new vest offered from Harley-Davidson will change that. Powered by Dainese’s D-air technology, this vest might save your life.

The Harley-Davidson Smart Vest will deploy when onboard sensors detect a crash, protecting your chest and center back area. An impact that could paralyze you or even kill you will be absorbed by the vest.

The vest has a rechargeable battery with 26-hour life that powers the onboard electronics (with USB charging). Harley says you can wear the vest over or under your riding jacket, but if you wear it underneath, you should leave two inches of space around the vest to give it room to inflate.

Unlike early airbag technology, this vest is self-contained, with no tether to bike needed. It sounds simple to use. The press release says:

An indicator light on the left chest reports the status of the jacket. When the vest is zipped and the snap-tab power switch is fastened, the indicator light colors report battery status and flash blue when the vest is ready to trigger the airbag as needed. The vest also vibrates to indicate that it is ready. The vest is activated when it senses the vibration of a running motorcycle engine or speed exceeds 6.2 mph (10 kph) – the vest will not deploy away from a running motorcycle, if the wearer were to trip and fall, for example.

If you activate the airbag, Harley-Davidson says you must return it to a dealer to have it recharged.

The technology itself is nothing new. Dainese has been making airbag suits for years now; they’ve got the technology sorted. But previously, cruiser riders might have shied away from this tech because it was marketed towards riders with sportier machines. Now, they can pick up this useful safety gear through their local Harley-Davidson dealer. With a cowhide shell, it looks like something a cruiser rider would want, instead of something adapted from the trackday world.

Harley’s PR says there are both men’s and women’s sizes; both come with zipper handwarmer pockets, black reflective material and Harley-Davidson branding on the back. We haven’t seen any Canadian pricing for this vest yet, but you can ask your local dealer to search part number 98017-24VM (men’s version) or 98021-24VW (women’s version) if you want more info.

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