We have many personal safety choices to consider when we ride. Comfort versus safety is what I hear most in casual conversations. Does the temperature affect your safety choice? Is cool factor one of your considerations on protective gear? Full disclosure, I am an All The Gear, All The Time (ATGATT) rider. While I welcomed the assignment of reviewing the Klim Ai-1 Airbag Vest, I also did a bit of praying that my review wouldn’t be starting with “I sure am glad I was testing the Klim Ai-1 when the car turned left in front of me….”
I am very comfortable street riding and, like all of you, I accept the risks. However, wearing the Ai-1 Airbag Vest gives me an extra feeling of personal safety ease that I didn’t realize I was missing. Now that I have one, I will be wearing it on every ride.
The In&box module, made by France-based In&motion, is the brains of the Klim Ai-1 Airbag Vest. It arrives in a small red box included in the same package as the vest. Inside the red box are the detector unit module, a USB charging cable, two In&motion decals, and a cool In&motion logo neck gaiter.
Like the other independent systems we ride with, such as Bluetooth communication, the Klim Ai-1 relies on a rechargeable battery, must be turned on before use, and should be connected to your smartphone. The battery incorporated into the In&box module will last about 20 hours when armed. On a multiday tour, you will have to take it out of the vest and charge the battery for as long as three hours.
How many times have you heard in helmet purchase conversations, “How much is your head worth?” Well, how much are your torso and internal organs worth? What if you could add protection for your back, shoulders, neck, and chest? Would you buy it for your children who ride, or your pillion? Would you buy one for your best friend, who has six kids and lives paycheck to paycheck? Would your significant other finally start riding with you if protected by an airbag vest?
If the answer is yes to those questions, there are more. Are you willing to give up riding in your form-fit leather vest with all your well-deserved patches sewn on throughout the years to have personal airbag protection? No, you can’t wear it over that vest because, on inflation, a pin could puncture the airbag. They also advise anyone with implants or piercings in the airbag inflation area to not wear any personal airbag!
The Klim Ai-1 Vest by itself is not abrasion resistant, so you must wear a protective jacket over it. Additionally, the jacket has to have enough room between you and the shell to allow the airbag to fully expand about three inches. The command module is not water-resistant, so you will have to protect it from rain, too. Those refreshing desert thundershowers can quickly become a very expensive respite from the heat if you don’t take precautions to protect the Ai-1 from that rain.
The Klim Ai-1 Personal Airbag Vest is a collaboration with In&motion. In&motion created the intelligent slide-in module called the In&box. In 60 milliseconds (0.06 seconds), it detects when you are in an unrecoverable imbalance. With impact imminent, the In&box commands the vest to inflate.
When you buy the Klim Ai-1 Airbag Vest from Klim, it ships with the In&box control module that fits securely into the back protector/inflation unit right next to a proprietary, single-use, argon compressed gas canister. The “Ai” stands for artificial intelligence. It uses GPS, velocity sensors, and angle information to make inflation decisions on your behalf.
The In&box control module is the result of years of research, with more than 31,000 riders having ridden a monitored 22 million miles with more than 1800 crash inflations. Software engineers use this data to create complex algorithms that decide when to inflate the vest.
The Klim Ai-1 Airbag Vest does not inflate without an In&box module installed, and it is either purchased outright or paid for via subscription. The first step is to buy the Klim Ai-1 Airbag Vest for $400. At that point, you have two choices.
- Buy the In&box module for $400. That is $800 upfront, and you have paid for the software. You have a two-year warranty on the vest and module, plus two years of software updates. If you’re not comfortable with the concept of a software subscription, this is the best choice.
- Get a monthly or annual subscription to the In&motion software. This is the same as when you get any other software subscription—it works for as long as you pay the fee. The cost is $12 per month, or $120 annually. That includes an unlimited In&box warranty, anytime cancellations, VIP support services, software updates, and a new In&box module after three years. You also have the option to buy the software at the end of three years of active subscription for $99, which will end your subscription payments. If you stop paying the subscription, In&motion gives you plenty of notice and a 30-day grace period. When the grace period expires, if you turn on the In&box and get two green lights, then you will still have full functionality until the battery drains to zero or you shut it off. In&motion will not turn off your airbag mid-ride.
If you live in an area where you only ride six months out of the year, with the subscription model, you can stop and start your subscription as desired. You can start your subscription on May 1 and stop it on October 31. In that case, you pay $12 per month for your six-month riding season. That cuts the subscription cost to $72 each year, as you’re only paying when you are using it.
You must use the In&motion smartphone app to activate the In&box module, whether you purchase or subscribe. When In&motion adds feature updates to the In&box module, such as the new Adventure Mode or algorithm changes, the company sends out software updates through the smartphone app. The app also runs on an Apple Watch, so you can see battery life, activation status, and change between Street and Adventure modes as needed.
The new Adventure mode was released in March 2021. It is an additional $25 annual subscription cost, or $8 per month. If you only ride an adventure bike for a few months each year, you can suspend that subscription until the following year. The Adventure mode changes the inflation activation algorithm to allow the light jarring of dirt and gravel roads and not inflate below 25 mph. If you have the subscription, stop when you arrive at your off-road section. Open the app on your phone or Apple Watch, and change to Adventure mode. When you’re back on the pavement, change it back to Street mode.
Speaking of updated software, In&motion collects information accumulated on your ride for its ongoing R&D. However, In&motion asserts that the data is encrypted when sent, and the data is not associated with you when used by In&motion. The data transfer happens via WiFi, not in real-time while you are riding. If you like, you can opt out of data collection.
As with any protective gear, sizing is critical. I am a 44-inch chest, so I got the Large (42-44). Depending on the size of my last meal, I use between two and three inches of the side stretch mesh to zip up the zipper. If your belly is bigger than your chest, contact Klim customer service for sizing advice. Sizes range from SM to 3X.
With the vest zipped, it feels snug, as it should. Being a new grandparent, my first thought was this is how it must feel to be swaddled as a newborn. The inner liner is mesh and raised to give a little bit of breathing room between you and the built-in CE spine protector and inflatable areas. I rode with it over a wicking T-shirt only, and I tried it on with both my heated jacket and the several winter layers I normally wear in cooler times of the year. The six-inch stretch panels handle the extra thickness comfortably.
There is a considerable amount of stretch in the side panels. However, if you are at the top end of a size category and you wear many layers in the winter, I would suggest you consider moving up a size and contact Klim customer service to be sure.
There are limitations to what you can wear over the Klim Ai-1. Backpacks or hydration packs may be worn, but must not restrict the airbag’s inflation. In&motion says the pack should not weigh more than 17 pounds and shoulder straps should have about a four-inch gap when pulled forward.
The Klim Ai-1 Airbag Vest with the In&box module weighs 3.75 pounds—about the same weight as my modular helmet. I definitely feel like I am wearing a snug vest when I put it on, but I forget about it after a while, especially on cooler temperature rides. I didn’t feel it inflate, thankfully, and I hope I never do. There are user reports on the In&motion website, giving you the ability to hear from riders about their accidents and inflation experiences.
The spine protector and electronics are about two inches thick. If you use a backrest, you will be pushed forward about two inches from your normal riding position. If your backrest does not have rearward adjustment, you may want to take some of the padding out of the backrest, or adjust to the changed ergonomics.
All the setup and instructions are clearly spelled in the user manual, and when you open the In&box smartphone app. To purchase or subscribe to the In&box, you do it through the app.
The app instructs you to insert the In&box into its slot in the spine protector. Then, you quick-press the central button twice to turn it on, and quick-press twice to shut it off. The double green lights light up to indicate your Ai-1 Airbag is ready.
I like the quick double press for on and off because it is hard to execute accidentally. If you somehow forget whether you turned the module on and already zipped up your jacket, you can check In&box status from the smartphone app or your Apple Watch.
I took three long rides and several short rides for testing.
One long ride had temperatures ranging from 64 to 71 degrees. Another was at a constant 80 degrees, and the third an unchanging 91 degrees. I wore a Joe Rocket Alter Ego 4.1 full mesh jacket on each ride.
I discovered that the Klim Ai-1 Airbag Vest blocks all front airflow—not unusual with this technology. That was great at 64 degrees, but it becomes less desirable as temperatures rise. At 71 degrees, I was totally comfortable, but it felt like 80. When it hit 80 degrees, it felt like 90. On the 91-degree ride, I was sweating. Fortunately, the airflow hitting the side stretch panels felt great, and that wasn’t as apparent on the 80-degree ride. I will be wearing the Klim Ai-1 Airbag at all temps from now on and find ways to stay as comfortable as possible. You will have to make your own choice about comfort versus safety—everyone has different temperature sensitivities. Overheating yourself is dangerous.
Because I didn’t have any hot weather rides here in the Northwest last summer, I had forgotten that I really don’t want 91-degree air flowing at 70 mph and cooking my chest. The vest front blocked that unwanted air fryer from reaching my skin, so the lack of airflow is an unexpected plus.
When I plan a ride in 90-to-120 degree weather, I wear a windproof and breathable outer layer and then use the strategically placed vents to direct outside air to where it will feel the best. I also raise my cuff to the wind to send a blast up my arm to create controlled evaporative cooling there, too. The vest acted like my windproof outer layer. On the 91-degree ride, I would intermittently scrunch my shoulders forward to create an air pocket to get a blast of air on my chest—again, DIY evaporative cooling. I am a rider who actively works on keeping myself comfortable.
It didn’t take but a few minutes at the start of each ride for me to all but forget about the snugness of this new, potentially lifesaving device. Whether it be something that you will simply put up with, actively sense, or totally forget about, I believe you too will have a feeling of extra protection that you didn’t have before you bought the Klim Ai-1 Airbag Vest.