In the classic martial arts movie Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee called his style “The art of fighting without fighting.” Here, I’ll paraphrase that and say this is the art of reviewing without testing. After all, I’m not paid enough to purposefully crash my bike to tell you how the Alpinestars Tech-Air 5 Airbag System worked in action.
I do like the upper body security and protection it offers, and I can wear it with any textile or leather jacket, provided there is at least 4 cm (1.5 inches) space around the chest area for expansion purposes when the vest activates during a get-off. Alpinestars claims the protection covers the shoulders, chest, ribs, and full back.
I reviewed the Alpinestars Andes Pro Drystar Jacket + Tech-Air Street System in April 2020, and agreed that the Tech-Air was a key innovation for rider safety. This system requires a compatible Alpinestars jacket into which one attaches the vest and two control wires.
Now, it’s time for me to give the Tech-Air 5 system a try. I feel a lot safer with it while wearing any jacket I choose, especially those that do not have provisions for an integrated CE-rated back protector. I’m pretty sure most riders are aware that many professional motorcycles racers are required to wear airbag-equipped suits, and many do so even at the amateur level. It is proven technology, so why not take advantage of it now?
Upon receiving the vest, I downloaded the Alpinestars Tech-Air app for iOS and created an account. Keep in mind that the Tech-Air app collects lots of data linked to you, including identifiers, user content, location (even with the app off), usage data, contact info, and diagnostics.
Next, I put the vest on the charger as I always do with any new battery-powered device. Alpinestars includes a high-quality charger and a Micro-USB cable. I like that the cable has a removable magnetic connector that I push into the vest’s charging port and leave there permanently. Now, I only need to get the cable close to the port, as it snaps into place by itself for charging.
With the vest on the charger, I open the app and connect it to the vest by scanning the QR code on the vest’s label. That’s it. Now I can see the battery level and choose between Race Riding Mode and Street Riding Mode. Alpinestars insists that the Race is only for closed-course use, so it’s Street for me. At the same time, I updated the firmware in the vest right through the app—just one button press, no problem.
In Road mode, once the vest is activated, it stays activated whether you are moving, walking, sitting at a light—whatever. The green light stays on, and this allows the vest to protect you from crashing, being rear-ended, or any happenstance occurrence. They term this “impact driven.”
There are several algorithm differences between Road mode in Race mode, as Race mode is “loss of control driven,” according to Alpinestars. The airbag will be more accepting of the motions related to hard braking and acceleration.
Additionally, it only turns the green LED one while on the track and looking for any loss of control—it knows. When you get off the motorcycle, it will automatically go into standby mode showing green and yellow simultaneously.
Race mode is not concerned about you getting rear-ended, or the like. When off the circuit, it minimizes the chance that when your buddies pound you on the back after a win, and the airbag won’t accidentally deploy. However, fans of MotoGP will recall the occasional overly enthusiastic victorious celebratory body contortion can cause the airbag to inflate unexpectedly.
The Tech-Air 5 utilizes three accelerometers and three gyroscopes as sensors to feed data to an algorithm in the ECU that monitors for data that indicates a crash has occurred. It deploys the airbag in 20 to 40 milliseconds depending upon the airbag size.
Once charged, I put it on, zip it up and close the chest flap that activates the vest and shows a green LED light on the front—that’s it. The zipper has a unique magnetic bottom catch that I’ve never seen before on any garment; it pops together when aligned, then only requiring me to pull up the zipper—quite clever.
For riding, the Tech-Air app also has a MyRide function. It is similar to many other tracking apps available to use with your smartphone, as it can track a ride on a map. All in all, the app does a great job. Now that the vest is set up, I really only use it to check the battery level.
The Alpinestars Tech-Air 5 System does impede venting a bit and that can be noticeable on hot days. Alpinestars rep told me, “we did our best to make the system as breathable as possible by even adding perforations to the air bladder to maximize as much airflow as possible. The best choice in this scenario is to wear a fully mesh textile jacket.” That said, I wear it whenever I ride. Alpinestars claims 30 hours of riding time on a charge, and I have ridden for two or three days in a row without charging with no problem. I’ve never attempted to run the battery all the way down.
Many, many years ago, I had a low-speed get-off and damaged the cartilage between ribs. I’d warrant that had the Alpinestars Tech-Air 5 System existed, and I’d had been wearing it, the only damage would have been to my pride. Get an airbag and wear it.
Alpinestars Tech-Air 5 System Fast Facts
- Sizes: SX-4XL
- Modes: Street, Race (selectable with Tech-Air App)
Alpinestars Tech-Air 5 System Price: $750 MSRP