Not too long ago, airbag technology for motorcyclists seemed like safety gear pulled from the pages of science fiction. A few intrepid manufacturers have made that fantasy a reality using racetrack research and trickling it down to street riders. The street-focused Alpinestars Tech-Air 3 distills that hard-earned data and experience into a vest catering to those tackling the daily grind.
As the newest member of the Tech-Air family, the Tech-Air 3 ($600) joins the ranks of the multi-purpose Tech-Air 5 ($750), racetrack-oriented Tech-Air 10 ($1000), and forthcoming Tech-Air Off-Road. However, the Italian brand’s entry-level stand-alone airbag goes a long way to stick out from its siblings with unique features.
First, it’s the only Alpinestars airbag vest designed to be worn inside or outside any jacket. Secondly, its road-only positioning is cemented since it uses the Street algorithm exclusively and can’t be switched to a Track mode like other TA models. Those looking to do track days or racing will want to invest in the more elaborate Tech-Air 5 or 10 units, as they are equipped with both modes.
A looser fit is part of the Tech-Air 3’s program, as the vest can be worn over riding gear. Stretchy accordion paneling along the torso and pleats on the back allow great movement, even when pulled over a chunkier leather sport jacket. If you’d like to wear the T-A3 under your jacket, bumping down at least one full airbag size is mandatory. Additionally, you’ll need to ensure that you have 1.6 inches of room around your chest so the airbag can inflate properly—as is tradition for any Tech-Air system.
Because the vest uses a waterproof outer shell, it’s safe to wear in wet weather. The inherent tradeoff in airbag systems is that you’re adding non-breathable layers of material to your body. I’ve come to enjoy that fact during these chillier months, though warmer seasons will remind riders to hydrate appropriately. There’s also a single pocket for storage, which is handy for those wearing it out.
While it can be worn outside a jacket, an unplanned departure from your bike will likely damage both the vest and jacket. Worn on the inside, you’ll only need to get the vest recharged instead of replaced. So, before hitting that checkout button or swiping your card at a store, make sure you know how the T-A 3 will work with that’s currently in your closet and be comfortable with that decision.
The Tech-Air 3 is a CE Level 2 certified garment providing airbag protection to the chest, back, and clavicle—airbag coverage is comparable to the rest of the lineup, with a couple of deviations. Due to the vest design, airbag protection does not extend to the shoulders, unlike the Tech-Air 5, 10, and older Race systems, so Alpinestars recommends wearing this unit with something featuring shoulder armor. Naturally, the Italian brand would appreciate you using one of its fine jackets. Still, all current Tech-Air systems are stand-alone units and can be used with anything that will accommodate them.
In addition, a passive CE-rated back protector is not provided, although a slot is available. Not that you should let that worry you, as a deployed Tech-Air 3 is said to offer the same protection as nine CE Level 2 back protectors and reduce impact force by 95 percent. Without a back protector installed, nothing prevents you from rolling the vest up and neatly tucking it in a backpack or saddlebag when you are off the motorcycle.
Arming the vest is as simple as zipping it up, letting two internal magnets meet, waiting for the haptic buzz, and then watching the LED go solid blue. Powering off is the same process in reverse—no clasps, no Velcro, no fiddling; it’s that simple.
Thanks to the Street algorithm, the vest will deploy in the event of a stationary rear-end collision, unlike the Track mode used on other Tech-Air products. The Track mode doesn’t activate until you exceed 37 mph. That is the crucial difference between Street and Track modes—the mean streets present danger from all sides, at any speed, and at any time.
Word to the wise when using vests with the Street mode activated: A wild gesture or hearty backslap can trigger the device. How embarrassing! Luckily, your Tech-Air 3 tracks all crash data just before and after any event. Should your device fire prematurely, Alpinestars will recharge it for free.
Interestingly, the T-A3 boasts the ability for “light off-road use” and specifically describes gravel roads. It’s suitable for casual adventure riders who avoid ruts, bumps, and jumps. However, if you plan on hitting the Dakar Rally, look into the Alpinestars Tech-Air Off-Road when it becomes available.
Speaking of deployments, Alpinestars leans into the same technology developed for the Tech-Air 5—six tri-axial sensors (three accelerometers and three gyroscopes) that communicate your movements to the vest’s ECU every millisecond. That’s 1000 times per second for those doing the math. The algorithm analyzes sensor data to detect a crash as it begins, and responds by inflating the airbag within 50 milliseconds to prepare for the impact. What about when getting rear-ended, you ask? There’s no way sensor data can anticipate that situation, so the vest is deployed after you are hit to soften subsequent impacts.
An ergo-shaped argon canister resides near your left kidney region and must be recharged after each deployment for $99. An undamaged airbag is suitable for three total uses. After that, it will need to be replaced for $199, including a new canister. The canister isn’t as conspicuous as on other T-A models, which integrate those components into their back protectors.
Alpinestars has done a good job of keeping Tech-Air 3’s weight down. Our size Large vest weighs 4.4 pounds. Save for that bulge on your love handle, the T-A 3 can be incredibly low profile depending on sizing, and there’s a Stella version cut for women. On the plus side, the Tech-Air 3 has the lowest maintenance costs and purchase price in the lineup.
Pulling up the Alpinestars Tech-Air app and pairing your vest via Bluetooth 5.0 will give you access to a wealth of information, from battery life, ride log information, and wirelessly updating your device. Alpinestars ships over-the-air updates via the Tech-Air app, as the algorithm is constantly refined utilizing event data. A full charge will last 40 hours in the on position. Should you be in a pinch, an hour on the C-USB plug will net 10 hours of protection.
The racetrack is where airbag technology was born, but airbag protection is just as valuable in a road setting. The average rider spends most of their days cruising the roads with family or friends—precisely what the Tech-Air 3 prioritizes. Its waterproof material can act as a windbreaker or rain layer, though summers will be steamier—a fair trade for dramatically improved safety. The Alpinestars Tech-Air 3’s versatility remains its top feature after the airbag, as you can wear it inside or outside any jacket or touring suit on the market.
Alpinestars Tech-Air 3 Fast Facts
- Sizes: SX – 4XL (plus women’s Stella version)
- Certification: CE level 2 (impact); Class C outer garment
- Operating temperature range: -4 to 104 degrees F
- Colors: Black; Black/Yellow Fluo (Stella, black only)
Alpinestars Tech-Air 3 Price: $600 MSRP
Alpinestars Tech-Air 3 Review Photo Gallery