Alpinestars has announced the release of the Tech-Air 5, the next generation of its Tech-Air system, set to hit the North American market in August of 2020.
The Tech-Air system has been in development since 2001, in 2004 Alpinestars started with data collection through its racers to start gaining the foundation for its algorithm. In 2009, racers started donning the prototypes of the Tech-Air in GP races. Fast-forward to 2014 when the first Tech-Air system was released, this was the first airbag system to hit the public market that was completely independent (no tethers to bike). Before we talk about what we can expect to see from the Tech-Air 5, let’s go over the components of the Tech-Air.
The Tech-Air System
The system works with an ACU Unit in the back, three accelerometers and a gyroscope built into itself. There are two accelerometers on the shoulders, and one along with the gyroscope on the back, then sensors monitor and adjust movement every two milliseconds. There are 1,000 milliseconds within every second, meaning that the system updates 500 time every second. There are two options for the Tech-Air, the Race and Street system.
The Race system offers two deployments with an inflation at 45 milliseconds, releasing only one canister for each deployment. The Street system only offers one deployment, using both canisters causing a quicker inflation at 25 milliseconds. For reference on average it takes 300-400 milliseconds to blink an eye, The Tech-Air Street system is approximately 12-16 times faster than you can blink your eyes. The system has a 25-hour battery life and quick charge feature that allows you to get 4-hours of life out a 1-hour charge.
If the airbag does deploy you must send Tech-Air back to Alpinestars headquarters to have the airbag and canisters replaced (the canisters are attached to the airbag itself). Alpinestars collects the crash data, using that information to update the algorithm for future use. This does however cost you US$300 and means that you’ll be without the system for a few days to a week normally.
Currently, the biggest hurdle with these airbag systems is the price, a rider who wishes to purchase the Tech-Air will invest CA$1499.95 along with the purchase of a compatible jacket which ranges from about CA$480-1,300. Alpinestars recommends that if you’ve had the system for two years without deployment you send back the system to ensure that the Tech-Air is still functioning and in good condition, this will cost you US$100.
Alpinestars recommends the last thing you do before you start riding is zip up the jacket and turn on the system. The reason being is that you then only have a 20-60 second window to either walk, mount or start riding the motorcycle. During this time the vest performs a stability check with a flashing green indication. Once the system has recognized your movement the light turns to a solid green.
The Tech-Air 5
The Tech-Air 5 will offer the same protection for less cost and be compatible with any jacket offering 4 cm of space for the airbag around the chest. The new system of vest is unisex and will offer sizing from XS-4XL, included in this system will also be a mobile app free of charge.
Below are all the functions the app will include:
- Current live system information including battery life and system sensor status
- MyRide trip diary and ride statistics, which will be manually activated by user, not automatic for every single ride
- Turn by turn GPS tracking of your ride on a map with distance, speed, top speed, average speed, time, max lean angle, etc… but again, this feature will be manually activated and not automatic for every single ride.
- Wireless software/firmware/algorithm updates/notifications/downloads
- Access to all Data Portal information
- Customer service questions/messaging
Alpinestars had at first toyed around with the idea of including the ability to contact emergency services from through the app when the bag was deployed, but have since scrapped the concept.
What’s changed from Tech-Air to Tech-Air 5?
The Tech-Air 5 doesn’t replace the Tech-Air system but adds on to the line-up of Tech-air products, the Tech-Air 5 being more affordable overall and compatible with any jacket.
The Tech-Air 5 only has two sensors instead of the four, perhaps contributing to the more affordable pricing. And will have an average inflation time of 25ms, with a maximum inflation time of 40ms for the biggest 4XL size.” Also, the Tech-Air 5 uses a series of 3 accelerometers and 3 gyroscopes functioning across three axes to monitor movements and forces. The Tech-Air 5 reduces the amount of impact energy transferred through to the body by 95% compared to passive protectors. This is massive reduction in energy, and the reason why you see riders like Marc Marquez and others crash so hard, walking away without injury.
The control panel of the Tech-Air 5 will now be located on the bottom of the vest so you can easily turn it on and off without removing your jacket. This model will also have improved battery life at 30 hours.
Both Glenn Roberts and Emily got to try the Tech-Air system at the Motorcycle Show this past season experiencing the system first-hand. Overall the system was heavy with the Tech-Air vest itself weighing 1.8 kg, then the jacket on top. Glenn was surprised that it made such a loud sound as the system went off because of the pressure in the Argon canisters, and found it a bit cumbersome to put on. Although it was heavy but that it wouldn’t be that noticeable once sitting on the bike. The bag starts slowly deflating after about a minute, you can feel it become less confining. Even with the system fully inflated your upper body maintains mobility.
Every great thing starts somewhere. Motorcycle airbag systems in general are still in their infancy and I (Emily) believe in the next few years or less we are going to see an exponential rate of evolution with this technology in the market. Currently the price for the Tech-Air 5 is set at US$699, no Canadian pricing has been released for the system but we’re sure that will come soon enough. The Tech-Air 5 will be available sometime in August both online and in select retailers.