5 Best Motorcycle Airbag Vests in 2020

Our top pick, and the best motorcycle airbag vest that you can buy today, is the lightweight and reflective Hit-Air MLV-RC vest. This vest includes durable padding, can be seen from a distance thanks to its neon green reflective finish, and boasts Hit-Air’s newest high-speed inflator system.

In order to find the most effective and best performing motorcycle airbag vests and suits for your needs, we looked for tested effectiveness, inflator type, and inflation speed. We also ranked these motorcycle, motocross and racing airbag vests for subjective comfort and fit, in addition to material quality, ease of use and durability. Read on to see more of this Hit-Air motorcycle airbag vest and the rest of our picks among the top motorcycle airbag vests.

Top 5 Motorcycle Airbag Vests

 #1  Hit-Air MLV-RC Motorcycle Airbag Vest

Award: TOP PICK

WHY WE LIKE IT: Fast sub 300-millisecond deployment and a generally comfortable fit make this one of the best motorcycle airbag vests. Designed mainly for on-road use, it features LUMIDEX reflective material for added safety.

Pros
  • Deploys ultra fast in .25 seconds
  • Comes with inflator cylinder
  • Easy to wear over a standard motorcycle jacket
Cons
  • Larger or very tall people may have trouble with fitment
  • Limited color selection

This Hit-Air motorcycle airbag vest is thoughtfully designed, with its airbag system positioned to give neck and tailbone as well as ribcage cushioning. It’s also very lightweight, and less bulky than some of the other leading motorcycle airbag suits we’ve looked at. Excellent build quality is a plus, as is the inclusion of LUMIDEX high strength reflective fabric. This adds some safety when riding at night, but preserves the vest’s unobtrusive, black appearance in the daytime.

The Hit-Air MLV-RC motorcycle vest also benefits from an ultra high speed inflator capable of deploying the system in just 250 milliseconds. This airbag vest uses a standard 60cc CO2 cartridge, and unlike some of the cheaper alternatives, it comes with one cartridge already included. However, if you’re planning a long trip, it’s worth it to bring a few extra. If you want to do some work on your bike before the trip, you’ll need the best motorcycle lift.

 #2  Helite Unisex Motorcycle Airbag Vest

Award: HONORABLE MENTION

WHY WE LIKE IT: This motorcycle airbag vest inflates in just .1 seconds and provides robust neck, back and hip cushioning. Its outer layer is high quality 600D abrasion resistant material for additional protection.

Pros
  • Fast 0.1-second deployment
  • Includes cartridge and motorcycle anchor cord
  • Comes with a removable rigid back protector piece
Cons
  • Less coverage than with an airbag jacket
  • More expensive than many of the airbag vests on our list

Available in black or high-visibility yellow with vintage-inspired silver reflective tape, this comfortable unisex motorcycle airbag vest benefits from very high levels of build and material quality. It also has a removable rigid back piece that offers additional protection over the standard abrasion-resistant fabric shell, which not every motorcycle airbag vest offers.

With a claimed inflation time of just 0.1 seconds, this is among the fastest inflating airbag vests we’ve seen, which should help ensure effectiveness. It’s a little more expensive than average for an airbag vest, but those looking for good coverage and excellent impact safety along with comfort may find the Helite motorcycle airbag vest well worth it. If you want your bike running as fast as possible, you’ll want to take a look at the best motorcycle battery too.

 #3  XMT-MOTO Black&Yellow Motorcycle Airbag Vest

Award: BEST FOR LARGE JACKETS

WHY WE LIKE IT: This high visibility motorcycle airbag vest inflates rapidly and gives riders plenty of room to move, even when worn over thick jackets or vests, with a durable abrasion resistant outer coating.

Pros
  • Very durable, abrasion resistant outer coating
  • Includes three cartridges
  • Easy to clip on while wearing gloves
Cons
  • Less tailbone protection than the Hit-Air MLV-RC
  • High-visibility yellow may not fit all aesthetics

This motorcycle airbag jacket can deploy in as little as a tenth of a second, potentially helping to avoid injuries in case of high sides and falls. It’s one of the easiest motorcycle airbag vests to put on, with clips that are big enough to work with even when wearing motorcycle gloves. It’s also highly adjustable so you can generally get a good fit even while wearing a thick motorcycle jacket or vest underneath.

The shell is made from abrasion-resistant polymer, and the color is high visibility yellow, which is great for safety when riding on the road, though some may prefer a different style for their motorcycle gear. A good bang for buck for the money, this effective motorcycle airbag vest comes with 3 CO2 cartridges included. This jacket could also come in handy if you’re starting out on your best pit bike.

 #4  Flyastar Motorcycle Airbag Vest

Award: BEST ON A BUDGET

WHY WE LIKE IT: A budget-friendly motorcycle and motocross airbag vest system that includes wrap-around neck protection and an outer shell of tough, protective-clothing grade reflective fabric.

Pros
  • Excellent neck protection
  • European and Chinese safety certifications
  • Wrap around neck protection
Cons
  • Gas cylinders not included
  • .5 second deployment time somewhat slower than Hit-Air vests

This motorcycle airbag vest is designed mainly for commuter and on road motorcycle and scooter use, and in spite of its value oriented price, it comes with features that are typically found on more expensive protective gear and which are generally worth it for the price. It includes wrap around neck protection, a highly adjustable closure that gives a breadth of 10 cm of adjustability.

With a shell made of protective-clothing grade, abrasion-resistant fabric, and with a reflective coating, this vest is CE certified for use in Europe and has national-level approval from the Chinese airbag vest certification authority as well. If you love this vest, you may want to take a look at the best motorcycle helmet lock.

 #5  MotoAir R-970 Motorcycle Airbag Vest

Award: MOST STYLISH

WHY WE LIKE IT: Combines the functions of a normal motorcycle jacket with those of a motorcycle airbag vest, providing abrasion armor as well as additional impact cushioning in case of accidents.

Pros
  • Minimally intrusive design with abrasion protection for arms and body
  • Wider protective coverage area than with most of the vests on our list
  • Includes CO2 cartridges, lanyard and cables
Cons
  • Can get hot for the wearer
  • Unlike the Hit-Air vests, can’t be worn with your existing motorcycle jacket

This sturdy motorcycle airbag jacket has the same basic function and mechanism as on the motorcycle airbag vests, but provides somewhat more protection against road rash and a slightly broader area of impact cushioning. It comes with one CO2 cartridge included, along with a lanyard and all necessary cables. An adjustable buckle lets it fit comfortably, though the size range isn’t as flexible as with the XMT MOTO vest.

While it benefits from increased coverage and should offer a greater degree of protection than a vest, especially along the arms, it isn’t vented and can get pretty hot when riding in warm weather. It weighs about 10 pounds, which is proportionally more than the airbag vests on our list. This vest will have you looking at the best motorcycles to upgrade your bike.

How We Decided

In order to narrow down our search to the best motorcycle airbag vests that have proven worth the money for their effectiveness and safety benefits, we only included vests that use a rapid, .5 second or less deployment mechanism.

We also limited our search to motorcycle airbag suits, jackets and vests that offered cushioning around at least the rib cage and lumbar spine areas. Neck protection is an important feature as well since motorcycle crashes often cause whiplash, neck strain, and spinal fractures even when wearing a helmet.

We prioritized rugged construction and durability, including only reusable airbag vests. We also limited our selection to vests with abrasion-resistant and protective grade outer shells. Typically made of Aramid or Cordura nylon, these shells have to be heat resistant and abrasion-resistant enough to allow sliding along asphalt without sustaining too much damage.

Reflective coatings or safety-enhancing colors were considered a bonus, as with the silver reflective stripes available on the Helite motorcycle airbag vest We also considered it a major plus if the airbag vests came with at least one CO2 cartridge included with purchase. Motorcycle airbag deployment is almost always powered by a compressed CO2 cartridge ranging from 35 to 60 cc in size.

Best Motorcycle Airbag Vests Buyer’s Guide

Features to Consider

  1. Inflator
    Most of the top-performing motorcycle airbag vests use 40-60cc CO2 cartridges, triggered by a rip-cord style pull that responds almost instantly to the force of a crash or losing the bike. Motorcycle airbag vest effectiveness depends on the speed at which they can inflate, so look for a rating, if provided, on the deployment time of the inflator. The best airbag vests can inflate in 100-300 milliseconds.
  2. Reflective Fabric
    Some motorcycle airbag vests, typically those designed for commuters and on-road riding, have reflective or high visibility material to help with safety. If you ride at night often or typically wear a motorcycle jacket that has reflective patches, you may want to get an airbag vest with similar safety features.
  3. Abrasion Resistance
    Unlike car airbags, motorcycle airbag vests are generally supposed to be reusable. This requires that the outer shell and the inflatable air bag remain intact, though some scuffing is likely acceptable. In order to best complement the impact cushioning that the airbag provides, look for hard, tough, and abrasion-resistant shell material.
  4. Coverage
    Not all motorcycle airbag vests have the same amount of coverage, though most inflate to cover the torso pretty well and offer rib cage and some spine protection. A good set of additional Moto airbags include features such as neck protection, typically a pop-up wraparound “neck pillow” style motorcycle neck airbag and a pop-down airbag that protects the tailbone.

Motorcycle Airbag Vests FAQs

How effective are motorcycle airbag vests?

Able to inflate in 300 milliseconds or less and providing worthwhile added protection over a standard vest or biker jacket, a high quality motorcycle airbag suit, or vest like the Alpinestars airbag vest or Rev It airbag can help you avoid broken ribs and a lot of bruising. In some types of crashes, motorcycle airbag vests may even save lives.

Are airbag jackets worth it?

Good airbag jackets like the Dainese Smart Jacket or the MotoAir R-970 Motorcycle Airbag Jacket are usually somewhat more expensive than either standard motorcycle jackets, moto racing jackets or moto airbag vests, but if you’re looking for the best protection and coverage, they’re worth the money for their safety benefits.

How do motorcycle airbags work?

Motorcycle airbag vests, jackets and suits work somewhat differently from car airbags, which deploy using a small explosive charge triggered by an electronic signal from an impact sensor or accelerometers in the body of the car. Motorcycle airbags typically use a CO2 cartridge set off by a pull-cord, similar to the cord on a parachute. This is usually attached to a cable on the bike itself and set to inflate the airbag when the rider leaves the bike with sufficient force to pull the cord.

What is the best motorcycle airbag vest?

Depending on your needs, the best airbag vest may be one like the Hit-Air MLV-RC (our top pick overall) or the more vintage looking Helite motorcycle airbag vest. The most effective motorcycle airbag vests, regardless of style, will have neck and hip protection as well as cushioning for ribs and spine.

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Ryan Mcbride

Ryan McBride is a writer based in Los Angeles. He has contributed work to magazines and sites including Gayot, Spy, Paper, Ladygunn, 3AM and the Crab Creek Review. He writes consumer reviews, essays, science and tech journalism as well as literary and art criticism.

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