Airbags are kind of a big deal around here, ever since I had the unfortunate pleasure(?) of putting one to the ultimate test. Since that fateful day, however, I never hop on a motorcycle without wearing an airbag, and I’ve been an advocate to anyone willing to listen that they should wear one, too – no matter who makes it, and no matter how it’s activated.
In the field of smart airbags – that is, airbags not requiring a physical tether to deploy – the choices are a little slim, though options are slowly expanding. This brings us to In&Motion and its smart airbag system. US customers may not be as familiar with the brand as its origins are in France, but the company has been widespread in Europe for a few years and partners with Klim in the US, where its airbags have slowly been gaining traction.
It’s called different things in different places, but otherwise, the In&Motion airbag vest is the same. Here in the US, it’s the Klim Ai-1 airbag vest.
Ostensibly, the In&Motion airbag vest has roughly the same features you’ve seen in other airbag systems – a vest that encapsulates the electronics needed to trigger the system, when a crash is detected, and the airbag protection that surrounds nearly the entire upper body. Big deal, right? Well, the devil’s in the details, as they say, and there are a few that make the In&Motion system stand out.
What It Is
Unlike other electronic airbag vests out there, the In&Motion system actually consists of two separate parts. The first is the airbag vest itself. If you’ve been paying attention to the airbag game lately, there’s nothing too shocking here. Weighing about 3.3 lbs, the In&Motion vest is thin and discreet – more so than, say, the Alpinestars Tech-Air 5. Airbag coverage includes nearly the entire upper body, both front and back, with an additional CE-rated back protector for added protection. There’s also a considerable amount of airbag protection over the collarbones and surrounding neck area.
Fully inflated, you can see the coverage area protects nearly the entire upper body. The lack of coverage down the shoulder, into the upper arm, leaves room for a broken bone if you land on your side in a crash.
The heart of it all is what’s called the “In&Box.” This is a separate electronics module housing all the brains of the system. About the size of a modern smartphone, it clicks into the vest and allows it to function. Without it, the vest is simply a piece of fabric. Where other smart airbag systems use regular updates to their algorithms based on various testing feedback, with the In&Box system we are all test riders and deliver data back for constant refinement of the algorithms.
How It Works
When In&Motion initially launched the system in 2016, MotoGP riders Bradley Smith and Aleix Espargaro provided the bulk of racing feedback to get the system to understand the rigors of racing. Soon after, in 2017, 500 road riders were selected to help ride and provide feedback for the system to understand what road riders experience. Today, In&Motion has over 32,000 active users, logging over 40 million miles of data.
Exactly how that data gets acquired and distributed is also interesting. The In&Box uses a WiFi connection, and when the charging cable is plugged in, this powers the unit to turn on and use the connection to send data back to In&Motion’s home base. Being a small company, the overall team at In&Motion is fairly small, but the data analysts and machine learning crew make up one of the biggest subsets within the French squad.
The brains of the entire operation, the In&Box module snaps into the back of the vest and allows it to work.
Their job, of course, is to interpret that data and translate it into crash events. Then they need to cross-reference the new data with existing data to ensure the most up-to-date algorithms possible. Obviously, the more people wearing the box, and the more miles they cover, the better the system gets. When a crash is detected the airbag is deployed. In&Motion says both the detection and the inflation of the airbag occur in under 60 milliseconds.
During our time talking with representatives of In&Motion, exactly “how” the In&Box works and all the different scenarios that could trigger a deployment were deliberately glossed over, possibly to avoid any legal trouble should the unfortunate happen (and to be clear, no amount of safety gear is 100% effective. Just in case this wasn’t already blatantly obvious). However, we do know the unit is equipped with a GPS, though it’s not mandatory to its operation. We have to assume accelerometers and gyroscopes are also in play here, as is the norm, but the exact circumstances in which they trigger a deployment are constantly evolving. The obvious scenarios like a highside or an impact on the road are triggering events, but things get murky when determining if a lowside will trigger the airbag. To be fair, lowsides won’t always trigger the airbags from Dainese and Alpinestars, either. Those truly depend on the conditions surrounding the crash.
Here you can see the In&Box module secured into the vest. Double tapping the middle button in the upper left of the module turns the system on and assuming there are no faults, arms it.
Currently, In&Motion has two different riding algorithms – Street and Track – accessible via the smartphone app (iOS and Android compatible) used as the central hub of communication between vest and rider. However, in the US anyway, the track algorithm has not been activated. We suspect this is because the leather suit manufacturers currently partnering with In&Motion don’t have a sales presence in America. Yet.
In the event of a deployment, repacking the vest can be done by the user – a feature not offered with other smart airbags. All they have to do is purchase a new inflator for $100 and follow the instructions. The vest itself is designed to withstand three deployments. Whether you own or lease the vest will determine what you do next (more on that below).
However, the big news is the third algorithm the In&Box is now capable of – Adventure Mode. If you thought developing software for airbag deployments on pavement was hard, try doing it for dirt riders who, arguably, need it more. All of the major manufacturers are doing it, but with the 2020 Dakar being the first to require its riders to wear airbags development really started ramping up.
In this case, more than 15 months of development with over 200 beta testers have culminated in In&Motion being confident enough to deploy an off-road algorithm. To put the system through the ultimate test, 30 riders logged an aggregate of over 80,000 miles in the Dakar Rally. Of those riders are names like former champion Toby Price, David Knight, and Xavier de Soultrait – so we know the system was put through its paces.
Before you get carried away, however, just because the algorithm was tested in the Dakar, In&Motion clearly states this mode is intended for light off-roading. If you’re avid into motocross, Hard Enduro, and/or gnarly trail riding, this is not the vest for you. At least not yet.
Unzipping the top layer of the back protector reveals the replaceable argon canister as well as the back protector. A D3O Level 2 back protector is available as an option.
There’s one more layer to the In&Motion airbag system that separates it from the rest. Unlike its competitors, In&Motion offers a subscription service for the In&Box module. As of this writing, the system is only available through Klim as the Ai-1 airbag vest for $399.99. When you buy the vest, the module will be included, however, it won’t be active (meaning it won’t work). To activate it, you then have to set up an account with In&Box where you have the option of paying another $399.00 (yes, the vest costs 99 cents more than the vest) to buy and activate the module outright.
The homescreen on the In&Box app looks like this. At the top you can see the different buttons for the three ride modes currently in existence. However, the track mode isn’t available in the US yet and adventure mode charges an additional fee to access.
While you certainly could pay for both outright, In&Motion offers a subscription service for just the In&Box module effectively making owning an airbag system a rent-to-own program. In&Motion also offers incentives to make leasing more attractive. Because of this, we’re told 95% of users opt to make payments instead of buying it outright.
You have two leasing options for the module: you can either pay $12/month (add $8/month more if you also want Adventure Mode) or $120/year (add an additional $25 yearly for Adventure Mode). Whether you choose one of the subscription plans or buy it outright, you’ll always have algorithm updates available to you as well as the mobile app dashboard. Owners of the system get the In&Motion warranty for two years, while subscribers have access to it for as long as they maintain their subscription.
One of the major benefits of the payment plan is, in the event you need to get the airbag inspected, serviced, or replaced for whatever reason, you have the option of obtaining a new vest before sending away your old one. If you buy it outright, you’ll be stuck without an airbag while it’s out for service. Subscribers also have the option of pausing their subscription if they go through a period where they know they won’t be riding and won’t need the airbag. They can then resume it through the app once they continue riding. After three years, subscribers have the option of upgrading to the newest module or simply buying their system outright for $99.
With the back story out of the way, what you really want to know is how the thing works in the real world. To do this, both Ryan and I have been wearing our respective vests to get twice the input. And while we’re all for thorough testing in the name of science, we’re happy to report neither one of us got hit by a car this time. Nor were we able to get the system to deploy when it shouldn’t have.
Personally, I’ve been impressed with how slim and narrow the Klim-branded vest is. There’s less bulk compared to the Alpinestars Tech-Air 5 system I also wear, though one of the tradeoffs comes in the reduced airbag presence in the upper arms the Alpinestars system offers.
The airbag vest is designed to fit under a variety of riding jackets, no matter who makes it, thanks to its slim profile.
The In&Box module itself has been straightforward as well. It’s simple to charge with a Micro USB cord, and the different light arrays are easily visible. Granted, I haven’t fully immersed myself in what the different colors and patterns mean, but I do know green means all systems are good and the battery is charged, and this is the only color I’ve seen while riding.
Connecting my phone app with the In&Box module is straightforward, but this has led to a gripe. There isn’t anything on the front of the vest to indicate all systems are ready and operating. If I’m in the process of getting my gear on, it could be minutes from the time I’ve started up the vest to when I actually ride. Or if I stop for gas and take a break, after a long pause in riding I’d like to look down and have visual confirmation everything’s working. Instead, I have to look at the back of the vest for the light display or wait several seconds to get the app up on my phone to check status. A visual reminder on the front would be very convenient.
When paired with a jacket able to flow a decent amount of air, the difference in internal temperature with and without the vest is not as great as you’d think.
As far as actual riding impressions go, I don’t have much to say. Which is a good thing. The vest simply disappears into the background while I go about my business. There isn’t much in terms of added weight, and while it is an extra layer underneath a riding jacket, mesh panels and light, breathable fabric allows some airflow in. But like I always say when it comes to rider comfort – I’d rather sweat than bleed.
As for Ryan, here’s what he had to say:
I’ve always been picky when it comes to motorcycle gear. The fit and feel need to be spot on for me. The medium Klim Ai-1 airbag vest fits me perfectly – comfortably snug. The materials the vest is made out of are breathable and feel like the quality I would expect from Klim. Unfortunately, there was one issue that kept me from wearing the vest for a while. The tube that connects the airbag to the inflator runs down the left side of the back and doesn’t lay flat inside the vest. You can feel the crinkled material all the way down the left side of your back. The feeling is exacerbated with tighter jackets (not that you want to wear a jacket that is too tight with this vest anyway), but can be dealt with in looser ones.
Since the Adventure mode is new to In&Motion – and they told us it would work for anything from Starbucks prowling to Dakar racing – I wanted to get out on my enduro bike to see if I could get the thing to pop. Well, as things panned out, timing and schedules would only allow a bit of rough fire road exploration with some sneaky single track thrown in for good measure atop the Kawasaki KLX300.
Try as he might, Ryan couldn’t get the airbag to pop during one of his off-pavement detours.
My ride consisted of smooth fire roads, rocky two track, fast flowing single track, and dozens of water bars to “send it” off of in addition to the city streets and freeways that had taken me to and fro. I would say the terrain experienced was what most ADV riders would use their machines for. I’m happy to report there were no unexpected pops. What was unexpected was how cool I stayed while out in the hills during the hot southern California summer day despite having an extra layer on with the vest. I was wearing the vest underneath Klim’s Baja S4 jacket and pants which themselves flow a ton of air, but the materials the vest is made out of also helped to keep air flowing and perspiration evaporating.
What’s the Verdict?
For the record, I didn’t experience any of the discomfort issues Ryan faced. Maybe his manly physique after hours of working out during the Covid lockdown has introduced an unexpected downside. Or maybe he’s just more sensitive than I am. I don’t know. Joking aside, we have heard reports of others experiencing the same thing, so if possible, we suggest trying one on if you can before putting your money down.
Assuming everything does fit you well, we’d be perfectly comfortable recommending the In&Motion airbag system, especially if road riding and the occasional light off-road jaunt are your thing. The payment programs offered make the vest and module more affordable and come with a host of benefits the competition can’t match.
In&Motion(aka Klim Ai-1) Airbag Vest
Comfortable and slim
Constantly updated algorithms
Payment plans make it easier to wear a smart airbag.
The vest itself can be annoying to certain body types
No indicator lights in front make it hard to know airbag status at a glance
Adding different algorithms is an additional charge
As we said before, the vest is currently sold in the US as the Klim Ai-1 airbag vest, but as In&Motion’s other garment partners expand into this market, expect it to be called by other names.
Check pricing for the In&Motion airbag vest here
How effective are motorcycle airbag vests?
We have to start this answer by saying no piece of protective gear, including airbags, is 100% effective at preventing injuries and/or death. However, you only need to look at the car world to see how effective airbags are at reducing the amount, or the severity, of injuries. So effective are airbags that they are now required in some racing organizations, including MotoGP and the Dakar Rally. Speaking from personal experience, after getting hit by a car, my airbag took an 18g hit that would have otherwise been transmitted to my body. Bones can break at much lower impacts. So yes, airbags are effective.
Are airbag vests reusable?
The short answer is yes. While it’s always best to check the manufacturer’s recommendations after deploying an airbag, the ones we’ve seen and used were designed to be repackaged and reused. Depending on the model the user can repack the airbag themselves and replace the cartridge used to inflate the airbag. Otherwise, it will need to be sent back to the manufacturer for repacking by a certified technician. One thing to keep in mind: the airbag vest and airbag material itself are not meant for unlimited deployments, which is why manufacturers generally suggest sending the unit back for inspection after a certain period of time. This way they can double-check the main components of the system are sound and recommend another course of action if they are not.
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