Dainese Smart Jacket airbag vest review

Dainese Smart Jacket airbag vest price, protection, comfort: gear review.

Airbags are at the very pinnacle of protection on a motorcycle and they’re usually the reason why MotoGP riders walk away from the most vicious of high-side crashes. The technology has been used in top-tier racing for a few years now and those lessons are leading to specialised products for street riders as well. We’ve come a long way from the relatively simple tethered street airbags which had to be connected to the bike with every ride and options like the Dainese Smart Jacket you see here are, as the name suggests, smart and standalone.

The good news is that the Smart Airbag is officially retailed in India, and more importantly, you will get service support. The not so exciting news is the price, but let's talk about how it works first.

Dainese claims protection equal to 7 back protectors.

Basically, this is a vest (despite what the name suggests) that you wear under your riding jacket. Any jacket will do as long as it has two inches of room to expand in all directions if the airbag deploys. This fit element is crucial and there are six sizes available with separate versions for men and women. Alternatively, you can wear it over your jacket/clothing as well, but then you risk damaging the material in a fall and you’ll also struggle to keep it clean – more on that in a bit.

The entire airbag and associated hardware is housed within the vest and this includes a battery pack as well as all the electronics that control the system. Unlike most competitors, this doesn’t have a hard-shell back protector; so the bag can be folded for storage. The vest closes with a standard zipper and it turns on once you close the magnetic button at the collar. 

It can be folded and stored when you're travelling.

There’s a built-in vibration motor around the left chest area which buzzes in different ways to let you know if it is on, armed, disarmed or more. There’s also a multi-colour LED light to guide you on the vest’s status. It takes some time to learn the meaning of the light and vibration sequences, but the vibration is easy to recognise on the move.

LED light flashes differently to indicate system’s status.

This system works by collecting data from seven sensors (including GPS, gyroscope, accelerometer and more), while an advanced set of algorithms analyses that data 1,000 times per second. If it detects an accident, it can inflate the bag via a small pressurised gas canister in 45 milliseconds. The airbag itself uses a patented technology with microfilaments, which Dainese says gives it more strength than standard airbags.

Stays on even if you're stationary by detecting engine vibrations; won't work on an EV.

Unlike race-focused airbag products, the Smart Jacket can even protect you if you get hit by a vehicle from behind while waiting at a set of lights. It does so through a clever system where the vest detects the vibrations of an engine and keeps itself on to give you protection even if you are stationary at the traffic lights - although this won’t work if you are on an EV. It’s worth noting that this device is strictly for street use and isn’t designed to give you protection at the race track or when riding off-road. 

I used the vest in Mumbai for a few weeks and the findings were interesting. When you’re on the move, the vest’s mostly mesh construction works superbly to keep you cool. But when you come to a standstill, you become acutely aware that you are effectively wearing two jackets and this has its limitations. I found that as long as the ambient temperature was below 30-32 degrees, it was manageable. But anything above that and the discomfort of having a roughly 1.8kg jacket inside your normal riding jacket starts to become overwhelming.  

Magnetic button turns the system on.

Another potential issue is that you can’t wash the Smart Jacket and Dainese advices cleaning it with a damp cloth. If you regularly ride through very dusty areas, this could be a problem. At the same time, Dainese also claims it is fine to use in the rain as the electronics are all waterproof. However, if you don’t like getting wet, you are then technically wearing the vest, your normal jacket and then a rain jacket on top. This becomes too much in a hot, humid climate like Mumbai’s. 

Something else to consider is that you probably won’t want to wear this (or any airbag system) with backpacks that have tight-fitting sternum straps - think hydration packs, Kriega backpacks etc. The sternum strap could restrict the expanding motion of the airbag which in turn could injure the rider. 

Other practicality aspects include travelling with the vest in an airline. You can check it with your luggage and since there is no physical power button you can use the Travel Mode to fully turn the system off which needs to be done via Dainese’s PC/Mac software. You will also get a certificate that can be shown at airports to prove that the bag is certified as travel-safe. However in my experience it’s always a time consuming process at airports trying to explain to the security staff why this item has a pressurised gas canister (non combustible Helium and Argon gas) and a battery pack.    

It can be charged by using a USB type-C connector, has a 26-hour battery life.

The battery charges in a few hours via USB cable and it has a life of 26 hours which is very good and more than enough for a week of commuting. As for service, if you deploy the airbag, you’ll have to ship it to Dainese in Delhi where they’ll inspect the garment. If it is in good condition, they’ll replace the entire internal airbag unit for Rs 30,000. Interestingly, Dainese keeps learning from crash data and firmware updates are routinely issued which technically make the vest smarter still. 

At Rs 85,000, the Smart Jacket is incredibly expensive, but that is the price to pay for the latest and cutting edge in motorcycle safety. Moreover, no passive protection comes even remotely close to matching this and it gives you chest, shoulder and back protection equivalent to seven back protectors! For those who can afford it, there’s no price to place on their physical well-being, no? However, this is something we’d only recommend if the weather where you live allows for it to be usable. 

This technology is still in its early stages and we will no doubt see more compact, practical and (hopefully) more affordable options in the future. I think it’s amazing that us regular road users have access to something like this here in India, along with official sales and service support. 

Ultimately, my main gripe with the Smart Jacket is that you have to wear the equivalent of two jackets to receive the full margin of safety. Sure there is the advantage of being able to use it with different jackets, but in our conditions, I’d rather have this safety built into one standalone jacket. As it turns out, Dainese India does in fact sell such a product - it’s called the Smart Jacket LS Sport and it’s something I’m keen to try.


Price: Rs 85,000 

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