Racing Leathers with a Brain - Feature

Dainese D-air Racing: Intelligent riding gear for motorcycle roadracers and, soon, the rest of us.

Racing Leathers with a Brain - Feature

Racing Leathers with a Brain - Feature

Dainese dropped the wearable airbag bomb a dozen years ago at the Intermot Show in Munich, Germany. Video showed a gas-charged bladder ballooning—pop!—to its full torso-swathing capacity in just 20 milliseconds. While the vest-like “D-air” prototype weighed a claimed 10 pounds, the Italian protective-apparel maker said it hoped to have a smaller, lighter version ready for production within a year.

That didn’t happen. But now, after much more development, including multiple prototypes, 13 patents, dozens of crashes (both choreographed and in actual competition; 80 falls in GP racing alone in 2011!) and countless lire spent, D-air Racing—a one-piece cowhide suit fitted with a fully independent, reusable, wireless airbag system that weighs just 1.4 pounds—is coming to the U.S. later this year. Dainese says 1500 examples of the suit have already been sold in Europe.

Two versions of D-air Racing will be available: off-the-rack ($3999) and custom ($4999). The latter option will include personal tailoring and choice of colors with options for personalization; otherwise, both suits are identical. A two-year maintenance agreement that includes free shipping and discounted crash repairs will set you back another $220.

Do those MSRPs leaving you choking on your chinbar? Dainese Western Regional Sales Manager Mark McPerry put the pricing in perspective. “Right now,” he said, “our top-of-the-line ‘conventional’ suit, the Trickster, is $1999. We’ve had some suits in the past that were between $2599 and $2799. I think the D-air Racing compares well for what you’re getting.

“Because of the way that the suit expands with the bag inside of it, it’s constructed completely differently than a standard suit. We’ll continue to make conventional race suits—$999 suits, $1500 suits, $2000 suits. But this is the top of the line.”

Indeed. D-air Racing is equipped with an LED user interface, seven sensors, three accelerometers, a GPS, 2GB of internal memory, three gyroscopes, a lithium polymer battery and the bladder itself. All but the bladder, which has a volume of 4 liters and comes in four sizes, is stored in the “speed” hump on the back of the suit.

So, how does D-air Racing work? A snap-down closure located near the top of the central zipper completes the wiring circuit; the 2D-developed data-acquisition system is armed once the rider’s speed tops 31 mph. If the system senses that a crash is imminent, the compressed-helium-activated bladder inflates with up to two bars of pressure in the blink of an eye, deploys fully in 30 milliseconds and remains inflated for 5 seconds before deflating completely in 20 seconds. As it inflates, the airbag assumes the shape of the wearer to protect the neck, collarbones and shoulders. Dainese claims an incredible 85 percent reduction in impact force compared to conventional shoulder armor.

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