Helite off-road airbag vest put to the test in the Dakar

The Helite stand-alone airbag vest is being used by bike and quad racers in this year’s Dakar rally

Helite off-road airbag

2021 became the first time that airbag vest became mandatory for all motorcycle and quad riders at the prestigious Dakar Rally.

After the tragic deaths of Paulo Gonçalves and Edwin Straver at last year’s event, the organisers knew that they had to make strides in rider safety for this year’s event.

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The solution was clear, all motorcycle and quad riders must wear airbag vests or jackets to compete in the event. Riders will also have to carry at least one replacement cartridge to enable the kit to be recharged if they were to activate it.

There are a number of options for the riders to choose from, with British company RST sending its Adventure-X Jacket to be put to the test in the desert. But jackets aren’t the only solution, as Helite has shown with its interesting airbag vest as seen above.

The concept is pretty standard. The rider becomes detached from the bike, the in-built electronics are triggered, and the airbag deploys around the rider’s back, ribs and neck. The airbag temporarily protects the rider from injury, also restricting the limbs and preventing the neck from move in certain ways. Once the rider is up and on their feet, the cartridge of compressed gas can be replaced and the rider can begin again.

The system does seem to have some advantages of an integrated system. For a start it can be used with multiple jackets or jerseys, making it much easier to dress for certain climatic conditions. The downside is, it’s not cheap. The on-road range of Helite vests starts at £750. That’s around £200 more than the RST Adventure-X integrated airbag jacket.