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MIT engineers laughed at Lino Dainese’s vision of a wearable airbag—Dainese Misano D-Air Jacket review

This airbag-equipped motorcycle jacket is expensive, heavier than a conventional leather jacket, and requires recharging, but it might save more than your hide...

© Courtesy of Dainese

By Matthew Miles, Cycle World

The Dainese Misano D-air jacket is equipped with a self-inflating, single-charge airbag engineered to deploy only when that level of protection is deemed absolutely necessary. This technology comes at a price: On our certified scales, the $1,700 Misano D-air weighed 10.6 pounds.

This airbag-equipped motorcycle jacket is expensive, heavier than a conventional leather jacket, and requires recharging, but it might save more than your hide When Lino Dainese explained his vision for a wearable airbag to MIT engineers in the mid-1990s, he was practically laughed off the Cambridge campus. “At the time,” Dainese recalled, “I wondered if the brain, in a state of fear, might produce a chemical that could activate the airbag, not accelerometers and gyroscopes as we use now.”

Will not deploy at any speed below 6 mph

© Courtesy of Dainese

The 9-liter D-air Street bladder covers much of the wearer’s neck, shoulders, chest, and back. Even when armed, the system will not deploy at any speed below 6 mph.

Dainese’s many contributions to motorcycling—from the knee slider and back protector to the aerodynamic hump and, more recently, the airbag—changed the way both racers and street riders think about protection. “I’m essentially a tailor,” Dainese told me in 2014, “but thanks to these young engineers and scientists, my intuitions are becoming a reality.”

Former AMA Superbike star Blake Young was one of the first racers to wear a Dainese suit equipped with a D-air system in competition on American soil. Young rode his Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 to victory at the final round of the ’11 AMA Pro American SuperBike Championship—precursor to today’s MotoAmerica Series—at New Jersey Motorsports Park. “When I put on the suit for the first time,” Young said, “I was thinking, ‘Is it going to be heavy?’ It wasn’t. ‘Is it going to fit?’ It fit like my other Dainese suits, as comfortable as ever. In the first race, I didn’t get the result I wanted, so going into the second, I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll show Dainese how their suit works!’ I took some chances, but I got the win.”

In combination with race-quality leather, aluminum caps backed by CE-certified Pro-Armor safeguard the shoulders.

© Courtesy of Dainese

Dainese launched D-air Racing stateside the following year. At the time, the entire system—three accelerometers, a GPS receiver, three gyroscopes, and an inflatable bladder for coverage of the neck, collarbones, and shoulders, with all but the bladder in the hump on the back of the suit—weighed 600 grams, down from 3 pounds for the prototype. A snap-down closure near the top of the torso-length central zipper completed the electronic circuit, and the system armed once the wearer reached 31 mph. If the system sensed a crash, compressed helium inflated the bladder faster than you can blink and remained fully inflated for 5 seconds before deflating completely in 20 seconds.

In the years since, Dainese—in step with Alpinestars and, more recently, Spidi—has risen to the forefront of wearable airbag technology, even providing other suit manufacturers with systems to satisfy Grand Prix racing’s airbag mandate. (Jared Mees, Shayna Texter, and Hayden Gillim began using Alpinestars’ Tech-Air system this year in American Flat Track.) But it has taken time for that technology to reach the street. Why? For one, Dainese knew street crashes often differ from those logged at the track. So the D-air Street algorithm is geared for head-on, side, and rear impacts, not only highsides and tumbling lowsides. The system is said to monitor sensor signals 1,000 times per second.

An LED panel positioned midway down the left forearm communicates at a glance the status of the system to the wearer. Green indicates the system is charged.

© Courtesy of Dainese

Retailing for $1,699.95, the Misano D-air jacket was introduced this year alongside two D-air-equipped textile products, the adventure-style Gore-Tex Cyclone D-air ($1,999.95) and the understated hip-length Continental D-air ($1,699.95). The fully CE-certified, Pro-Armored Misano and Cyclone zip at the waist to Dainese riding pants, leather and textile. The Misano D-air is modeled after the one-piece racing suit by the same name, with competition-grade, full-grain leather construction and aluminum shoulder inserts but minus the track-issue titanium elbow caps and replaceable sliders. The D-air system installed in the Misano is not interchangeable with that used in either the Cyclone or the Continental.

A USB charger with a wall-socket adapter is supplied with the jacket. Charging the lithium-ion battery that powers the D-air system is as simple as opening a small hinged panel at the top of the back protector near the neck, reaching inside and freeing a short cable from its flexible protective housing, and then plugging the charger lead into the port. When fully charged, the system is said to provide 24 hours of constant use; standby mode engages after five minutes of non-movement. Once the circuit is closed—a magnetic snap is located at chest height behind the jacket’s secondary zipper—the system is armed, and an LED panel located low on the left forearm communicates the status of the system: Five green flashes: 100 percent charged Up to five red flashes: each indicates a 20 percent reduction in charge One blue, five green flashes: acquiring GPS signal Blue flash: ready for use No flashes: 6 mph activation speed reached One red flash, followed by a green, red, and three green: system error Eight red flashes: sudden error or the circuit is open and the system is turning off Airbag torso coverage is substantial, with the bladder blanketing the neck, shoulders, chest, and back. Capacity has ballooned to 9 liters, more than twice that of D-air Race. Even when armed, the system will not deploy at any speed below 6 mph, meaning a tip-over at a gas station, for example, won’t result in a $250 service charge to repack the airbag.

Adjustments to this snug-fitting jacket are limited to a pair of hook-and-loop tabs located above the left and right hips and below the zippered vents.

© Courtesy of Dainese

What if you are accidentally rear-ended at a traffic light? If you have been stationary for more than five seconds, the airbag will not deploy. Also, while all electronics are housed in the mid-to-upper portion of the back protector, the cylindrical gas canister that charges the bladder is stored horizontally behind a thin pad resting against the lumbar region of your spine. Essentially, the Misano D-air is the top half of a professional-level one-piece leather race suit, and the fit of the jacket reflects that focus.

My size 56 sample fit like a track glove, which is to say snugly, but thanks to strategically placed stretch panels and elasticized inserts, adding a layer or even two during cooler months of the year is not out of the question. The zippered kidney vents are easily closed, but the micro perforation is permanent. A windproof layer, such as the D-Core No Wind Thermo Tee, should extend the riding season.

I experimented with both short- and long-gauntlet Dainese gloves, and fit, relative to the zippered cuffs, was perfect. Overall appearance and general quality are beyond reproach.

Four years ago, Lino Dainese sold 80 percent of the company he founded and nurtured for more than 40 years to Bahrain-based Investcorp. Advances that Dainese made with D-air in motorcycling have laid the foundation for the use of airbag systems in many other aspects of life. “Air has no weight,” Dainese is fond of saying, “but it can save lives.”


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Autos News: MIT engineers laughed at Lino Dainese’s vision of a wearable airbag—Dainese Misano D-Air Jacket review
MIT engineers laughed at Lino Dainese’s vision of a wearable airbag—Dainese Misano D-Air Jacket review
This airbag-equipped motorcycle jacket is expensive, heavier than a conventional leather jacket, and requires recharging, but it might save more than your hide...
Autos News
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