REVIEW: Ducati Smart Jacket airbag vest, RM4,299

Safety is important to motorcyclists, any rider thinking otherwise will have a short, but interesting, life. For bikers, safety equipment has tended to lag behind those installed in cars, bikers being the only road users who carry their impact protection with them, as opposed to leaving it with the vehicle.

Raising the level of motorcycle safety technology is the Ducati Smart Jacket, priced at RM4,299. What this is is an airbag vest utilising Dainese’s D-Air system, that is work as a vest either over or under the rider’s usual jacket.

The system comprises of a vest with two outer pockets and a zip-up front and and contains airbags that protect the rider’s torso and back. The inflation system is fed by two gas cartridges activated by a control module, and collects data from seven sensors that activate 1,000 times per second.

For the battery-powered module, located in the back of the Smart Jacket, charging is done with a USB-C connector, which also doubles up as the interface to the Ducati app that registers user information and allows for firmware updates.

The Smart Jacket is a standalone unit, needing no connectors to the bike and uses GPS data to determine speed. Activation and deactivation occurs when the rider goes above or below 10 km/h. with a vibrating sensor letting you know when the system is armed or disarmed.

System software determines if the rider is involved in a slide, fall or hard impact and activates the airbag. Should the airbag deploy, the entire inner airbag system is replaceable by Ducati Malaysia.

The author was handed the Smart Jacket for review and asked for his evaluation. In this case, it was determined the size that best fit was a medium, and Ducati offers the Smart Jacket in various sizes as well as male and female fits.

Lifting the jacket, we found it had a bit of weight to it, approximately 3 kg or so due to the metal inflation canisters. Wearing the Smart Jacket, fitting is important as the airbag vest has to snug, but not tight.

Adjustability is done with Velcro attachments on either side of the rider’s waist and once done, the jacket is zipped up to the neck. Activation comes from a magnetic clasp at the neck and once contact is made, a vibration is sent to let the rider know the system is live.

Further confirmation of activation also comes from an LED on the left chest, flashing blue, green or red to indicate status such as low battery or charging. It should be noted that when the Smart Jacket battery is on low charge, an intermittent vibration signal is sent out at three second intervals, which got to be a little annoying.

We elected to wear the Smart Jacket over our daily riding jacket, and found the wind was cut down by a lot, though the heat level was acceptable on the move. Our daily riding jacket is a mesh textile unit from Dainese, fitted with all the necessary inserts including the back protector and wearing the Smart Jacket over it didn’t cause any discomfort aside from the snug feeling at the waist from the velcro straps.

With the sleeveless design of the vest, we found no restriction in movement on the bike, and after a couple of rides, didn’t realise it was there and paid no mind to it. However, putting the jacket on immediately reminded you of the weight and in practice, the back protector we had installed could have been removed since the Smart Jacket offers more protection than the standard motorcycle back protector.

However, this is one piece of safety gear we could not, and did not, want to put to the ultimate test. A brief consideration was made for a fall from the first floor balcony but discretion dictated this would not be a wise move.

So, who needs a Ducati Smart Jacket, priced at RM4,299? This is not a cheap piece of safety gear by any measure and for most Malaysian riders, a vest that costs as much as a kapchai does not make financial sense. As it is, many riders will use the cheapest helmet possible just to comply with the law, safety being secondary.

But, reports are emerging from Europe that authorities are planning to make motorcycle safety gear compulsory, notably in France where riders are obliged to wear gloves along with a helmet and Belgium, with discussions taking place to make airbag vests mandatory for road riders.

At this point, the Ducati Smart Jacket is something for the rider concerned with his or her personal safety and is willing to fork out the extra money for it. Perhaps, in coming years with widespread adoption of safety equipment like the Smart Jacket, prices will drop to more affordable levels.

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