Great product, slightly odd name

Having noticed a few fellow ELAM’ites wearing the Helite Turtle Airbag vests on social rides, I chatted to the owners and was very impressed with the safety potential. So I took the plunge and paid £ 450 on 0% APR from Sportbikeshop about two years ago.

How does it work?

The vest is worn over your riding kit and adjusted with three fastening clips. The instructions advise you to have approximately a fist width from your body to allow for inflation, so the vest isn’t too restrictive.

It works by using a tether which attaches permanently to the bike, the other end clicks securely into to the vest itself. In the event the rider is detached from the tether (and therefore the bike) a CO2 cartridge is triggered which ‘explodes’ the airbags within the vest. The triggering system is maintenance free and no subscription which appealed to me too.

I chose a spot on the subframe underneath the riders seat. It’s a really simple process and I have a tether on all the bikes I own, including my dedicated track KTM RC8. I can therefore use the vest to commute, ELAM rides, touring and equally on track days.

The airbag shape integrated in the vest absorbs impacts and stabilizes the whole upper body from head/neck to tailbone.

It has a standard back protector which is reassuring in the event of a trigger mechanism failure.


The Reality

I was ‘lucky’ enough to test the vest when a car tail ended me on a roundabout near Colchester about a month after buying it.

It was a slow speed incident, maybe 15-20mph, the car clipping my rear wheel and sending bike and rider sliding across the tarmac. The first I recall of the vest initiating was a loud bang, akin to a shot gun and then a squeezing sensation, not painful but enough to almost take my breath away. Within 30 seconds the pressure started to ease as the automatic deflation initiated.

It was then I realised apart from a bruised knee I was totally unscathed, no whip lash, no upper body injuries, not even bruises.

Resetting the vest was a simple process of buying a new CO2 cartridge (£19) and following the instructions to reset the trigger mechanism.

What’s it like to live with?

In many ways it’s the best safety riding kit I own – it’s flexible, easy to put on, weather resistant and works.

That said you do know you are wearing the vest, I wouldn’t say it prohibitive in terms of bulk or weight but you know you are wearing it, especially off the bike.

Helite are now doing a large range of inflatable clothing including integrated jackets –