Of all the words that you never want to see in a recall announcement, “explode” probably ranks pretty high on that list.
But, this is exactly what we saw for this recall that affects the 2009-2016 Honda Gold Wing models equipped with an airbag, as the “air bag inflator may explode,” according to the recall headline.
This recall is of course part of the ongoing set of recalls that affect vehicles equipped with Takata airbags – of note, the new 2018 Gold Wing Tour Airbag model does not use a Takata-made airbag.
In total, this recall only affects 960 units (2009-2010 and 2012-2016 model years), though this is the third time that Honda has had to issue a recall for its Gold Wing models, because of Takata.
Starting this season, it will be mandatory for GP riders (Moto3, Moto2, and MotoGP) to wear an approved airbag system within their leather racing suits.
The move has been a long one coming, and aims to bring increased safety to the Grand Prix classes.
The rule applies to all permanent racers in the GP paddock, as well as replacement riders who participate for more than two rounds, but it does not apply to wildcard riders.
Along with the mandate, the new rule sets a number of conditions that the airbag systems must conform to, and their specificities are eyebrow-raising to say the least.
In the automotive world, there have been massive recalls of Takata airbag systems. And one has already found its way in the motorcycle industry, affecting over 2,700 Honda Gold Wing motorcycles.
Well, now with another wave of Takata airbag recalls, once again we see Big Red’s venerable tourer getting recalled by the NHTSA – 882 units to be precise, from the 2006-2009 and 2012 model years.
The recall stems from the fact that the inflators for the airbag may degrade over time, because of humidity and temperature, which could cause an unpredictably larger explosion when an airbag inflation is triggered.
The explosion may be large enough in fact, that it could rupture the inflation device, and thus pose a health risk.
The FIM is taking further steps to contain the cost of aerodynamics. The banning of winglets decided earlier this year was made on two grounds: removing the danger of being struck by a protruding wing, and reducing the potentially astronomical cost of an aerodynamic war beginning.
Banning winglets would prevent the first issue from being a problem, but would do nothing to address the second point. Indeed, with the aerodynamics cat well and truly out of the bag, the factories have already hinted that their focus would switch to fairing design.
The Grand Prix Commission have moved to stop that war starting before it begins. From 2017, factories will have to homologate fairing and front mudgard designs, with only one upgrade to each allowed per season.
The idea behind it is to allow factories to continue to develop aerodynamics, but to limit the amount of time and money spent in search of wheelie prevention.
The rules do leave one loophole open, however. The aerodynamic homologation rules apply to each rider separately. In theory, each rider on a Yamaha, Honda, or Ducati could start with a different fairing, the results of which could be assessed by the factory to help develop the next homologated version of the fairing for use in mid-season.
If you follow the four-wheeled world at all, you will know that there has been a massive recall for vehicles equipped with Takata airbags. The recall affects roughly 34 million vehicles in the United States, at last count, though more seem to be added each week, my own four-wheeler included.
The size of the recall is due mostly to the fact that Takata makes the majority of vehicle airbag systems, and their design is fairly universal. In fact, it’s so universal that Takata even powers the airbags found on the Honda Gold Wing, which brings us to this story.
For the same reason that millions of cars are being recalled, American Honda is recalling 2,701 Honda Gold Wing motorcycles that were equipped with an airbag feature.
American riders will be pleased to hear that the Alpinestars Tech-Air Race airbag technology, which is a self-contained and self-actuated system, will finally be available in the USA, starting later this summer. This means that the same technology that protects MotoGP riders Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez, and Dani Pedrosa will now available to the common two-wheeled enthusiast – thus a huge step forward for motorcycle safety. Alpinestars says that when the Tech-Air Race is fully inflated, it protects that back (with an integrated back protector), kidneys, chest and shoulders. Additionally, with a firmware upgrade, the Race system can be configured to run the Tech-Air Street settings, for non-race use in both on-road and off-road situations.
Roughly two weeks ago, we broke the story that Alpinestars and Dainese were headed to court over the alleged patent infringement that was occurring between the two brands’ airbag technologies. That report has since spurred a pair of press releases from the two brands on the subject. First to respond was Alpinestars, which released a statement that clarified that the lawsuit in Italy centered around the material of the airbag. Alpinestars also offered correction to our report, saying instead that that no legal action had occurred in the German market. Dainese has now released its own statement on the matter, which insists that legal action was indeed taken in the German market.
Last week we broke the story that Alpinestars and Dainese were headed to court over their respective airbag suit systems. In response to that story, and the subsequent retellings of that story on other sites, Alpinestars has issued a press release that further clarifies, corrects, and explains the situation between the two companies. The first big takeaway from Alpinestars’ statement is that at issue in the patent infringement suit is actually the material of the airbag itself, i.e. the actual physical material used in the bladder that holds the air. The second big takeaway from the Alpinestars press release is that German retailers were directly contacted by Dainese, and told to cease and desist from offering the Alpinestars Tech-Air Street system.
Airbag technology is the future of safety in the motorcycle industry, of this much I am certain. Intelligent airbag suits allow for a level of impact protection previously unheard of in the motorcycle industry, or any industry for that matter, and the effects are already obvious both at the pinnacles of our sport and at the consumer level. The business side of all this is incredibly lucrative, especially for companies who are inventing in this space and patenting their work. As such, it should probably not surprise us to learn that Alpinestars and Dainese have headed to court over their two respective airbag brands: Tech Air and D-Air.
Dainese just released its D-Air Misano 1000 jacket, the world’s first commercially available self-contained airbag jacket for motorcyclists. Let’s be really clear about one thing: this is a sea change for motorcycle safety. Debuting at the San Marino GP, the venue for the Dainese D-Air Misano 1000’s release is no mistake, as the jacket builds off the Italian company’s experience with airbag suits in the MotoGP World Championship. At the highest level of racing, airbag technology has become a game-changing technology, and now riders on the street can use essentially that same airbag system, that same proprietary crash-sensing software (modified for street use), and that same company history of safety that the professionals rely on while on the race track.
For those looking for more protection from their racing leathers, Dainese D-Air Race suits are finally coming to the USA. Already bringing the technology in Europe last year, Dainese is set finally to bring the D-Air Race technology to the USA, in September 2015. Riders interested in the airbag-equipped leather suit have two options: 1) the top-of-the-line off-the-rack Misano D-Air cow leather suit ($2,499), or 2) the made-to-measure Mugello D-Air custom kangaroo leather suit (Price TBD). This announcement represents the first airbag-equipped motorcycle race suits to go on sale in the USA (Alpinestars Tech-Air system is still not available, though the rival Italian brand is close to coming to market), and offers track riders the same level of protection as Dainese’s MotoGP riders, like Valentino Rossi.