airvest gets the pinochio treatment

Helite E-Turtle Airvest

Words and pics by Simon Bradley

Meet the new vest, not quite the same as the old vest...A while (OK, about 18 months) ago we reviewed what at the time was a prtty revolutionary safety product. The Helite Turtle was a combined spine protector and airbak that didn't use incredibly expensive electronics, didn't need you to send it off to Italy to get repacked if it was used and wouldn't cost you a second mortgage in the first place. But it might just save your life.

Well time, and technolgy, stand still for no man. And Helite are just as vulnerable to the relentless march of technology as anyone else.

The original Turtle connected to the bike by a simple lanyard. Advantages? Well, it's cheap, it's reliable and it's portable from bike to bike. And while all of those things are true, actually the portability could be a bit of an issue if you were really going to fit it properly and still have room to move. That was the other main problem. I like to move about quite a lot if I'm getting a wriggle on, and frankly the lanyard got in the way. To the extent that in my head (and of course that was wrong) if I attacked a left handeer enthusiastically and got my knee down the I'd set the airbag off. Like I say, that obviously was never going to happen, but it was a distraction.

Also, the original design had the metal base to the infaltion mechanism exposed on the front, and if you tucked in it would scratch the tank.

So enter the Heilte E-Turtle.

In essence, it's an update of the original Turtle with the mechanical activator replaced by a clever little solid state box. You can get the same vest, now called the Turtle 2, with mechanical activation, by the way. Just in case you were wondering.

So this little box sits there happily monitoring what's gong on. Or, specifically, how you are moving. And if it detects acceleration above a certain threshold in any direction then it fires the gas cartridge and Bang! you are protected. Being naturally cynical, I was curious to know if it was possible to set the vest off by, say, dropping it or even chucking it into a corner but I am assured that no, it knows. Well who am I to argue? Maybe one day I'll give it a try...

So how do you use it? Really, really easily. There's a lumpy bit on the right side, with a little window and a power switch logo under it. Put your finger on the logo and you'll feel the mechanism behind. Press three times and the vest will make a chirp and a green light will come on behind the window. The vest is now armed and ready to go. Finish your ride, press three times and it will chirp again and the light will go off. Iff the light goes red then the battery needs charging - plug the supplied lead into a USB socket and in half an hour or so it's all ready. I've charged it...twice in the four months or so I've been using it. Now admittedly we've been in lockdown but the day job means I actually have to legitimately use a bike, so it has got some proper action. What I'm saying is that you don't need to worry about it running out of charge dureing the day. It won't.

The bit wot makes it work.There's some very clever stuff behind this little light...I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's look at the design, because there have been some changes. For the better, too. First of all, as alluded to earlier, the activation mechanism is all internal. Yes, it's still quite hard but it's far less likely to muller the back of your tank if you lean forward. On the left there is an external pocket big enough for a small mobile phone (at a push) or an ID/credit card (easily). Surprisingly useful.

Obviously, there's a massive plus point for anyone who rides more than one bike on a regular basis. No connection to the machine means that there's no messing about either getting spare lanyards or (worse still) trying to work out where to attach to that won't either stop you from moving or get wrenched off in the event of being suddenly pulled by the lanyard (which rather defeats the object). As an option, you can also fit a transponder unit to your normal (or only) bike. Why? because if you're not moving the unit dozes off to save power. So imagine you're sat at the lights and some clown rams you up the back while trying to send a text. The on-bike unit will detect this and fire the vest before the idiot has even realised he's hit you. Which is A Good Thing because it leaves you in a state more able to get his insurance details rather than wait for an ambulance.

Is it all perfect? No. Well, that's not entirely fair. It depends on you and your ability to establish a routine quickly. I found that with the old vest connecting up the lanyard was just a part of getting on the bike. And I still forgot occasionally. Now I have to remember to turn the vest on, and it's not as easy. The old vest you just reach down for the lanyard and if you can feel it then you're connected. The new requires you to contort a little and watch the mirror for the little green light to flash. It's easy enough to do, in fact, just less tactile. However. If you've forgottem to turn it on the doing so requires nothing more than three presses on an easily reached button. The earlier version needed you to be stopped as connection is a two hand operation. Swings and roundabouts, I guess.

Helite and Airvest, the UK importer, are discussinga potential solution to this problem using a proximity sensor of some sort, but that's a future thing.

It's really simple, actually. If you move around on the bike a fair amount, and that isn't necessarily hangining off - if you go over lots of speed bumps on your normal journey and stand up to protect your back, or even if you take your adventure bike off-road occasionally - you'll want to be wireless. Definitely. You may not want to use it off road, though, as if your skills are anyting like mine you'll already be tired and fed up from constantly picking yourself and your bike up. Adding to the burden by needing to repack your vest every few minutes after you've set it off again might take the shine off the day. If you use more than one bike on a regular basis, and they aren't necessarily all yours then you want wireless. Even if you're delivering pizzas. Actually I've seen their riding, so especially if you're delivering pizzas. If you've never used an airvest before then wireless is definitey the way to go as there's nothing to unlearn.

If you only ever ride one bike and belong to the Police school of rigid positioning then probably the additional cost will bring you little benefit.

Ah yes. Cost. Clever technology isn't cheap. The e-Turtle will set you back £625, or £775 with the optional on bike module. That's £100 more than the mechanical version, but a good £1000 less than the majority of the competition.

I was impressed with the first version of the Turtle. I'm even more impressed with this one - I genuinely believe it's a life-saver, and it's user-friendliness makea it more likely to be used. It can't save you if it's hung up in your cupboard....

You can get yours from https://www.airvest.co.uk assumimng you're in the UK. You can also get advice from the very helpful team there on exactly what is best for you.

Do it, Seriously - I said it before and I'll say it again: it might save your life.






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