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RST Airbag Armour Shirt review | Airbag-equipped armoured shirt tested

By BikeSocial Member

The BikeSocial member Test Team is made up of experienced riders covering high mileages who are able to subjectively analyse and review kit that they use day-in, day-out.

Posted:

12.06.2024

 

Date reviewed: April 2024 | Tested by: Simon Roberts | Price: £389.99 | www.rst-moto.com

 

Reviewing RST’s armourless Pro Series Adventure X-treme Race Dept textile jacket and trousers gave me the perfect opportunity to test the airbag-equipped RST Airbag Armour Shirt. It has CE Level 2 shoulder, elbow and chest armour and a CE Level 1 back protector containing the technology for an In&motion airbag that inflates if a crash is detected. I’ve been wearing the shirt periodically over eight months on my BMW R1200GS Adventure.

Pros
  • Airbag increases safety

  • Wear under any correctly-sized leather or textile jacket

  • Highly breathable

  • Level 2 armour stays perfectly positioned

  • Chest armour included

Cons
  • Cost (initial outlay and ongoing airbag tech subscription)

  • Not suited to winter use

  • Bigger outer jacket needed to accommodate potential inflation

Material and Construction

The RST Airbag Armour Shirt is primarily made from a single layer of polyester elastane mesh, and comes with a padded low-profile neoprene collar and a grippy silicone hemline. The mesh itself has proven to be robust and survived some rough treatment. The central zip is chunky and easy to use, with the top-stop hidden inside a small ‘hood’ so it doesn’t touch the skin.

Within the shirt is an In&motion autonomous airbag, with the electronics and replaceable inflator stored within a CE-approved back protector that’s covered by a hard plastic shell.

Fit and Feel

The RST L2i Armour Shirt fits smaller than usual. I am 5ft 9in and just under 13 stone (82.5kg) with a medium build, and the L-XL size fits me perfectly when wearing a base layer underneath. The fit is not restrictive and it sits close to my body with no surplus material anywhere. A grippy silicone hemline keeps the shirt from riding up.

As well as this version with the In&motion airbag system (you can find our detailed review of the In&motion system), RST produces the same shirt with a regular back protector.

This airbag-equipped shirt weighs in at 2.4kg, which feels heavy in the hand, but when worn it feels comfy, secure and substantial.

While riding with the shirt underneath an outer layer of the correct size (see below) the shirt cannot be felt, and I found it very comfortable over long distances.

The In&motion airbag system contributes much of the weight, although the substantial CE Level 2 armour at the chest, shoulders and elbows is not particularly light either.

Over my eight months of wearing the shirt, two challenges have become clear.

Firstly, it is possible to wear the airbag shirt under any jacket that allows the original armour to be removed, as long as there is sufficient space to accommodate chest armour and the inflated airbag in case it is deployed. This means it’s a problem to wear any jacket that fits closely prior to adding the RST Airbag Armour Shirt underneath it.

Secondly, the airbag shirt is designed to be worn with a base layer or even RST’s WindBlock Shirt underneath, and an outer jacket on top.

Come late autumn/winter I had issues as airbag systems are not designed to be worn under heated tops, jumpers or down jackets – and there’s no room for such warm layers underneath a close-fitting armoured shirt.

In my case, I transferred the In&Motion control unit to a compatible Furygan Airbag Gilet, which I wore over the top of insulation layers and underneath a jacket with traditional limb armour. This solution worked perfectly for me, but it meant the RST shirt became redundant while the weather was cold. Considering the £389.99 cost, this felt far from perfect.

Warm and cold weather use

The RST Airbag Armour Shirt works exceptionally well in warm weather with the mesh chassis allowing plenty of air to penetrate. Ultimately, though, the ventilation capabilities of the outer jacket will dictate warm weather comfort, not the airbag shirt.

The CE Level 2 armour that’s located at chest, shoulders, elbows is extensively perforated, although the back protector, which is CE Level 1 prior to airbag deployment, is not.

In autumn I found wearing an RST WindBlock Shirt underneath the airbag shirt helped retain body heat and combat the effects of windchill. However as winter approached, I was forced to switch to a more suitable In&motion option (see above).  

Comfort when on and off the bike

The airbag shirt is very comfortable both on and off the bike, as long as the outer jacket worn over the top is correctly sized.

Washing and care

The labels on the airbag shirt state that owners should not wash, bleach, tumble dry, iron or dry clean. In which case, I didn’t.

Three alternatives to the RST Airbag Armour Shirt

Of the many alternatives, most are airbag-equipped vests, outer jackets with an integrated airbag or more straightforward armoured base layers without an airbag.

 

These are just four of many alternatives – you can find all the motorcycle armour and base layers we’ve tested here and be sure to check for the discounts available through Bikesocial membership.

RST Airbag Armour Shirt review: Verdict

An airbag can significantly reduce the risk of injury, yet only you can evaluate if the £389.99 price of this RST airbag shirt and either a subscription (£12 monthly or £120 annually) or a one-off £400 fee represents value for your money.

My view is that for £12 a month I’m up for reducing my risk of injury. When I divide this figure by the number of miles I do in a month, it’s a no-brainer versus what £12 normally buys me.

As for the £240 difference between an airbag-equipped shirt and the non-airbag variant, I feel the differential is irrelevant if it buys me access to airbag technology. Whether you have a spare £240 is a different matter.

RST’s Airbag Armour Shirt is great, but I feel you need to think carefully before you buy one. The specification is impressive and it’s seriously comfy under the right jacket, especially in warm weather. But here in the UK, riding in winter demands some insulation - and if you’re like me and ride all year then this shirt isn’t the ideal solution.

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