Honda Gold Wing Motorcycle Airbag System Explained

Most of us already know what an airbag or Supplementary Restraint System is and what it is meant to do and that's to save lives. Often referred to as a car safety device, the airbag is destined to prevent vehicle occupants from hitting interior objects and therefore lessen the severity of injuries. It is even used in the aerospace industry and military applications. So, how come all the cars are having this safety device, but there is only one production motorcycle in the world that it is fitted with it? Yes, you’ve heard it right: the only production motorcycle airbag system only exists on the full-featured version of the Honda Gold Wing. Origins
As some of you might know, Honda finished developing this motorcycle airbag system in late 2005, scheduled to be integrated for the first time on its 2006 Gold Wing model. The system included the airbag, the inflator (gas release mechanism), the crash sensor to monitor acceleration sensors and an ECU (Electronic Control Unit) which instantly performed calculations to determine when a collision is occurring. The final version of this system was, of course, the result of a variety data gathered on the behavior of motorcycles during frontal collisions. Honda even introduced the first motorcycle rider crash test dummy.

During a press conference held in Tokyo that year, Honda executives said the airbag works best in a straight-angle frontal collision up to 31 mph and that it plans to offer the system on more motorcycles, but started with the Gold Wing because of design restrictions on other models. They also stated the motorcycle would have to be heavy enough so the rider does not get thrown off the bike and over the airbag and that it could not be fitted on the sportier models, as they required the rider to lean forward over the handlebars.


Years passed by and Honda continued working and improving the system. The company’s team of specialists kept on conducting further crash tests and used computer simulations to get where it is today, developing the airbag’s shape, position and anchor points on the motorcycle.

Based on an analysis of crash data indicating that many motorcycle accident injuries and fatalities occur when the rider collides with another vehicle, the road, or other objects after a frontal collision, Honda determined that the role of a motorcycle airbag should be to reduce the rider’s kinetic energy as he/she is thrown forward.

On a motorcycle, the airbag lacks a firm support surface behind it. To solve this problem, the Honda system employs tether straps that anchor the airbag to the frame for support. A motorcycle may encounter a wide variety of crash conditions, and its attitude may vary significantly depending on the angle of impact.

According to Honda, their system only deploys in a severe frontal collision when forces over a preset value are detected. In principle, it should not deploy during collisions from the side or rear, nor during falls. Because a collision may involve a variety of factors, such as angled impact or the motorcycle getting wedged under a truck, the airbag cannot help lessen the severity of injuries in all cases. The airbag may also deploy due to a strong shock caused by the front wheel falling into a large hole or ditch, or in a collision with a curb or other object.


There are basically five steps involved in the airbag system mechanism when a collision occurs. As we said, there are several elements that form the airbag system.

There are four crash sensors attached two-per-side on the front forks, the airbag module, which contains the airbag and the inflator and is positioned in front of the rider and the airbag ECU, positioned to the right of the module.

First, the crash sensors detect the changes in acceleration caused by a frontal impact. Then, the airbag ECU, analyzes signals transmitted by the crash sensors to determine whether or not to inflate the airbag. If the result is positive, then the inflation is required, and it takes only 0.015 seconds until it is activated.

This means that the airbag begins to deploy. Once the airbag is deployed, it begins to absorb the rider’s kinetic energy as he/she is thrown forward. The airbag continues to absorb the kinetic energy by allowing the gas to escape through deflation vents located on either side of the airbag.
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