Protective armor vests have been big in off-road riding for a long time. But considering all of the bone-breaking, life-threatening obstacles that lay in wait on the street, doesn’t it make sense for street riders to thrown on some extra armor as well? Here’s a rundown of the best types of protective armor available to street riders!
ATGATT: “All The Gear, All The Time.” For many riders, it’s the only way they’ll ride. But even riders who always wear a jacket, helmet, gloves and boots might find themselves under-served by the gear they wear. The exception might be those who like to play in the dirt – safety-conscious dirt riders will “armor up” when they hit the trails, strapping on chest, elbow, knee and shin and even neck protection in addition to boots, gloves and a helmet – but it’s safe to say that most street riders won’t do the same.
But considering all of the bone-breaking, life-threatening obstacles that lay in wait – potholes, oil slicks, debris, and of course cars – doesn’t it make sense for street riders to thrown on some extra armor as well? Here’s a rundown of the very best of different types of protective armor available to street riders.
The first thing you should look for when buying any piece of protective gear is CE certification. This is a mandatory quality conformity marking for certain products that are sold in European markets (CE is an abbreviation for Conformite’ Europe’enne). CE shoulder, elbow, and knee armor is designated as EN1621-1; that’s the CE limb standard for motorcycle protective gear. CE back protectors are designated EN1621-2. A back protector that’s also marked Level 2 or B2 meets higher standards. When purchasing protective armor, make sure that it’s labeled with those numbers, and not just a CE rating. It’s a good idea to avoid buying any protective gear that’s not CE rated.
CHEST AND BACK PROTECTION
It’s fairly evident that, next to your head, the area in need of the most protection is your torso. After all, that’s where your spine and vital organs are, and any damage to those in a crash can be fatal. Armored jackets may provide a bit of protection for your back, but a wear-alone back protector or combination armored vest is designed to fit snugly and conforms to your torso – which will enable it to absorb more impact energy if you should come off the bike. The Icon Stryker and the Fly Clip Entry Undercover II are great examples of the vest-style protector; they cover the chest and back, are lightweight, and can fit riders of just about every size.
In addition, there are a wide range of insert-style back protectors – these simply slide into an internal pocket on the inside of your jacket. The nice thing about inserts? A good one, like the Forcefield SuperLite, doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money. There are a number of excellent strap-on back protectors, and riders who may want to have extra protection (looking at you, wheelie fans) should think about investing in one. Alpinestars’ Nucleon KR-1, CE Level 2 rated, is one of the best back protectors on the market.
Finally, if you really want to go all-out, there are full upper-body protective jackets that’ll give you coverage on your shoulders, elbows, chest and back. The Leatt 3DF AirFit Body Protector offers all of this, plus a neck brace connector.
ELBOW AND KNEE PROTECTION
As with back protectors, many street motorcycle jackets have pockets for elbow armor. If you want to upgrade the elbow protection that your jacket came with – or if you skimped and bought a cheap jacket that didn’t come with any – you’ve got some options. These Joe Rocket elbow inserts are CE rated, and will fit into just about any jacket.
As for knee protection, that opens up a separate discussion – wearing actual motorcycle pants or armored jeans, versus your favorite pair of Levis. Along with the fact that motorcycle pants and jeans are much more resistant to abrasion than regular jeans (which will virtually vaporize upon impact with the pavement in all but the slowest crashes), they’ll also have inserts for knee protectors as well. REV’IT! and Scorpion Exo are two companies that offer knee as well as elbow inserts as an option.
Don’t have knee inserts in your motorcycle pants or armored jeans? Consider picking up Icon’s Cloverleaf Knee Sliders. These are similar to the kneepads that skateboarders wear; they’re designed to be worn over pants, and offer internal knee protection as well as removable external nylon pucks.
HIPS AND BUTT
There’s no two ways around it – if you go down, you’re likely to bang up your hips and ass. And while most motorcycle pants and armored jeans offer knee protection, many don’t offer hip padding, and fewer still offer any protection for your butt. Technical undershorts are a great way to augment the protection in your riding pants. The EVS Tug 02 offers hard molded padding in the hips, while the Alpinestars Comp Pro offers hip and tailbone padding. If you have the Alpinestars’ Nucleon KR-1 mentioned above, there’s an optional Tailbone Protector attachment that gives you additional protection.
How you choose to protect your body isn’t the most important part, it’s that you’re actually doing it. It can be easy to brush off the need for protective gear and think that an accident would never happen to you. But accidents do happen and being prepared is the only way to ensure that you’ll walk away from a crash. After all, we’ve all heard the “that spine protector saved my life” stories. And while nobody wants to have one of those stories to tell…it would be a lot better to live through a motorcycle accident to tell it than the alternative.
Be smart out there, think about the risk, and make the investment in quality protective gear. It really could make all the difference in the world.
Besides your helmet, what piece of protective gear do you swear by, and why?