We all know how much fun riding can be and what a great feeling it is to hit the road and get some seed time on our bikes but every time we ride, there’s a chance we could get hurt and on a motorcycle, those injuries could be serious. We have to take our own safety into our own hands on our bikes but by choosing to ride in the proper gear, we can make the difference between getting up and walking away from a crash or getting a ride in an ambulance to the hospital. So, in this installment of the BikeBandit Garage, we’re going to take a look at what you need to know about body armor for street riding.
Rob Fish here with bikebandit.com. Aside from a helmet, body armor can be the most important protective gear that you should be investing in, from jackets and gloves to full-race suits. Body armor is pretty much in everything that you should be wearing but how do you know what is right for you? There are a lot of types of high-quality body armor on the market and we want to educate you on the various kinds of armor that you can protect yourself with.
First of all, what exactly is armor? Well, not quite. Motorcycle armor is a combination of pieces you wear to minimize the energy transferred to your body in the event of a crash. Motorcycle armor is usually found in the highest impact areas of the body, like your elbows, your shoulders, your knees, your back so, it will not only absorb the forces of an impact but it also can protect your body from abrasion also known as road rash. Some kinds of armor are very affordable, and others more expensive so not so much, right? But no matter how much you spend on armor, it will be cheaper than your visit to the hospital so you can definitely call it an investment in your safety.
Now, there are completely different kinds of armor for dirt riding and street riding but in this video, we’re focusing on the street variety. Street protection is specifically designed for incidents where riders go down typically at higher speeds, usually encountering one major impact and then hopefully sliding to a stop. Now, how the gear is attached to the rider is also different than dirt gear and that it’s usually built-in to the garments themselves.
Let’s use this jacket as an example, at first glance, you have no idea that there’s any armor in some places. This is because it’s less smooth so that it doesn’t snag during a slide, which would cause you to start tumbling, what you don’t see is the various forearm, elbow, shoulder and spine protection that’s hidden inside. Just remember though, street armor and dirt armor are very different and you should not ride on the street in dirt armor because that’s not what it was designed for and it probably won’t protect you in a fall. So what exactly is a body armor made of? Well, that all depends on what you’re buying and the quality of the pieces.
Some pieces of body armor only provide padding between the rider’s body and potential high-contact areas, such as simple soft foams or maybe memory foams. Others may use foam against the rider’s body with a hard-plastic cup facing outwards and so others use modern technology that blends the benefits of both. Let’s look further into each of these and discuss their pros and cons.
First, when it comes to foam, there are many different types that come in various configurations. From soft to hard, with open or closed cells with each type providing different levels of comfort and protection.
Take, for instance, most basic foams are very comfortable but offer minimal impact resistance, whereas a harder closed-cell foam will offer more resistance but less comfort because of its stiffness. Basic foams are fairly inexpensive to produce so you’ll find it in the most basic apparel. On the other end of the spectrum, however, there are amazing foams out there that are soft, breathable and can handle much more impact energy.
Now, let’s take a look at memory type foam which is very dense and offer superior impact absorption when compared to its less expensive counterparts. Its downfall is that it rebounds a bit slower, and because of its higher cost to produce, you’ll likely only find it on premium brands such as this Poron XRD used by Klim. Hard cup armor also known as GP Armor is designed to resist against puncture and abrasion injuries. Hard cup armor is very strong and often found in high-performance, high-speed applications, like sports jackets and race suits.
As you can see here in this Spidi Track Wind Pro. This type of armor is often built permanently into items like gloves but when it comes to jackets, pants, and suits, it’s usually removable in specially designed compartments, to hold it in place for maximum protection. The new player in protection materials is viscoelastic armor such as D30. This is very similar to memory foam and that it is soft, body-forming and extremely comfortable. What makes this better than traditional foams though is that it becomes rigid upon impact, meaning it can absorb high levels of energy while still remaining thin and flexible.
This is what you’ll normally find in quality jackets, pants, and suits such as Icon or let’s say Klim technical riding gear.
Now, with all these variations in armor, it would be nice if there was some sort of rating system that was used to designate the level of protection each time it gets you, right? Well, there is and it’s called the CE rating system. Now, you may have heard the term CE rated or maybe CE approved in the past but you weren’t clear on what it meant.
Now, CE stands for ConformitÃ© EuropÃ©enne and refers to a system of safety standards used to test all sorts of motorcycle armor sold in the European Union. So when a product is CE rated, it simply means that a particular piece of armor meets the European standard for safety, that’s really it.
Now, American manufacturers and retailers have unofficially adopted the European system because it’s comprehensive, it’s easy to use and frankly, it’s because the U.S. doesn’t have a comparable system currently in place.
The CE rating system comes in levels, which makes it easier for you to know how much protection you’re getting for the money. The test goes something like this, an 11-pound weight, gets dropped from roughly six feet up onto the piece of specified armor nine different times. So, to obtain a level one certification, no more than 18 kilonewtons can be transmitted through and no one impact can exceed 24 kilonewtons. As you can see here, this D30 Viper Stealth Back Protector has a level one certification. So to obtain level two certification, only nine kilonewtons can be transmitted through and no one impact can exceed 12 kilonewtons. As you can see here, this D30 Viper Pro Back Protector has a level two safety certification.
Now, some armor can you protect you even more than that.
Forcefield, a major player in the soft armor marketplace makes a back protector called the Pro Sub 4 as it transmits less than four kilonewtons through to the rider and that my friends, that is an impressive number. So remember this when you’re looking at purchasing armor. While there may be cheaper pieces out on the market, be sure to check for a CE rating to ensure that you’re getting quality armor that you know will protect you when you need it most.
So aside from the rating, one very important thing to look for in motorcycle armor, is that it fits properly. Armor should be just big enough to cover the joints or limits it’s designed for while being as small as possible to reduce weight and bulk.
For example, check out this Blast Jacket from AGV Sport which fits Shane perfectly. The shoulder, elbow and back armor are positioned right where they should be and they fit snug to his body so that they won’t shift around in a slide or a tumble. But now if we move up a couple of sizes, you can see how the armor is no longer where it needs to be and will easily shift around during an impact. That means this armor can’t do its job and maybe just as bad as having no armor at all. Fit is absolutely crucial in motorcycle gear and even more so when armor is involved.
Finally, let’s talk about replacing armor. Now, some folks think that armor is meant to be replaced after just one crash but that’s not always the case, some armor’s designed to take multiple impacts and still be fine, such as the Seeflex Armor from REV’IT. Now, on the other end of the spectrum would be back protectors that are built, let’s say on a grid system such as the Spidi Warrior. Now, once the integrity of the grid has been compromised that armor should be replaced. Now, there’s also no law that requires armors to be replaced after a crash so you personally need to visually inspect your armor and replace it if needed.
So, there you have it just a quick overview on street motorcycling armor. We hope that you found this video helpful. If you’re ready to make an investment in your safety, here’s a link so that you can shop for the armor and the protective gear that best fits your needs and don’t ever hesitate to contact us with any questions that you have. We’re always here to help guide you for the products that will be the perfect fit for you.
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Thanks again for joining us, we’ll see you soon. Now, it’s time to go ride.