Impact Protection | Gear

WORDS: Ari Henning
PHOTOS: Joe Neric

Motorcyclists tend to focus on abrasion protection more than anything else when assessing riding apparel. It’s no wonder—conjure up a mental image of a crash and you probably envision a lengthy slide. But what about that initial fall, or subsequent collision with a hard or immovable object? That’s when you need real padding, not the soft-foam placeholders that come standard in some apparel. Today’s gear shows how far we’ve come since the simple foam insert. Read on to see what sort of impact protection is available to today’s riders.

1 - Impact Safe-T Armor Chest Protector

[ Remember when World Superbike racer Troy Corser caught his BMW S1000RR square in the chest at Brno in 2010? Corser credits his survival to his Impact Safe-T Armor chest protector, and he's just one of many riders who rely on ISA's products to keep them safe on street and at the the track. This $95 C-008 chest protector uses a hand-sculpted nitrile core and a polycarbonate impact diffusor to provide impact protection for the chest and ribs. Impact Safe-T Armor has several styles of chest and back protectors for men, women and children, and all pieces are handmade and custom fitted.

2 - Knox Cross Shorts

[ Knox components are employed in lots of other brand's garments, but the Britain-based impact protection company also makes its own attire, including armored shirts, pants and shorts. These Cross Shorts are made from breathable stretch mesh and provide impact protection to the hips and upper thigh by way of pivoting, overlapping CE-approved armor panels. There's also CE-approved padding in place to protect the tailbone. The Cross shorts sell for $119.95 and are perfect for wearing under leathers or riding pants.

3 - Forcefield L2K Back Protector

[ Forcefield's back protectors are some of the most comfortable we've worn thanks to the multi-layer, flexible armor material. They're also one of the most effective setups on the market because they exceed CE Level 2 standards (hence the L2 designation), the highest possible level. The $149.00 L2K builds on the previous L2 by adding Kevlar stitching (hence the K) for added strength and durability. Add that to the fact that the NitrexEvo energy absorbing core material is capable of repeat performances and you have an effective product that will cover your back for years to come.

4 - Aerostich TF2 Competition Back Protector

[ Aerostich's TF2 Competition back protector was designed for use in the company's Roadcrafter riding suit, but included adhesive hook-and-loop mounts and a removable belt mean you can wear it under any jacket or suit. These full-length back protectors provide protection for kidneys, spine and coccyx areas with a rate-reactive foam that hardens upon impact, helping to disperse and absorb the energy of a hard hit. The Competition model sells for $120. There's also a smaller Standard version available for $75.

5 - Dainese Thorax Wave Pro

[ Looking for complete upper body protection from big hits? Dainese's $399.99 Thorax Wave Pro has you covered. This battle-ready jacket combines a jointed CE-approved aluminum-core back protector, polypropylene elbow, forearm and shoulder armor, a hard chest plate, kidney support and semi-rigid rib protection. Everything is affixed to an adjustable, elasticated mesh chassis for maximum breathability. Wear it under your jersey or adventure jacket for complete upper body protection on the track or trail.

6 - Alpinestars Chest And Back Protector Inserts

[That thin, flimsy piece of foam that came in your jacket's back pad pocket should be considered just a placeholder. You ought to replace it with something more substantial, like Alpinestars' $29.95, CE-approved Bio Armor back protector, which offers legitimate impact protection for your spine. For added chest protection, wearers of Alpinestars' suits and jackets can slide a $39.95 set of Bionic Chest Pads into their attire, thereby placing foam-backed hard armor between their torso and anything trying to inflict harm.

7 - Icon Stryker Vest

[Icon's ubiquitous Stryker vest incorporates a CE-approved back protector, injection-molded chest plate, clavicle and rib protection and a built-in kidney belt. It offers comprehensive torso protection, but Icon is still working on the magic forcefield that protects rider's elbows and shoulders, so don't forget to don a jacket with elbow and shoulder protection. The Stryker was designed with a slim profile so it fits under your gear. Despite what you see on the road, it's not supposed to be worn by itself! The Stryker vest is available in subdued colors as well as mil-spec hues, in cuts for both men and women for $130.

8 - Bohn Adventure Pants

[Ride in jeans? Ever think about what would happen if you hit the deck? Roadrash aside, dropping onto your knee or hip on asphalt is not going to be pleasant. Reduce the risk of injury with a pair of Bohn's armored Adventure pants. The Adventure pants use a breathable lycra chassis with CE-approved Zorb padding at the tailbone, hips, thighs and knees. The Adventures were designed to be comfortable and covert, and are reportedly quite popular among female riders. Pick up a pair for $159.00.

9 - D30 Armor Upgrade

[Your jacket or suit probably came with foam armor, but is it good enough to save you from injury? D30's flexible and ultra-thin CE-approved Viper back pad and Evo shoulder and elbow armor are available as an armor upgrade kit for $108. D30's high-tech padding is strain-rate sensitive; under normal conditions it's soft and pliable, but when struck the molecules lock together to absorb and dissipate impact energy. And if you're looking for low profile protection, D30 is the way to go. The Viper back pad is only 11mm thick, while the elbow and shoulder pieces are just 10mm thick.