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Sportbike and Motorcycle Protective Gear Guide

It is a well known truth that riding a motorcycle is an inherently dangerous activity. The body of the rider is astride the bike and is exposed to all of the elements of nature and man. Riders need protection - This is the reason that so many motorcycle apparel companies exist.

If you are a conscientious rider, you know the phrase "All the Gear All the Time," or ATGATT. This gear includes:

  • A protective riding jacket
  • Long (often reinforced)pants
  • Over-the-ankle boots
  • Gloves
  • Motorcycle helmet

Broadly speaking, your motorcycle costume is a smart idea and is far more effective than mere street clothes at keeping a downed rider from severe injury. However, even with all of that gear in place, more can be done to prevent extensive and debilitating injury in the event of a very hard fall.

In fact, the options are extensive, varied and widely available, mostly thanks to the sport of motorcycle racing.

To help you get up to speed on the variety of protective gear available and what may be right for you, this guide covers the following:

Remember, any protection a rider wears should work much like an integrated system as one piece reinforces and supplements the other in order to keep impact and abrasion at bay.

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Certification Standards

Any discussion of motorcycle protective gear cannot be complete without addressing certifications. At present, there is only one testing group. It was created and is maintained by the European Union.

Passing specific technical tests conducted by that body nets an item the well-known CE Certified (or CE Approved) label. However, this can be misleading as any product can achieve such a designation if it proves itself through any of the many forms of testing. What really matters are the standards implemented during the examination which define exactly what and how each item should be tested.

EN 1621-1:1997 Standard

There are two measures used for motorcycle protective products. The first is EN 1621-1:1997. This standard evaluates items made for protecting the shoulders, elbows and forearms, hips, knees and lower leg areas. Garments designed to protect those body parts that withstand the testing procedures earn the CE Certified label.

EN 1621-2:2003 Standard

The second measure is designated EN 1621-2:2003 and it is only for back protection. There are two levels of CE certification within this standard, each based on the amount of force transferred through to the spine when the protector is impacted.

Level 1 is given to back protectors which allow between 18 and 24 kN (Kilonewtons is a measure of force energy; 1kN = 1000 newtons) to pass through the protector to the rider. Level 2 is stricter and only allows for an average peak force of between 9 and 12 kN to pass through.

Thus, when you see "CE Certified" or "CE Approved" for any protection item, look for which standard was used to achieve that certification. Ensure that whichever protection item you choose to acquire has been verified as safe using the CE certification procedures.

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Base Layers

Protection worn close to the body, under the standard compliment of gear, or even right next to the skin is growing in popularity. Compression garments emerged thanks to bicycle racing and Motocross and even moisture-management and cooling/heating gear took its cue from the extreme sports world. This protection is often referred to as ‘base’ gear, and is worn as an undergarment between skin and your shirt or pants.

Base layers supplement the protective gear worn over it. With padding, reinforcement in key areas and high-tech materials all working to keep the rider safe and comfortable, this equipment alone does not offer significant abrasion resistance or severe impact protection. Base layers supplement the apparel you wear on top of it and helps maintain a comfortable more consistent "feel" for whatever protection you add.

 

Basic Base Protection

Intermediate Base Protection

Advanced Base Protection

Top:

REV’IT Women’s Trinity Shirt

Top:

Dainese Norsorex Vest

Top:

Forcefield Body Armour Pro Shirt

Price: $74.99

Price: $119.99

Price: $299.00

Features:

  • Polyamide outer shell
  • Autofit cuffs and hem
  • Turtleneck with zipper
  • climate control unit

Features:

  • Crash Absorb inserts on abdomen and chest
  • Elasticated inserts in silicone rubber on the waist
  • Perforated Pro-shape
  • Breathable Jersey Holl

Features:

  • CE Approved to EN1621-2 Level 2 (back protector)
  • Removable armor at the back, elbow, shoulder and chest
  • Highly flexible and breathable
  • 3D molding
  • Repeat Performance Technology (RPT)
 

Bottom:

Klim Women’s Solstice Pants

Bottom:

Icon Field Armor 2 Shorts

Bottom:

Forcefield Body Armour Pro Pants

Price: $42.99

Price: $51.00

Price: $279.00

Features:

  • Women-specific athletic contoured patterning
  • Breathable, moisture-wicking fabric
  • Anti-microbial and fast drying
  • Four-way stretch
  • Drop down back tail

Features:

  • Stretch Hydradry wicking chassis
  • Abrasion resistant padded Aramid hip panels
  • Padded crotch panel for maximum comfort
  • Mesh panels help prevent overheating

Features:

  • Constructed from Lycra / Meryl fabric
  • Soft, lightweight, and breathable comfort
  • 4-Layer armorflex protectors (100 Joule rated) covering the pelvis, hip, thigh, buttocks, and coccyx
  • 3-Layer molded protectors (70 Joule rated) covering the knees
  • Designed for specialist sports where severe blows to the body are common

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Back Protectors

Motorcycle road racer Barry Sheene invented the first back protector by lacing together old helmet visors. Its first use was within that sport, but it quickly grew to the point where virtually every modern motorcycle riding jacket now has - at minimum - padding placed along the spinal area, and many have a built-in slot in which to insert a more complete piece.

A back protector minimizes injury to a rider's spine in the event of a crash or fall.

Most protectors incorporate a tough and strong outer shell designed to handle a hard strike and sliding across the pavement while keeping the spine safe through the use of energy absorbing padding. The science behind it is actually very complex, but the mission couldn’t be simpler.

Styles range from inserts into existing pockets on a riding jacket to those with straps allowing them to be worn under an outer layer. There are branded versions designed to be worn with a specific manufacturer's apparel, after-market gear, and universal types which should work with almost any kind of apparel. Deciding the style and type you need is up to the riding apparel you will use and the type of riding you do.

In general, any CE Certified Level 1 back protector is perfectly acceptable for use on the streets. It offers safety, protection and will not interfere with operating the motorcycle. If you race live in a particularly dangerous area for riding motorcycles, a CE Certified Level 2 protector is your best option as it is the ultimate in spinal defense. Buy a certified back protector that integrates with your current riding jacket or one that can be worn without interfering with your riding.

Wear it all the time.

 

Basic Back Protection

Intermediate Back Protection

Advanced Back Protection

Insert:

REV'IT! Women's Knox Advance X CE Back Protector

Insert:

Forcefield Body Armour Superlite L1 Back Insert

Insert

Dainese Air G2 Level 2 Shield

Price: $29.99

Price: $49.00

Price: $89.99

Features:

  • Made from a 3-layer construction with a unique polypropylene honeycomb inner core
  • For unisex sizes medium and larger
  • For REV'IT! Women's size 40 and larger

Features:

  • CE-approved (Level 1)
  • RPT (Repeat Performance Technology)
  • Nitrex Evo® construction
  • Lightweight and flexible
  • Molds to body shape; 3D molding

Features:

  • Back protector compatible with specific Dainese jackets.
  • Back protector certified according to the standard EN 1621.2 / 2003 (Level 2).
  • Double jersey mesh liner
 

Universal:

Spidi Back Warrior Light

Universal:

Dainese New Back Protector 2000/8-9

Universal:

Forcefield Body Armour Women's Sportlite L2 Back Protector

Price: $89.99

Price: $109.99

Price: $179.00

Features:

  • The lightest and most comfortable Level 1 back protector in the Spidi collection
  • Total weight of the system is 200 grams

Features:

  • Back protector certified according to the standard EN 1621.2/2003 (Lev. 1)
  • Back protector articulated plates
  • Lumbar joint
  • Partially superimposed outer polypropylene plates
  • Inner core in Crash Absorb® shock absorbing material

Features:

  • Fully CE-approved to EN1621-2:2003 (Level 2)
  • Removable and washable outer cover
  • Breathable and lightweight
  • Repeat Performance Technology (RPT)
  • Anatomically and ergonomically designed
 

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Chest Protectors

Chest protection also found mainstream popularity thanks to the world of off-road motorcycle racing. Every professional motocross racer wears a protector which covers the front and back of the torso to ensure a rider survives a crash free of severe injuries in order to compete later that same day. For the street, this gear is often separated into a chest and back protector for ease of use.

The chest protector is simply a back protector for the front of your body, so the way it performs is essentially identical - hard outer surface with soft, impact-absorbing padding on the inside.

Chest protectors are a bit less common, but many good models exist. There are many variations and they run along the same range as back protectors with some made for inserting into pre-existing pockets to more universal types.

Only one level of CE Certification is possible for chest protectors, so be certain that the one you plan to purchase has passed the necessary tests to achieve the designation.

 

Basic Back Protection

Intermediate WBack Protection

Advanced Back Protection

Insert:

Spidi Warrior Chest Armor

Insert:

Dainese Women's Thorax Protector

Insert:

Dainese Armour Pro

Price: $59.99

Price: $69.99

Price: $399.99

Features:

  • 21.8 Kn shock absorbing value (clears prEn 1621-3 test)
  • 644 square centimeter area covered by the protector
  • Max thickness is 15 mm
  • Great air circulation
  • 140 gram weight

Features:

  • Front plate in polypropylene
  • Female chest protector in compliance with the Standard prEN1621.3/09 (Lev. 2)
  • Perforated plate
  • Polyetylene foam padding

Features:

  • Chest protector certified to pre-Standard pr-EN 1621.3/09 Level 2 and stone shields Standard EN14021
  • Back protector certified to EN 1621.2/2003 standard (Level 1)
  • Composite protectors certified to EN 1621.1 / 97 standard
  • Front plate in polypropylene
  • Articulated shoulder-upper arm protector

Universal:

Forcefield Body Armour Race-Lite Chest Protector

Universal:

Dainese Women's Thorax Pro Protector

Price: $74.00

Price: $99.99

Features:

  • RPT (Repeat Performance Technology)
  • Soft, flexible, comfortable and non restrictive
  • Fitting straps connect to back protector
  • Nitrex® construction
  • Breathable and lightweight

Features:

  • Front plate in polypropylene
  • Female chest protector in compliance with the Standard prEN1621.3/10 (Lev. 2)
  • Front plate in ergonomic shape
  • Side flexible plates
  • Adjustable straps
  • Perforated plate
 

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Core Support

Supporting the core of the body is fairly familiar to riders who like the laid-back style of a cruiser. So called kidney belts – sometimes referred to as "weightlifter belts" – provide support for the lower back and are popular with cruiser riders. Kideny belts do not offer advanced protection rather they provide additional comfort and padding with a specific focus on the kidneys at the sides of the back. Kidney belts do not receive CE Certification, so the choice rests with how well the kidney belt fits and whether it interferes with your riding.

 

Basic Core Supportn

Intermediate Core Support

Advanced Core Support

Fox Kidney Black Belt

Troy Lee Designs Shock Doctor KB3305 Kidney Belt

Forcefield Body Armour Pro L2 Lumbar Protector

Price: $32.99

Price: $55.00

Price: $99.00

Features:

  • Less fatigue
  • Designed from favorite support belt of famed motocross racers Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart

Features:

  • Dimensional mesh construction allows air to flow freely
  • TPR rubber and molded foam
  • Supports lower back and kidney area without inhibiting movement
  • Tapered wrap minimizes material in the abdominal area

Features:

  • Fully CE-approved to EN1621-2 Level 2
  • Repeat Performance Technology (RPT)
  • Ergonomically designed for optimum fit
  • Breathable and lightweight
  • Double waist strap adjusters

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Shoulder, Elbow, Knee and Shin Protection

Most riding jackets and riding pants offer adequate shoulder, elbow, knee and shin protection.

However, many riders who do not have CE Certified armor often upgrade for better safety and performance. Supplementing existing armor is a great idea provided the additional armor does not interfere with operation of the bike.

Similar to other forms of motorcycle protective gear, shoulder, elbow, knee and shin protectors come in a variety of types and styles. A significant amount of the street-based versions of this armor is specific to one manufacturer's gear. Finding an appropriate model is far easier if you include some of the better made motocross versions which can often be worn irrespective of the apparel thanks to generous use of elastic and hook-and-loop straps. The choice comes down to what will protect the most without causing control problems.

Only one CE standard covers shoulder, elbow, knee and shin protectors, so it will either have it or won't - there are no levels. It's always best to select shoulder, elbow, knee and shin guards based on whether they carry the CE Certified label.

 

Basic Limb Protection

Intermediate Limb Protection

Advanced Limb Protection

Insert:

Klim CE Shoulder Pads

Insert:

Held Quattrotempi CE Elbow/Knee Protector

Insert:

Forcefield Body Armour Replacement Armour - Knee

Price: $11.67

Price: $29.99

Price: $34.99

Features:

  • Optional European Specification CE pads
  • Compatible with many KLIM enduro jackets
  • Set of 2 shoulder pads

Features:

  • Fits discretely into internal 'pockets' provided in the clothing
  • Molded visco-elastic PU
  • Light and flexible
  • Manufactured and tested according to European safety standard EN 1621-1
  • Level 1 CE protector

Features:

  • Constructed from Nitrex Evo® armor
  • RPT (Repeat Performance Technology)
  • Perforated and breathable
  • Lightweight
  • Good chemical resistance
  • Excellent abrasion resistance
  • Limited heat transference on impact with road
  • CE-approved (EN1621-1: 2006)
 

Universal:

Forcefield Body Armour Limb Tubes with Dual Straps

Universal:

Dainese Knee Six Soft Knee Guards

Universal:

Forcefield Body Armour Zeus Elbow Protector

Price: $89.99

Price: $99.99

Price: $119.00

Features:

  • Removable molded CE-approved Nitrex Evo® armor
  • Dual detachable retaining straps
  • Vented panels for increased breathability
  • Lightweight
  • RPT (Repeat Performance Technology)
  • Designed to fit and protect both elbows and/or knees; one pair of Limb Tubes per pair of joints

Features:

  • Knee impact protector certified according to the Standard EN 1621.1/97
  • Biaxial elasticated mesh support system
  • Pro-shape with perforations
  • Sold as a pair

Features:

  • Fully CE-approved
  • Fitted with removable Forcefield NeT Armour
  • Ergonomically designed for comfort
  • Fully breathable
  • Lightweight

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Combined Protection

In the late 1990s, various motorcycle apparel companies began offering ‘suits’ consisting of the necessary armor targeting a specific body region (torso or legs) using a solid or mesh stretch material holding it together and on the rider. There are versions for both the torso and legs, and many are quite close fitting – often using compression technology - to allow riding apparel to be worn over them. The included armor is of the standard layout with a hard exterior and a soft, impact-absorbing padding used internally.

Often, a rider purchasing a ‘suit’ like one of these can save time, money and the hassle of locating and buying the pieces separately. However, you must be careful to ensure that wearing the suit under your normal gear will not cause issues when actually riding your motorcycle.

Like all other motorcycle protective armor, these single-piece solutions are subject to CE certification. The suit tops should have more than one standard which applies to the back protector and the remaining armor.

 

Basic Combined Protection

Intermediate Combined Protection

Advanced Combined Protectionn

EVS Comp Jacket

Alpinestars Bionic 2 Protection Jacket

Spidi Multitech Armor Jacket

Price: $179.99

Price: $199.99

Price: $299.99

Features:

  • Full torso and elbow protection
  • Foam impact chest protectors
  • Full articulation spine protection that moves with you
  • Built in kidney belt
  • Lightweight fabric with mesh stretch panels for superior compression fit

Features:

  • Chassis contains a technical stretch mesh with exceptional breathability and comfort
  • CE certified GP protection on the shoulders and elbows
  • Level 2 CE certification removable Bionic back protector
  • The chest has a two plate plastic protection that is backed by a perforated foam padding
  • Kidney protection included

Features:

  • External Polyammide mesh net, with Nylon Tactel inserts
  • Fastenings on sleeves and chest guarantee tight fit
  • Warrior back and chest protectors
  • CE Multitech protectors on shoulders and elbows
  • Wide reflex areas
  • Can be equipped with the internal waterproof H2OUT rain jacket

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Finding the Best Motorcycle Gear

It is easy to get a higher level of safety with the proper riding gear. The ATGATT strategy is a very good start, but upgrading and adding gear supplements this strategy.

Research and look into which of these many varied types of protection accommodate the motorcycle you ride, the type of riding you do, and the apparel you wear. Then, ensure that each part of this system you buy has been tested and certified to do the job for which you are purchasing it. That CE certification is important and should never be overlooked.

Once you have your new armor, take several short rides to be certain that your new protection will not interfere with riding. The pieces should not bind or restrict and must work without hanging up on other gear and, perhaps most importantly, it should be easy and comfortable to wear. If it doesn’t fit right and is difficult to wear you will not use it as often as you should. Get it right and you will have elevated your safety margin considerably.

And that brings us to the last and most significant part to this - wear your armor wherever and whenever you ride!

Written By: JC Current

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