If you are looking for motorcycle body armour, but don’t know what features you should consider, we’ve got you covered!
What is Motorcycle Body Armour?
Motorcycle body armour is protective clothing and gear that will enhance your safety when you are riding on and off the road. They are usually made of high-density foam and high-performing polymers that offer excellent shock absorption and abrasion protection to high-risk parts of your body (i.e., parts that will most likely get injured during a crash). They provide another layer of protection, especially when defensive riding techniques fail you. They may be sold separately or come as replaceable add-ons that you can use with your riding suit or jacket.
Now that you know what a motorcycle body armour is and what it’s for, it’s time to learn about its different types as well as other considerations before you buy.
Types of Motorcycle Body Armour
Motorcycle body armour comes in different types including chest and back protectors, elbow pads, shin guards and more, but don’t feel overwhelmed. We’re here to help you choose the right gear for your next big adventure.
Upper body armour
This is a padded jacket that provides additional coverage to your torso and arms. It usually comes with integrated chest and back protectors and durable polymer shells on the elbows, forearms and shoulders. Its base material is usually breathable and flexible for proper ventilation and unrestricted range of motion.
Back protectors reduce your risk of suffering back and spine injuries in the event of a crash. They are ergonomically designed and usually malleable to conform to the contour of your backbone. Whether you get the wearable type or inserts, you must ensure that they are true to your size for maximum effectiveness.
Chest protectors give additional protection to your ribs and chest region. They are more commonly used by off road riders and professional racers who ride bikes with an aggressive forward stance. Chest protectors can either be strapped on as a single unit or as two inserts.
This protective gear supports your neck and helps prevent whiplash by evenly distributing the force of impact to this critical body part during a collision.
These are pads that often come with protective shells. They usually extend to your forearms and are generally flexible to allow freedom of movement. Elbow guards are slipped on and strapped around your elbows so they will remain unscathed when you tilt your bike at sharp turns or during a crash.
The tailbone insert offers comfort and protection to the lowest part of your spine. This is especially beneficial when you fall back on the saddle after standing to lift your bike during high jumps.
These are similar to cycling shorts but upgraded with pads on the sides and rear portion. They are usually made of breathable mesh material with perforated ventilation zones for a more comfortable riding experience.
Knee braces and shin guards
Knee braces and shin guards protect your knees and legs, including the lower part of your thighs. They are not only meant for keeping your legs intact during a crash, but also for when you lean close to the ground while making sharp turns. Choose a pair that provides sufficient protection without sacrificing comfort and range of motion.
Toe sliders offer extra protection to your feet when you plant either of them on the ground while making aggressive turns and during a fall. They are usually available in durable plastic material and should be compatible with your motorcycle boots.
The effectiveness of a motorcycle body armour boils down to the quality of the materials used in making it and their assembly. The better these are, the safer you’ll be on or off the road.
Superior quality polymer
The outer shell, plates and frames of most motorcycle body armour are made of high performance polymer or polymeric blend material that’s flexible and lightweight to facilitate natural body movement. Some are perforated for improved breathability and airflow.
High-density foam pads
Motorcycle body armour padding is typically made of tightly compressed EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) foam for superior impact protection and energy absorption. This lightweight and breathable material also offers maximum comfort especially on extended rides.
High-strength elastane or spandex is a stretchable fabric used for sportswear and outdoor clothing. Most motorcycle suits and gear have elastane as a base material for improved fit and increased comfort.
These keep the plastic parts firmly attached to the base material for enhanced structural integrity.
Stitches and Construction
Take note of how the different parts were made and sewn together. Thermoformed padded frames and contoured plastic parts offer a more comfortable fit and great range of motion. Perforations on shells ensure proper ventilation while an ergonomic design allows the armour to be easily folded for storage.
Check the number of stitches in the seams of your body armour as well. Based on research, there should be 11 to 14 stitches for every 5cm of leather and 13 to 16 stitches for every 5cm of fabric (e.g., Kevlar). Too few or too many stitches may compromise the durability of the armour and cause it to tear.
Zips, Fasteners, and Straps
Likewise, check the quality and construction of zips, fasteners and straps on your body armour. They should be made from heavy-duty materials and stitched to the fabric securely. For fasteners, they should be covered with flaps to prevent them from being ripped open upon impact.
Avoid buying body armour that has zips in areas that are most vulnerable to damage in a crash, specifically on the shoulders, back, elbows, hips, butt, knees, and heels. Check if the zips on your chest, forearms, and inner thighs are placed on the inner side of the fabric. It would be better if they come with flaps on both sides to prevent contact with your skin and the road during impact.
Finally, check the fasteners on the wrist and ankle areas for durability. These fasteners will prevent the sleeves and pants of your riding suit from getting ripped open in a crash. This is also why you must always secure the fasteners before riding your motorcycle.
Breathable fabric and mesh material improves the breathability of your body armour, while perforations on plastic parts facilitate airflow. Some body armour products even have zips for the vents themselves, so you can easily zip them up or down, depending on the weather condition.
Size, Fit and Comfort
Never buy body armour that feels too tight or too loose. If it’s too tight, it can restrict your movement and blood flow which can make you feel uncomfortable and dizzy during your ride. If it’s too loose, it can get displaced and distract you during your ride as well.
Remember that your armour will need to fit over or under your clothing, depending on the type, so consider this when you’re thinking about sizing. Make sure you pick a body armour that does not shift around, especially when you are wearing a jacket over it. For the best fit, try on a wide variety of protective garments from different manufacturers. If you are a female rider, choose specially designed protectors for your body shape.
If you are buying in-store, try on different models and sizes of motorcycle body armour and see which one fits you perfectly. If you are buying online, refer to the size chart and instructions for measuring provided by the seller. You may also opt for adjustable body armour to accommodate changes in your body size.
You can get a decent motorcycle armoured jacket for A$150, but it will only provide you with a moderate level of protection. Conversely, a high-quality jacket with CE Level 2 protectors will cost you double or triple this amount but will also last through two to three minor crashes before it’s up for replacement.
Established body armour brands don’t cut back on their choice of materials, and thus, charge more for their gear. You shouldn’t scrimp on your safety either, so consider buying your body armour from leading brands even if they cost more.
Wearing high-quality body armour can save your life. Even if you crash at high speeds, you might still be able to walk away with only minimal injuries on your body.
CE Approval and Level of Impact Protection
CE stands for Conformité Européene. Products that bear the CE mark have passed Europe’s safety accreditation process and are allowed to be legally sold in the EU. In other words, a product with a CE logo meets the minimum European safety standards.
Body armour products are tested for the level of protection they provide to specific parts of your body. Level 1 (EN1621-1) normally applies to armour for your elbows, shoulders, and knees, while Level 2 (EN1621-2) applies to back and chest protectors.
CE-approved body armour products undergo a series of rigorous tests (e.g., abrasion, heat, and impact) to measure the strength and durability of the materials used in making them. This can be done by dropping a weight on it from at least a height of 1m to measure the impact of a fall from a motorcycle. To pass the EN1621-1 test, it must absorb 15kN of energy, while for EN1621-2, it must absorb 30kN.
For this reason, body armour products bearing the CE logo are usually more expensive than those that don’t.
The design of your motorcycle body armour should never compromise its purpose or your safety. That is why most armours are more functional than they are fashionable. Besides, some of them will be worn under your jacket or pants anyway.
Always remember these three words when you are buying motorcycle body armour: safety over style.
Protection for all your rides
Now that you know the different types of motorcycle body armour, their composition, construction, cost and other considerations, we hope you’ll have an easier time searching for the right armour for you.