One of the biggest attractions of motorcycling is the feeling of liberation that comes with being immersed in the greater environment, rather than being insulated from it like in a car, for example.
However, it’s a fact of life that the liberation that makes motorcycling so addictive also makes us vulnerable. And this is why protective clothing is so important.
Abrasion or Impact Protection?
When it comes to protecting you in the event of an accident or a fall, there are two qualities that matter. One is the abrasion resistance and build quality of the clothing you’re wearing. You want something that will offer some resistance to sliding down the road and won’t begin to fail and come apart if you suffer a low-side, where the bike slides out from under you.
You also want something that will help to cushion you in the event of an impact; if you high-side, when the bike flings you off and into the air or you hit something head-on – a vehicle pulls out in front of you or you tumble into the ground or a tree when off-road.
We’ve considered abrasion resistance before, when we looked at riding jeans. But armour is a different matter and impact protection can be provided in a variety of ways, including built-in to a jacket, as a separate garment all together or as personal airbag technology (which we’ll look at separately).
Impact-protecting armour is assessed with a CE rating, either Level-1 or Level-2. Level-1 is the minimum for motorcycle clothing while Level-2 offers better protection. There are also different forms of armour, including traditional foam-like pads, D3O which is pliable until struck with a high-impact force when it becomes firmer and new technology like D3O’s Ghost armour, which is very thin for comfort but offers Level-1 protection.
Things To Consider
Some armour will also allow the body to breathe – useful for large back protectors, to help prevent the back from getting sweaty, particularly for high-exertion riding like on trackdays or off-road.
You should also consider where you want armour. Elbows and shoulders are the prime candidates for jackets, as they are likely to hit the ground hard if you are flailing around in an accident. Back protectors will help stabilise and shield the spine and muscles while chest armour can also be very useful, as the vast majority of fatal motorcycle accidents involve chest injuries.
Trousers should have at least knee armour and ideally, at the hip as well, for the same reasons as in a jacket.
Getting good reviews on Amazon, this long-sleeved shirt includes a large 0.5in-thick back protector that runs the full length of the garment in separate pads, to move as you do. There are double-layered pads at the shoulders and elbows and there are small foam sections on the chest and over the ribs. The manufacturer states it is ideal for various pastimes including skiing, snowboarding, motorcycling and motocross.
Forcefield ProShirt XV2 Air
Clever shirt armour
In addition to strap-on armour, Forcefield also makes this armoured shirt, designed to house armour while allowing the body to breathe during strenuous riding. The shirt features CE Level-2 'Isolator' armour to the back, chest, shoulder and elbows, all of which is removable so the shirt can be washed. There are also matching pants, with hips, knee, seat and coccyx armour and limb tubes with the same specification of armour.
Knox Ladies Action Shirt MKII
A sporty close fitting stretch shirt, which offers protection and support where it's needed. A more flattering look due to its close fit nature armour is held in the right place, rather than being loose in a jacket where it can move about. Stretch mesh has been working into the design to increase breathability, with a welded zip chest pocket and flat locked seams this body armour vest is practical, too. Knox Micro-lock armour is provided n the shoulders, elbows and back for maximum protection.
Knox Mens Urbane Pro MKII Shirt
This armoured shirt from protection specialists Knox is CE approved to 'AA' standard and as such can either be worn on its own in hot weather or under the outer garment of your choice as the climate requires. It's lightweight, breathable and designed to hold the Micro-Lock armour directly to the body, so it stays in place.
It features Level-1 armour at the shoulders and elbows and a Level-2 back protector with thumb loops on the sleeves to keep them in place and a handy chest pocket. We cover all the aspects of this supremely versatile garment in our in-depth review.
Alpinestars Nucleon KR
This strap-on back protector from Alpinestars is CE Level-2 rated and offers both hard protection and energy-absorbing foam with a deep coccyx protecting panel. It's worn with shoulder straps and a Velcro waist belt and can be paired with the optional (£44.99) chest protector to give all-round security for the torso.