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Old 07-04-2011, 05:59 PM   #1
motoinmoab OP
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Armor- What I learned after the crash

CHEST PROTECTORS, PRESSURE SUITS, AND IMPACT VESTS

Originally written in 2011, updated in Dec 2013 with new info.

I spent my whole vacation in the Moab hospital with broken ribs and a tube in my chest. My question is: “Would different armor have made any difference?” The answer is yes, for this particular crash. The different types of upper body armor all have their obvious advantages, you don’t have to look very hard to see which one has coverage here and nothing there. So “which type is best?” is a really tough question and probably more depends on what you hit, or what hits you. There are too many different manufacturers of these products to mention them all, but I will name brands that I have used or my riding buddies have. This was first written in May, 2011, and updated Dec, 2013.

CHEST PROTECTOR / ROOST GUARD
The classic Roost Guard is like slipping on a turtle shell, with layers of good hard protection on your front and back. If you’re racing and getting rocks thrown at you, you want a shield to deflect them. If you crash splat like a pancake, or get run over while laying on the track wondering what the hell just happened, you’ll be glad you bought one. They also have some form of pad for the top of your shoulders, but are open on the sides so your ribs aren't protected. The big pieces of plastic armor are shaped to loosely curve around your torso and spread out any sharp point of impact over a larger area. They don’t have a lot of padding between the shell and your body so cooling air flow is maximized. Try on several different ones and you’ll find one that fits you much better than the others. This will be the least expensive form of upper body armor you'll find. I remember when these were the latest and greatest armor we could buy. The first time I broke ribs all we had was a leather jacket with an extra layer sewn on to the elbows and shoulder: Bates Racing Leathers.

There are several new designs of Chest Protector Vests that are much more high tech, actually similar to the Pressure Suits in how they fit and function. The TLD 5955, Alpinestars A-8, and Leatt 5.5 Pro HD are the best I've seen of this new way of thinking about armor. The Troy Lee Designs was the first I saw of this new generation that puts together multiple pieces of plastic to closely form to your body, and give some rib protection. It's not heavy duty but is really comfortable and nice fitting, easily worn under your jersey. The A*-8 and Leatt are more substantial, and for this kind of armor easily the best I've seen. These are nothing like the classic roost guards, and they cost a lot more too.

Advantages: Light weight, cool, easy on and off, great front protection from roost. The new Vest style armor protect your whole upper body as good as it gets. And you get to choose which elbow armor you prefer, it's not included.
Disadvantages: Roost Guards have no protection around the sides of your body; so your ribs, liver and spleen are vulnerable. You’re wrapped in a fairly low tech shell with the cheaper ones. You'll have to buy your elbow armor separately.
Availability: Motorcycle parts stores usually stock a small selection of these and you want to take your time and find one that fits good. Unfortunately you can't try on the pieces when internet shopping, but that's where your best selection is.

PRESSURE SUIT
The Pressure Suit is a lot more high tech than the classic turtle shell approach, and more expensive. They have a long articulated plastic spine guard that flexes with you for comfort, some padding on the chest, and most have a kidney belt. They are available is short sleeve so you can use your own elbow pads, or in long sleeve with pads attached that stay comfortably in place. There will be small pieces of padding in strategic places and usually something fancy on top of your shoulders. These are worn under your jersey but some guys simply wear them over a t-shirt when it’s really hot.

The fit is meant to be snug to your body. Many of them use an open mesh fabric for cooling. The amount and kind of padding for the chest varies greatly, some use just a thin pad and others will use a piece of plastic over a fat pad. More padding equals better protection, and hotter. I think the Rockgardn Flac Jacket is a good example of max protection, but it may be more than you’re looking for. There are lots of other good ones, you need to decide for yourself how much padding / how much insulation (hot) you can tolerate. I was wearing a minimalist one when I crashed, my hospital bill was Ten Grand.

There is a new design, the Leatt 3DF Airfit Body Protector that is like a Pressure Suit but all the pads are soft. Reviews say it's soft, light weight, and cool: comfortable. I don't think it's sturdy enough for racers but it looks great for ATGATT riders who prefer to wear our armor close rather than in the coat's lining. Here are some other good pics.

Advantages: These are designed to offer protection in a crash, they are high tech compared to a classic roost guard. Some are lighter weight and less padded than others, so you can buy the level of armor that you feel comfortable wearing. This armor is shared with the downhill mountain bike racers.
Disadvantages: More expensive, hotter, and harder to get on and off than a Chest Protector, especially when sweaty. Most have no padding around the sides; leaving your ribs, liver, and spleen vulnerable. You don’t have a big shell around you and it’s easy to see how sometimes that could be exactly what you need.
Availability: Search motorcycle shops and bicycle shops for these, you really need to try it on before buying. The ones favored by mtn bikers will be lighter weight, the moto ones will usually be more heavy duty. I constantly fought with the first one I bought; it stabbed me in the neck, the elbow pads slipped, and it was terribly hot. The one I crashed in was so comfortable I could take a nap in it, but it didn't protect me when I needed it to. Look around for a few different ones before you buy, you’ll see big differences between them in fit and padding. Search the internet.


IMPACT VEST
This is a relatively new and smaller category of protection and I’m not sure the category has a title, but they are designed for impact so that’s what I’m calling them. Some fit like an insulated vest; thinner than a life jacket but thicker than you would wear under your jersey. There are different ways they offer protection and some come from other sports: a bull riders vest (PBR), snowmobile racers, road racers. Even an inflatable coat. From state of the art high tech materials used in bullet proof vests to fancy pads in all the right places, these offer you choices that the other styles don’t.

I’m going to talk about a few manufacturers of these that I’m aware of, it’s unlikely that you’ll find them in stores because they aren’t the normal moto gear- yet. One is custom made to order, and the others sell at 2 to 3 times the price of a Roost Guard; it’s hard for a retailer to gamble on stocking this stuff. But I’m including these so you know your options.

Moto X Vest- Starting with bullet proof vest technology, adapted from PBR riders, this model is specifically tailored for motorcycle riders. All the professional bull riders wear these vests, so if it’s the best technology we have against a couple thousand pounds of raging bull then it sounds like it might work when your bike tosses you on your ass. It’s made to integrate with most of the new “Leatt style” neck braces and is vented more than the bull rider's model. The special padding and fabric spreads out a point of impact so you absorb it over a larger surface area, these really are Hi-Tech materials. It's a close fitting outer layer, and you can clean it with a pressure washer. It doesn’t have fancy looking shoulder protection or elbow pads like a Pressure Suit but it wraps around your sides and covers more of your torso and organs from an impact. I had a long phone call with Mick, the designer/manufacturer, he’s a great guy and I recommend you give him a call. This is what I'm currently wearing and I'm sure that I wouldn't have spent my vacation in the hospital if I'd been wearing one then. Some guys don't like the fit, it's definitely a different look. And some think it's too hot, but I don't.

TekVest- Padding, pockets, protection, and a place to slip your hydration bladder: this thing is loaded with options. And expensive. They have a big following in the snowmobile market so that should give you an idea of how warm it might be. They've made an effort to adapt their design for motorcycles lately, offering different levels of protection and better venting. Here is a short review by Bryan Bosch of ThumperTalk.

They're required equipment to snowmobile race, those guys are on 600 lb machines with steel spikes in the treads. So this is as good as it gets in armor if you can wear that much. I’ve read good reviews and harsh criticisms, my buddy liked his a lot, but it was just too hot for him. It wraps fully around your torso so it will have better protection for your ribs and internal organs. There are many guys who swear by this armor, but it's not something you’d want to wear for a day at the track.

Impact Armor This armor is popular with Pro road racers and sport bike guys. Thehigh tech pads are held in place by their skin tight leather race suit. They have a SuperMoto chest protector designed specifically for that style of riding, maybe that's what you're looking for?

Hit-Air Auto Bahn 2 There's an inflatable coat that blows up with a compressed gas bottle in the pocket, and is triggered by a leash attached to your bike. When you crash and separate from your bike (while flying thru the air) the coat will inflate around your body and neck. In the right crash this could work great, but I stayed with my bike into the ground and I would have had no protection at all. So it should work for a high side get off, but it won't be there for you on a low side. Maybe for a road rider? But I just can't see it as valid protection in too many kinds of crashes.

I’ve read so many posts by guys who are switching between Pressure Suits and Chest Protectors because of “too hot!”, or “it didn’t protect me when I crashed”, or “there has to be something better / simpler / more comfortable”. With advantages and disadvantages for every style of armor, I couldn’t find any piece that was clearly Superior in all ways. The problem is no one piece of this gear can protect us from every possible crash scenario, and nothing is going to save your collar bone if you put your arm out to break your fall. How much armor, and which kind you should wear, is your decision. If you try to wear it all you’re going to look like an Armadillo, and move about as fast too. If it isn’t comfortable you won’t wear it, so don’t buy before really checking it out.


The author in his current riding gear:

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Old 07-05-2011, 08:21 AM   #2
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I also recently crashed in Moab, wearing new armor. We had just finished riding trails and were headed back to camp on the pavement, and somehow I highsided. I was knocked out for a few minutes and lost about 4 hours of memory, so I dont really have a clear idea of how i happened. What I do know is I'll never ride without my velocity gear Juggernaut again. I would classify as a pressure suit, with good padding behind great hard armor, all attached to a well vented mesh shirt. I was only wearing a jersey over the armor, and suffered no road rash. I did separate my AC joint in my shoulder, but it was very minor and healed quickly. I also fractured some ribs, but am still very impressed with the protection and lack of serious injuries. I know if i had been wearing my olympia AST jacket I would have been laid up for a long time.

What were you wearing in your wreck moto?



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Old 07-05-2011, 10:05 AM   #3
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I also recently crashed in Moab, wearing new armor. - What I do know is I'll never ride without my velocity gear Juggernaut again. I would classify as a pressure suit, with good padding behind great hard armor, all attached to a well vented mesh shirt. - I also fractured some ribs, but am still very impressed with the protection and lack of serious injuries. I know if i had been wearing my olympia AST jacket I would have been laid up for a long time.

What were you wearing in your wreck moto?
I was wearing my older TLD pressure suit which I thought had a good balance of protection and a cooler fit. I thought the elbow armor was the best looking I'd ever seen. The elbow had a hard cap on it and the ridge of that is what the ground drove into my ribs and busted them. My elbow is fine, so that part worked good, but the lack of any padding on the sides and the sharp edge on the hard plastic cap combined to put me in the hospital. I'm sure that if I had been wearing my Fox Launch elbow guards (smooth wrap around like your suit has) and my new Moto X Vest for core padding I would not have broken ribs and punctured a lung. You broke ribs and got a concussion but don't consider it a serious injury, I would disagree with you on that assessment. I spent a week in the hospital with a collapsed lung and nasty tubes sticking out of my chest connected to a little vacuum pump. It was funny, but it wasn't fun.

Your Juggernaut suit is one of the best looking that I've seen, it has a lot more substantial padding than mine had- everywhere. It looks like it would be one of the warmer ones because of all that protection, a main consideration in my choosing the TLD. I lived in Moab when I bought that one and needed something as cool as possible for the summer heat. My first suit was a 661 and it was terribly hot and sticky, probably because of better padding. But it, like all the rest, still had nothing significant for the ribs and my innards.

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Old 07-05-2011, 10:45 AM   #4
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Interesting

Thanks for posting up, I will be looking into this more...

I broke my ribs wearing a chest protector, I also use pressure suit and can never make up my mind as to what is best answer. I took a handle bar into my side when the front wheel folded when I mess up a small jump. Been looking for a solution since.
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Old 07-05-2011, 11:35 AM   #5
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Someone should make armored (plated) kidney belts
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Old 07-05-2011, 12:18 PM   #6
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Someone should make armored (plated) kidney belts
A kidney belt is a perfect place to add rib protecting armor but I haven't ever seen one and I have looked a lot. I wonder if it might be a bad idea because if you bend sideways it could brake your ribs? It takes more than just a thin piece of foam to displace a blow that is strong enough to break bones, although anything is usually better than nothing. There are lots of posts by guys who broke their upper arm because of big shoulder pads and the "Leatt style" neck braces are blamed for breaking collar bones. I've read discussions by doctors about the problem with knee braces breaking the femur or lower leg bones, a much more serious injury than torn knee ligaments in their opinions.

Full body inflatable airbags. I'm sure I read about that concept years ago in Popular Science magazine. My worry is that you'd get inflated, then hit- punting you 25 yards into oncoming traffic...
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Old 07-05-2011, 12:28 PM   #7
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I would have to agree that more wrap around padding/plated protection around the lower rib cage area front and lower back would be real good to see. I use the Thor Impact Rig SE and very much like the one piece chest protection but wish it had plated upper arm protection and better lower back/brace protection like the Fox model shown here.

Recently seen a Fox rig that has a lot more protection and still ventilated.

Thor Impact Rig SE


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Old 07-05-2011, 12:50 PM   #8
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I have been using EVS upper body protection for several years now . In the summer I have a T shirt under it and a light weight vented street jacket over it or nothing over it . I have tested it twice with good results both times . A slow speed fall over in the trails in Colorado because I couldnt reach the ground . I just tucked my arm and tightened up and landed on my shoulder . All was fine , no injury , no bruising . That one was in the rocks . The other a high speed high side in the woods , I dont remember any thing , I seem to have blacked out . I landed on my face . No upper body injury or bruising again , a small scuff where my glove didn't cover my wrist and a slightly scrapped knee where the shin guard inside my pants didnt stay where it should have . That get off was on a two track in the woods , I think I was around 60 MPH when the back end came loose and I started sliding around . I stayed on for 40 or 50 feet sliding around before getting spit off so I know I scrubbed a lot of speed but dont remember any thing about it . I woke up about 20 feet from my bike . I have a trip planed for a few weeks this month and I will be wearing my armour . I have EVS knee and shin guards that strap on under my pants now . The stuff that comes in my gear gets tossed real quick . SEYA
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Old 07-05-2011, 03:29 PM   #9
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Moto: My experience with the grand county ambulance service and moab hospital were absolutely awesome, and I have high standards (I'm on my local ambulance). how was your experience, other than painful?


BTW, the juggernaut's padding is perforated, so it really does stay pretty cool, and for $115 from the vendor section, hard to beat!
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Old 07-05-2011, 04:39 PM   #10
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Moto: My experience with the grand county ambulance service and moab hospital were absolutely awesome, and I have high standards (I'm on my local ambulance). how was your experience, other than painful?
I wrecked out near Determination Towers so there was no ambulance ride for me. My old next door neighbor and regular riding buddy has taken a couple of wilderness emergency first responder classes and he judged me safe to leave. He went for his pickup to haul me out, it cleared where the wash narrows by a couple inches at most so I got lucky there. It took a total of 3 hours to get me to the hospital and then I sat for 2 more before seeing a doc. The young girl doing triage said: "The good news is you're not hurt that bad, so the bad news is you have to wait." They were slammed so I sat and pretended to breathe.

When I got to see the doc he called for reinforcements and set about sinking a tube in my chest, he got it right on the 3rd try. Then I got admitted into the brand new hospital, opened only 3 weeks earlier. It was like staying in a resort hotel, only better- push a little button and they come running with drugs! I learned that morphine really messes with clocks, it makes them do funny things.

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Old 07-05-2011, 04:42 PM   #11
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I have a pressure suit and an assortment of chest protectors. I'm pretty sure the pressure suit is better if I crash on my back and the chest protector much better if I take something sharp to the chest/stomach. Not sure which is best for shoulders and the pressure suit's built-in elbow guards stay in place better than any I've found otherwise. Pressure suit is more of a hassle generally. One advantage of the wimpy chest protection of the pressure suit is that I can ride the trials bike with it on - I can't ride trials with a chest protector as the chest plate gets in the way of my arms.

BTW a kidney belt is a must - its not designed really for impact protection so much as stablizing your back and guts. I find riding with one much more comfy than without and you are probably less likely to rupture important internal stuff with one on.

FYI for those wanting an armored kidney belt, AXO made them throughout most of the 1990s - it used articulated plastic, quite sturdy and I'd guess would give some impact protection for that area.

One thing to keep in mind also is something to protect not just from impacts and broke bones, but punctures/getting impaled. Saw a guy take a handlebar into the gut, wasn't pretty. If not for a good sturdy chest protector I'd have been impaled on a tree once. I was riding briskly on an overgrown singletrack trail with lots of slappers. Well behind one of the slappers was a broken off tree branch with the pointy end pointing right at me. Caught it right below the rib cage and stoped dead, hung on the branch for a second and fell off backwards. I was sore, but the chest protector distributed the impact and wasn't punctured. This was probably 35-40mph to zero instantly against a sharp pointy branch. I don't think I would have faired well in the pressure suit.

Lately I've been using the chest protector for east coast riding and the pressure suit for west coast riding.
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BikePilot screwed with this post 07-05-2011 at 04:48 PM
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Old 07-05-2011, 04:48 PM   #12
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Great information here gents, perfect timing too! Thanks for the thread
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Old 07-05-2011, 05:11 PM   #13
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Amazing what you learn from wearing protective gear VS what you might have been alive to remember after a crash without protective gear. All thos people who ride without any gear, or minimal gear, I have to wonder, how do they know today is not their day to crash???Q!!! They don't, they are just lucky.
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Old 07-09-2011, 02:26 PM   #14
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http://johnsonleather.com/Forcefield..._Adventure.htm

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Old 07-09-2011, 02:46 PM   #15
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+2
Both my son and I wear these.
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