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Does Motorcycle Armor Work?

Jun. 26, 2024

Many riders now consider buying a helmet to be an essential purchase. Yet despite its proven ability to reduce injuries in accidents, body armor isn’t always regarded with the same importance. Here’s why it should be.

 

Being out on the open road is why so many riders love their motorcycles. However, seasoned riders understand that it comes with inherent risks. As of 2019, there were 84,000 injuries and over 5,000 fatalities reported due to motorcycle accidents, translating to approximately 58 deaths per 100,000 US-registered motorcycles.

 

This risk has prompted some states to implement universal helmet laws mandating head protection for all riders, emphasizing safety. Indeed, the positive impact of helmets on rider safety is well-documented. Studies indicate that motorcyclists not wearing a helmet are three times more likely to sustain traumatic brain injuries, and helmeted riders reduce their risk of death by 37% to 42% during accidents.

 

Despite its demonstrated ability to mitigate severe impacts in accidents, some riders still consider body armor optional.

 

WHAT IS MOTORCYCLE ARMOR?

 

Otherwise known as body armor, motorcycle armor is protective equipment worn on the chest, back, and limbs to reduce the risk of injury to riders during accidents. It helps minimize the likelihood of injury from impacts during riding on the road, track, or trail. Materials like D3O®, which make up motorcycle armor, contribute to reducing the risk of severe injury and soft tissue damage. Wearing impact protection armor can significantly mitigate injuries, ranging from minor scrapes to life-altering consequences.

 

There are two CE levels of motorcycle armor impact protection: Level 1 and Level 2. Level 1 armor offers a good, standard level of protection and is often found in motorcycle clothing like jackets and pants, suitable for commuters and leisure riders who prioritize comfort and flexibility.

 

Level 2 armor is designed for extreme impact protection and is preferred by racers and off-roaders facing higher crash risks. It is typically purchased separately and provides enhanced protection for critical areas such as the back, knees, elbows, and shoulders.

 

When choosing motorcycle protection gear, always verify its certification and testing standards. Look for the CE and UKCA marks to ensure it has undergone rigorous safety testing and meets high-quality standards for use in motorcycling.

 

The best motorcycle armor is flexible, breathable, comfortable, and durable, allowing riders to feel protected without compromising movement or comfort during rides.

 

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DIFFERENT TYPES OF MOTORCYCLE BODY ARMOR

 

There are various types of body armor designed to enhance rider safety in different accident scenarios, whether it's a high-speed crash on the track or a mishap on an uneven road surface. While not all riders will utilize every type of armor, understanding these options can be beneficial for adapting to different riding styles or adding layers of protection to gear.

 

- Back protector: Essential for safeguarding the spine, typically inserted into the back pocket of jackets.

  

- Chest armor: Available in standard jackets or specialized protectors for track racers, protecting the ribs, sternum, lungs, and heart.

  

- Shoulder pads: Designed to absorb impact during sideways falls or collisions, integrated into motorcycle jackets to cover the shoulders.

  

- Elbow pads: Crucial for protecting elbows, especially in sportbike or cafe racer riding positions, and essential for off-road, trail, or motocross riding.

  

- Knee protectors: Protects knees from impacts and debris, crucial for maintaining a stable riding position and essential in various riding environments from trails to racing.

  

- Hip pads: Shields hips and upper thighs from impacts during falls or collisions, providing crucial protection for vulnerable areas.

  

- Knuckle guards and palm padding: Protects hands during falls with impact-resistant gloves, shielding palms from abrasions and deflecting impacts with knuckle guards.

  

- Ankle guards: Protects ankles from impacts and debris, ensuring critical protection for feet and ankles during rides.

 

Understanding and selecting appropriate motorcycle body armor ensures riders are adequately protected across various riding conditions and potential accident scenarios.

 

HOW DOES MOTORCYCLE ARMOR WORK?

 

Motorcycle armor works by absorbing the shock from an impact. Rather than the impact striking your body with full force, motorcycle armor helps take the brunt of the impact and dissipate the force to reduce its severity. The impact protection material found in motorcycle armor is what makes this possible, and the materials used in and around the armor (such as leather in a jacket, or woven kevlar in motorcycle pants) helps to resist abrasions.

 

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF MOTORCYCLE ARMOR?

 

As expected, the primary benefit of motorcycle protection is to provide riders with protection from serious injury in the event of an accident. However, it offers additional advantages as well:

 

- Impact absorption: Similar to high-quality helmets, the best motorcycle body armor absorbs and disperses impact forces, ensuring riders of all levels and disciplines can stay safe and continue riding.

 

- Freedom of movement: Concerns about restricted movement while wearing body armor are mitigated by designs specifically tailored for motorcyclists, allowing for ease in performing tasks like shoulder checks and steering.

 

- Climate control: Riders in hot environments, whether on adventures or urban commutes, benefit from breathable body protection that regulates temperature effectively. Armor designed to facilitate air passage and moisture flow ensures comfort, preventing distractions caused by sweat.

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