There are two forces working against us when a rider falls off the bike. One is friction. This occurs in the slide. It’s why we wear leather, or ballistic nylon. They protect our skin.
The other is impact. This is the force of the rider falling off the bike and meeting the pavement. We can also experience impact in a tumble or sliding into guardrails or whatever might be in our way.
Both are equally important to protect against.
Most motorcycle jackets sold today have some armor included with them. Look for a CE rating. Many do not have back protection though. Some leather jackets offer no substantial armor at all.
Same goes for moto pants. Many do not come with hip or buttocks protection. This is why some riders search for added protection.
For this article we will look at the most popular armor options available that will augment either your jacket or your pants for better impact defense.
In looking at the best motorcycle armor, we will focus on
- Jacket shirts
- Armored shorts
- Back protector
- Air bag
If we are going to determine the best, we will need to touch briefly on what makes some armor better than others. This way you understand why we recommend certain armor and you get a better understanding of what you are getting for your money
Most commonly, you will run into what is known as CE rated armour. CE stands for the French term “conformity European” or European conformity.
You will see the CE rating broken down into either Tested, Certified or Approved.
When you see this, it means the manufacturer is claiming that they performed testing to the CE standard. Their testing has not been independently verified. Therefore the armor will receive only the CE Tested rating.
This means the armor was independently tested in a certified facility. But not necessarily the entire piece of the armor. Likely just a section or a specific zone of the armor. I know. It seems strange but that’s what it is and this gets you the CE Certified rating
This is the full on certification. This means the garment was tested in a certified facility with the entire piece of the garment undergoing testing. It meets or exceeds the standards set out in CE.
CE Level 1 and 2
Beyond those parameters mentioned above, you have CE level 1 and 2.
Put simply CE 1 will handle more force or impact than CE 2 is equipped to handle. Twice as much actually. Regardless of that, any CE rated product, whether level 1 or 2 will protect you. Don’t feel you must only get level 1. If you can’t afford it, 2 is good protection as well.
Now that we have a rudimentary understanding of what the most popular rating system, CE, is all about, let’s dive in and see what we at Moto Affliction recommend for each type of armor mentioned above.
Best Jacket Shirt
Alpinestars Bionic Action Jacket
There are a couple possibilities in utilizing the Alpinestars Bionic Action Jacket. One that a lot of riders like to use it for is hot weather riding. The jacket flows a ton of air while still offering protection with its armor.
Another use is under a jacket or shirt.
Maybe you like to rock a flannel plaid shirt on your custom Sportster. Obviously not a lot of protection there. With the Bionic Action Jacket underneath, you still maintain the casual look while not forgoing any impact protection.
For you motocross or ATV riders out there, this is a great option as well.
Moving on to the armor. This jacket offers shoulder, elbow, forearm, back and chest protection. You really are fully covered with this thing.
On the shoulders, elbows/forearm and back you are getting CE level 1. On the front/chest it will be CE level 2.
The armor is a solid plastic material with a lot of cutouts to promote airflow.
Underneath the hard plastic you do get some softer foam padding for comfort and added energy distribution in the event of an impact.
To wrap it up you get waist and wrist adjustments so you can dial in the fit.
We love this piece here at Moto Affliction. The versatility of it is what we like the most. Wear it under a shirt or a jacket. Use it out on the trails if you’re a dual sport or ATV rider. The uses are plenty and the protection is some of the best in the biz.
Icon Stryker Vest
Riders will wear the Stryker vest for different reasons. You’ll definitely see many in the sport bike crowd wear it over a t shirt on a hot day and hit the road. We here at Moto Affliction don’t actually recommend this setup but hey, we also believe in the freedom to choose. Torso and back protection is important so, having said all that, this vest does have many benefits. Number one being it’s armor. TPU thermoplastic that is rated as CE Approved. There is plenty of adjustability to dial in the fit to your body type. There are different sizes so choose what is best for you. This vest works well with a jacket. Lots of jackets provide shoulder and elbow protection as well as abrasion resistance but nothing for the chest or back. This thing is low profile enough to wear under your jacket and now you are fully protected.
You get some moisture wicking material on the inside so you don’t sit in a pool of your own sweat.
The Icon Stryker is a great piece of kit to have when you really want that added torso and back protection.
Best Armored Shorts
Dainese Hard Shorts E1
Typical of a lot of moto pants is the lack of included hip armor. Fear not. This is where the Dainese Hard Short E1 comes in.
Think of there as your average Lycra boxers or bicycle riding shorts with the added protection of CE level 1 armor baked in.
Not only do these shorts provide needed hip protection but also tailbone padding as well.
Extremely breathable, these shorts, with its TPU thermoplastic armor at the hip, won’t make you uncomfortably hot. There is plenty of ventilation in the Lycra as well as the hard armor itself.
These shorts are specifically designed to be worn under jeans or any style of riding pants. Track day riders as well as Motocross riders will get good use out of these.
Best Back Protector
Alpinestars Nucleon KR1i
With many jackets not offering a pre-inserted back protector, it’s almost inevitable that you will be shopping for one. It’s important that you do. Back injury can be some of the most debilitating. For a relatively small investment, you can mitigate this from happening.
Alpinestars Nucleon KR1i is a fantastic choice in back protection.
The Nucleon is a CE 2 rated.
The piece has ample ventilation with its many cutouts throughout. This also cuts weight as its a very light piece.
This armor will work with any jacket that has the option for an insert.
Make sure you order according to your jacket size.
For around that $80 mark you are giving your back priceless protection from a quality brand and product.
Best Air Bag
Dainese Smart Jacket
Rather new to the motorcycle protection scene is the airbag. They come in many different systems but this Dainese model is one of the most advanced.
The biggest advancement is that it does not require a tether. What this does is free you from being tied to your bike. The jacket (actually it’s a vest) runs by computer algorithms. The computer is tucked away into the back of the vest.
The Dainese Smart Jacket can be worn over or under any jacket out there.
It runs on battery power that lasts 26 hours between charges.
The technology is derived from MotoGp racing.
It utilizes seven sensors that analyze data one thousand times a second to be ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.
A true marvel of modern motorcycle technology.
We ride in a day and age where protection has come so far. It’s without a doubt that these pieces of armor have saved thousands from injuries that would have been way worse.
The armor available in the market today is so much thinner and lighter that before, yet offer much more impact protection. It no longer needs to be this intrusive, uncomfortable exercise in trying to remain protected. The armor available today is ventilated, softer and less bulky. If you are lacking in any protection, at least try a product or two out to see what it’s like to live with. I think some might be surprised.
Our goal should always be to ride another day.