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Published Sep. 1, 2021

The idea of using motorcycle armor might drum up feelings of fear rather than excitement, but this is why it’s so important. We all hope we’ll never go down, but if you do, you’ll be grateful for every penny you spent on the gear that protected you. Those who don’t have particularly good gear — or maybe none at all — will be blown away by the feeling of confidence and security that well-fitting, high-quality motorcycle armor gives. Since there are so many styles and features to consider, I’ve created a buying guide to help you decide what’s best for you. I’ve also included a list of the best motorcycle armor on the market.

Our Methodology 

To find the best motorcycle armor on the market, I evaluated dozens of them before choosing the top contenders. Although I haven’t personally tested these products, my selection is informed by consumer testimonials, expert reviews, discussions on relevant online forums, and my institutional knowledge of the automotive industry.

I visited Revzilla to see what experts had to say and the Motorcycles subreddit to see what motorcyclists felt about the armor they were wearing. Some brands are already well-established in this niche, and priority was given to those products. Lesser-known brands were also evaluated. The main features taken into consideration were CE rating, armor type, compatibility, flexibility, breathability, price, and durability. Armor was immediately disqualified from consideration if it didn’t have a CE rating.

Best Motorcycle Armor Reviews & Recommendations

Best Motorcycle Armor Overall

Get plenty of use out of your motorcycle armor with a set that allows you to customize placement while protecting well. If you’re looking for the best mix of protection and value, it’s hard to argue against the Klim D30 LP2 Pro Knee/Elbow Pads. The outer surface is made from thermoplastic polyurethane, which remains pliable when moved gently but hardens upon impact. This means the armor moves with you as you maneuver on your bike but offers CE Level 2 protection if you fall. This iteration builds off the success of the LP1 range but offers better breathability with tri-ventilation technology.

This is a wonderfully versatile product as the inserts come in pairs, and you can use them in your gear’s knee and elbow pockets. Another benefit of the D30 armor is that it’s relatively lightweight and thin, measuring 8.7 x 5 x 0.6 inches, but still offers the maximum level of protection available from armor inserts. Unfortunately, this isn’t a kit, so if you want back, shoulder, and chest inserts, you’ll need to pick them up separately.

Specs
  • Brand Klim
  • Model 3320-000-000-400
  • CE Level Level 2
PROS

CE Level 2 armor

D30 technology

Elbow or knee protection

Good breathability

CONS

Expensive

You’ll get value and versatility out of this convenient, adaptable set of removable armor pieces that allow you to cover key body points. If you don’t want to spend a lot to get the protection you need while riding, you’ll want to consider Jackets 4 Bikes Triple Density Removable Armor. This set, which includes five pads (one back, two shoulders, and two elbows), is designed to work with any existing motorcycle jackets you use. It’ll work with brand-name products, all while allowing you to add or remove the individual pads to create whatever level of protection you’d like. The armor is constructed with three layers of foam for strong, durable protection – but it’s still lightweight.

The only potential disadvantage of this affordable motorcycle armor? Although it promises a universal fit that works in all brand-name jackets, you may find that you need to cut the foam pieces to achieve a perfect fit. This can make first-time use a bit annoying until you get the right size and shape cut down.

Specs
  • Brand Jackets 4 Bikes
  • Model 5pc_eva_3sheet-yellow-u
  • CE Level Level 1
PROS

Universal sizing

Strong, triple-density foam construction

Lightweight

Removable and versatile

CONS

Not CE Level 2 armor

May have to trim armor pads to fit

This motorcycle armor is fully adjustable, and its snap-on design makes it oh-so-easy to wear in any weather or situation. The Ridbiker Motorcycle Armor Vest is a great option for those who want something that’s cool and lighter-weight yet still nicely protective. This protective vest allows you to equip yourself with chest and back armor – it’s made out of a PP plastic shell, which is paired with stretchy lycra and padded, high-performing foam material. Though it offers tough protection, the vest does bend and flex with your natural physical movements. Its snap-on design, with a lining and the plastic shell (which is removable, if you choose!), also makes it very easy to set up and wear. Plus, anyone can find comfort in this vest; it’s fully adjustable in both length and width, so you can alter the fasteners to work for your body.

However, it is important to note that this vest isn’t CE rated, which can make it tricky to fully assess in terms of its protection. Additionally, although it’s adjustable, the vest does run a bit small according to those who’ve given it a try.

Specs
  • Brand Ridbiker
  • Model ‎5559128654
  • CE Level Not rated
PROS

Vest bends with your body

One size fits all

Adjustable width and length

PP plastic shell and padded foam

CONS

Not CE rated for protection

Does run a bit small

This hard shell insert gives you maximum back protection without requiring you to wear a complete suit of armor. If you want the most back protection available without wearing a full unit, the Alpinestars Nucleon KR-1i Hybrid Back Protector is for you. This protector loses some flexibility when compared to the KR-1i, but it offers even more protection. Although both models have a CE Level 2 rating, the KR-1i has a pound-force rating of 225 less than the KR-2i. This protection improvement is mainly due to the addition of a perforated hard shell that runs down the center of the protector. Although this makes the insert slightly less flexible, once your body heat warms it up, you’ll have plenty of flexibility.

It’s slightly heavier than the KR-2i, but it’s still a lightweight back insert when compared to most other models on the market. Helping to keep the heat off your back is this unit’s cooling airflow system. The insert is slightly more expensive than other back protectors, but it’s still a good value when you consider how much protection is on offer from something that weighs so little.

Specs
  • Brand Alpinestars
  • Model 6504115-12-S
  • CE Level Level 2
PROS

Excellent impact protection

Breathable

Flexible

Relatively good value

CONS

Heavy

This two-piece chest pad slides right into your jacket to offer an extra layer of protection, without weighing you down. If you have an Alpinestars jacket that accommodates chest inserts and want to make the most of it, check out the Alpinestars Nucleon KR-Ci Chest Protector Inserts. This type of chest protection is more convenient than a single-piece unit for people who ride a lot, as once you insert the armor, you can leave it in for every ride. Two pieces are included, and both are rated as CE Level 1. This is some of the lightest chest armor on the market, and it’s well-ventilated, so you should still stay cool while you’re on the move.

These inserts are compatible with all Alpinestars jackets and race suits that are equipped with chest-protector pockets. The Nucleon series replaces the Bionic Chest Pad, so if you were using this model before and want to upgrade, the Nucleon chest protectors will still fit. The sizing guide for Alpinestars jackets is as follows: XS-SM fits 42-50 jackets, and MD-XL fits 50-64 jackets.

Specs
  • Brand Alpinestars
  • Model 6702115-10-MXL
  • CE Level Level 1
PROS

Lightweight and low profile

Good ventilation

Convenient for everyday riding

Good value

CONS

Not CE Level 2 rated

Our Verdict

I’ve chosen the Klim D30 LP2 Pro Knee/Elbow Pads as the best overall motorcycle armor. If you’re on a tight budget but need a full kit, check out the value pick, the Jackets 4 Bikes Triple Density Removable Armor. Let us know if you have any experience with either of these picks in the comments section.

What to Consider When Buying Motorcycle Armor

There are many types of armor to cover the most high-impact areas. This is a blessing and a curse, as it makes it hard to know what armor will best serve you. Here are some types and features to look out for and what you can expect at different price points.

Motorcycle Armor Key Features

Protection

The reason you buy motorcycle armor is for protection, so this is the key feature you need to consider. There are different measurements of safety protection, but the main one used in the motorcycle industry is the CE (European Conformity) rating, and North America has essentially adopted these ratings. The lowest level to expect in motorcycle armor is CE EN 1626-1, which means a maximum of 5,845 pounds-force can pass through the armor to your body.

What you should strive for is armor that’s rated CE EN 1626-2, which is broken up into Level 1 and Level 2 armor. CE Level 1 armor allows up to 4,046 pounds-force to pass through to your body and never exceeds 5,395 pounds-force in one area. The best armor inserts are CE Level 2, which allow up to 2,023 pounds-force through the armor but never exceed 2,697. The bottom line is that CE Level 2 is the best in terms of armor inserts, and you should try to use this if possible. Armor can far surpass the requirements for a CE Level 2 rating but still fall under that category, so it’s worth checking the manufacturer’s specifications regarding how much protection is offered.

Airbag Vest Protection 

Although airbag vests have CE Level 1 and Level 2 ratings, they offer a lot more protection than armor inserts, so the ratings mean different things. An airbag vest with a CE Level 1 rating transmits up to 1,011 pounds-force to the rider, which means it disperses more than four times the energy of its rigid counterpart. An airbag with a CE Level 2 rating transmits up to 562 pounds-force to the rider, meaning it disperses three times more energy than an armor insert with the same rating. 

Compatibility

Most armor inserts will work with your motorcycle gear as long as it has insert pockets and removable armor. Anyone who’s thinking of getting an airbag vest will need to ensure that it’s not designed to work specifically with one type of jacket. If it is, it needs to work with your jacket. Many airbag vests stand alone and work with all types of gear. Anyone who’s buying a chest protector will also need to check whether their jacket fits a one-piece insert or has two separate pockets.

Flexibility

It used to be the case that, in order to get better protection from armor, you needed to sacrifice some flexibility. But modern armor can be much more flexible and still provide CE Level 2 protection. If flexibility isn’t a huge issue for you, you can save some cash and get CE Level 2 armor that’s heavier and less flexible. A good option for those who value flexibility and protection is D30 armor, which stays soft when you apply gentle force but becomes hard upon a strong impact. 

Weight and Breathability

In the same way you want your armor to be flexible, it’s beneficial for it to be lightweight too. Using armor that’s lightweight and has a low profile makes your gear feel less bulky and helps you move around the bike with relative ease. You also want your armor to be breathable, especially when riding in warm climates. Breathable armor inserts that use airflow channels tend to be more expensive, especially if you want CE Level 2. But, if you ride in warm climates, it could be worth the added cost.

Airbag Features

If you want an airbag vest, you’ll need to decide what features are important to you. Some vests tether to your motorcycle, and if you fall off this tether disconnects, which causes the airbag to activate. The issue with these vests is that it’s possible to forget to connect or disconnect them when you go for a ride. If you forget to connect one of these vests, the product is rendered useless. If you forget to disconnect it, you could activate it if you get off your bike too quickly. 

Other airbag vests work with a CPU and sensors, which detect if you’ve been involved in an accident and activate the airbag. The only issue with these vests is that you need to keep their battery charged, or the product won’t work. Another feature to consider when buying an airbag vest is how many times the canister can deploy before it needs to be sent back to the manufacturer for evaluation. 

Motorcycle Armor Pricing 

For between $20 and $50 you can pick up a pair of knee, hip, elbow, or shoulder inserts. On the cheaper end of the price spectrum, the armor is likely to be CE Level 1 and not very breathable. As you move to the higher end of the price spectrum, expect to find Level 2 inserts. A good Level 2 back protection insert should cost between $60 and $90, and the higher you move up the spectrum the lighter and more flexible the insert tends to be. Anyone who wants an airbag vest needs to be willing to part with at least $550.

Tips and Tricks

As with anything you do for years, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way. That’s the case with us and motorcycle armor. 

  • Motorcycle armor vests or airbag vests aren’t a substitute for proper riding gear. Make sure you have good riding boots, pants, gloves, a jacket, and a helmet before you pick up any additional armor.
  • Your armor inserts usually don’t have to match the brand of jacket or gear you wear — just make sure it fits correctly before riding.
  • It’s also OK to have inserts that are made by different manufacturers. For example, if you use Klim elbow inserts but an Alpinestars back protector, that’s not a problem. 

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: Do I need CE-rated armor to ride on a track?

A: Most tracks will require that your armor is at least CE Level 1. Some faster tracks might have a minimum requirement of Level 2 armor.

Q: How long does CE armor last?

A: Most armor inserts come with an expiration date, which is usually around five years after the production date.

Q: How important is back armor?

A: A study found that riders who use back armor end up with three times fewer injuries than riders who only use foam inserts. So, you could say that using good back armor is very important.

Sources:

  1. Motorcycle Armor – Wikipedia

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