Written By Andra DelMonico
Published Sep. 1, 2021

The world loves motorcycles and the overwhelming feeling of freedom they offer. However, motorcycles are incredibly dangerous to operate. Not only are they fast and quick, but motorcycles also offer little to no protection to the rider. It’s the rider’s responsibility to protect him or herself in the event of a mishap, but a lot of modern motorcycle apparel is more about fashion than function. 

Some apparel that’s purpose-built for riders and designed to protect is equipped with armor-ready pockets in the shoulders, elbows, knees, etc. — but the armor itself is sold separately. Luckily, there are plenty of armor options available a la carte. Today’s motorcycle armor is now both thick and flexible, capable of protecting against all kinds of injuries from road rash to broken bones. However, not all armor is as good as the next. To help you stay safe on the road, here are our picks for the best motorcycle armor.

The Best Motorcycle Armor

Slip this protective vest over your T-shirt and protect your back when you don’t want to wear a full jacket. The back armor is articulating, injection-molded, and CE-approved. You’ll love how it flexes and moves with you like an exoskeleton. There are air channels that help facilitate more airflow through your back, and the chassis is vented BioFoam and AirMesh. The liner of the vest is Hydradry moisture-wicking to keep you cool and dry. You have versatility in how you wear your vest, either over a T-shirt or under a jacket.

Unfortunately, this vest lacks airflow, making it feel hot during the summer months. It also lacks armor on the shoulders and elbows, leaving key impact points vulnerable. The armor on the chest is not CE-approved, making it not as protective as the back piece.

Key Features
  • CE-approved
  • D3O breathable back insert
  • Articulating
  • Vented BioFoam and Airmesh chassis
Specification
  • Brand Icon
  • Model Stryker
  • Weight N/A
PROS

Hydradry moisture-wicking liner

Low-profile design

Adjustable waist and shoulder straps

CONS

Lacks airflow

No shoulder or elbow protection

No CE armor on the chest

Improve the protection level of your jacket with this back protector. This CE-certified level 2 armor is made from flexible PU-injected impact foam. There are three size options for a custom fit. A unique feature is the large perforation holes throughout to improve breathability without compromising protection. There is also a channel ventilation system to direct air over your back. While it’s an Alpinestars piece of armor, it does have a universal fit for jackets. You’ll appreciate the anatomical and adaptive fit that makes wearing this armor comfortable.

The downside of this back armor is that it isn’t a complete set—you still need shoulder, elbow, and chest armor. You also can’t wear this armor on its own. While it’s shaped, it isn’t articulated, making it less flexible than other back armor.

Key Features
  • CE-certified Level 2
  • Flexible PU-injected impact foam
  • Two size options
  • Perforated for breathability
Specification
  • Brand Alpinestars
  • Model Nucleon KR-2i
  • Weight N/A
PROS

Channel ventilation system

Universal jacket fit

Anatomical and adaptive fit

CONS

Not a complete set

You can’t wear it on its own

Not articulated

Take your body protection seriously with this chest, kidneys, and back protector. This vest stands out because it has a custom sizing system based on your height. This is important because the back armor extends down to cover your lower back and tailbone. You’ll appreciate the thin and low-profile design of this vest. It’s made from shock-absorbing composite cell material. The back armor is rated CE level 2, and the chest is rated CE level 1. The shaping and custom sizing of this vest make it incredibly comfortable for wearing on long rides.

Unfortunately, the vest uses Velcro for the closures, which can wear out over time. It also lacks shoulder protection of any kind. And while it has chest protection, it isn’t as highly rated as the back protector.

Key Features
  • CE level 2 back protector
  • CE level 1 chest protector
  • Two sizes
  • Shock-absorbing light composite cell material
Specification
  • Brand Spidi
  • Model Defender
  • Weight N/A
PROS

Lightweight

Thin, low-profile design

Air canalization system

CONS

Velcro closure is not durable

No shoulder protection

Lower rated chest protection

Wear a complete set of armor with this full upper body protector. This gear stands out with its front, back, shoulder, flank, and elbow protection. All of the armor pieces are mounted on MoistureCool wicking fabric. The armor is CE-certified and has a 3D design. You’ll find this protector incredibly comfortable thanks to the multi-layered multi-plate articulating design. A standout feature is the BraceOn neck brace fitting system. The front and back protectors are CE level 2, and the elbow and shoulders are CE level 1 certified.

The downside of this armor is that the arms zipper off. While that increases its functionality, it also makes it difficult to get on and off and the zippers tend to come open. The kidney belt can also be too large for those who are skinny around the middle. The entire armor feels heavy when it’s on.

Key Features
  • Front, back, shoulder, flank, and elbow protection
  • 3D design
  • Ventilation slots
  • MoistureCool wicking fabric
Specification
  • Brand Leatt
  • Model 5.5
  • Weight N/A
PROS

BraceOn neck brace

FlipFit front and rear function

CE-certified

CONS

Arm zippers come open

The kidney belt is large

Feels heavy

Protect yourself while riding by putting on base layers. These shorts are best worn under casual clothes. Polypropylene and polyethylene plates protect your coccyx, which is the small triangular bone at the base of your spine. Soft, impact-absorbing inserts protect your hips and buttocks. These pads use Pro-Shape designs to ensure they are shaped to fit your body. The body of the shorts is made from elastic mesh for breathability. There are also elasticated inserts in silicone on the thighs. You’ll appreciate the perforations in the pads to help you stay cool.

Unfortunately, these shorts can feel uncomfortable to some people—they take getting used to having additional armor. The stitching can also come loose if you are too rough with them. Keep in mind that the sizing also runs small, so sizing up can make them comfortable.

Key Features
  • Perforated plates in polypropylene
  • Crash Absorb on the thigh
  • Soft inserts on the sides and buttocks
  • Breathable elastic mesh trousers
Specification
  • Brand Dainese
  • Model E1
  • Weight N/A
PROS

Elasticated inserts in silicone rubber

Perforated pads

CE-certified

CONS

Can feel uncomfortable

Stitching can come loose

Sizing runs small

Stay safe and look great in this modern-designed armored vest. Its bright orange and black coloring highlight the vest’s sleek and low-profile shaping. It isn’t just about looks, though. You’ll have high-tech protection with injection-molded D3O armor plates rated CE level 2 on the chest and back. All of this combined makes it the perfect solution for wearing under jackets that lack armor pockets. A standout feature is the integrated emergency contact info badge. You’ll also appreciate the adjustable shoulder and waist straps for a customized fit.

One drawback of this armored vest is that it lacks airflow, leaving you sweaty and gross under the vest. It also uses Velcro attachments, which have the potential of wearing out over time. Some wearers may find the chest plate is smaller than they’d like.

Key Features
  • Injection-molded D3O armor plates
  • Adjustable shoulder and waist straps
  • Low-profile design
  • CE level 2 armor on chest and back
Specification
  • Brand Icon
  • Model D3O
  • Weight N/A
PROS

Integrated emergency contact info badge

Articulating plastic plates

High-tech impact protection

CONS

Low airflow

Velcro closure

Small chest plate

This high-quality armor is made by one of the top gear manufacturers. It features a mesh shirt construction with protective shells on the chest, shoulders, elbows, and back. The shells are single injected to give them durability and strength. They’re constructed from a high-performance polymeric material. It has a pull-on closure. There are five sizes to choose from for a secure fit. You’ll appreciate how adjustable and breathable it is. This makes it comfortable to wear throughout the year.

One drawback of this armor is that it runs small, making it tough to get the correct size. It also has an aggressive sculpted design that gives you a weird muscular look. This design can also make it feel bulky on your body while riding.

Key Features
  • Single injected shells
  • Pull-on closure
  • Black or black and red color options
  • Five sizes
Specification
  • Brand Alpinestars
  • Model 6506818-13-S
  • Weight N/A
PROS

Adjustable 

Breathable

Integrated grid structure

CONS

Bulky

Creates weird muscle shapes

Sizing runs small

These unisex leggings give you protection under any pants you want to wear them with. They are made from power-stretch 65 percent UHMWPE and spandex for comfort and durability. The fabric delivers impression abrasion resistance with a Level AA rating and CE certification. You’ll find these leggings comfortable to wear all day thanks to the double mesh on the fly, bi-stretch to the fabric, and high heat conducting ability. You’ll also appreciate how easy it is to add and remove the armor.

Unfortunately, these leggings don’t come with hip armor, which is something you expect would come with them at this price point. They are sold separately, and you can add them later. There are also highly detailed care instructions, which can make cleaning them tedious. You may find them too warm to wear during hot summers.

Key Features
  • Power-stretch 65 percent UHMWPE and Spandex fabric
  • Level AA abrasion resistance
  • Fully CE-approved
  • Double mesh on the fly
Specification
  • Brand Pando Moto
  • Model Skin UH-02
  • Weight N/A
PROS

Bi-stretch fabric

Highly heat-conducting and reflecting fabric

Easily removable armor

CONS

Hip armor is sold separately

Detailed care instructions

Not great for hot summers

Enjoy the ultimate in slim-line protection with this armored compression shirt. There are DuPont Kevlar fiber abrasion-resistant pads throughout. D3O inserts protect your elbows, back, and shoulders. Lining the shirt is a stretch Hydradry moisture-wicking fabric. This shirt stands out because it has a compression fit, making it perfect for wearing under your clothes, jacket, or other gear. The poly stretch mesh chassis helps to keep you cool in warm weather. You’ll also appreciate the thumb loops that keep the sleeves in place.

Unfortunately, there are no pockets in this shirt. It can make it inconvenient if you want to wear this armored shirt by itself. The compression aspect makes it very form-fitting, which may not be a good look for some people. It could also have better quality armor.

Key Features
  • DuPont Kevlar fiber abrasion-resistant panels
  • D3O inserts at shoulders, elbows, and back
  • Stretch Hydradry moisture-wicking chassis
  • Compression shirt
Specification
  • Brand Icon
  • Model Field Armor
  • Weight N/A
PROS

Poly stretch mesh chassis

Wear under regular clothes

Thumb loops on sleeves

CONS

No pockets

Very form-fitting compression

Could have better armor

You bought a jacket, and it didn’t come with protective armor. Perhaps it did, and that armor is now old and needs replacing. This five-piece set will outfit your jacket with two shoulders, two elbows, and one back piece. There are perforations throughout the armor to increase breathability. They are all CE-certified level 1. You’ll appreciate that the armor is lightweight, breathable, and not bulky. The armor is soft and flexible to your touch but locks when experiencing impact.

One potential drawback of this set is that it’s designed specifically for Roland Sands gear. This limits its compatibility and may not work in jacket pockets from other brands. They also come in one size, making them not suitable for everyone.

Key Features
  • Five-piece set
  • Perforated for breathability
  • CE level 1
  • Locking action
Specification
  • Brand Roland Sands
  • Model Microlock
  • Weight N/A
PROS

Lightweight

Breathable

Not bulky

CONS

Brand-specific compatibility

Low-level protection

One size

Best Motorcycle Armor Buying Guide & FAQ

Buying motorcycle armor is a great way to add protection to any clothing you’re wearing. It’s like wearing an exoskeleton that protects your joints and commonly injured body parts. When looking for the best armor, you want to consider the type of riding you do, the level of protection you’re looking for, and your budget. This lets you scale the armor to your needs. 

Perhaps you only need a spine protector or an upper-body set. This guide will help you understand what to look for when buying your armor and how to know when you’ve found the right set.

Benefits of Motorcycle Armor

The most significant benefit of wearing motorcycle armor is increased body protection. The armor is designed to absorb most of the impact and abrasion that occurs when you get into an accident. The durable material the armor is made out of prevents you from getting road rash or other serious injuries. That’s why the armor is designed to go over your most vulnerable body parts. 

Unlike a riding suit or jacket, you can wear your armor with a wide variety of clothing. This gives you more freedom in what you choose to wear while riding. You can layer the armor over or under your T-shirt and jeans if you want. This freedom comes in handy when the climate changes. This makes the armor wearable for more time throughout the year than compared to a heavy leather jacket for winter or a lightweight, breathable jacket for summer

Finally, wearing body armor will give you that badass rebel look while on your sport bike. It’s usually black in color and has aggressive styling. 

  • Increased body protection
  • More freedom in the clothing you can wear
  • Have a cool moto style

The Most Common Types of Motorcycle Armor

The easiest way to classify motorcycle armor is by the body part that it’s designed to protect. A complete set of armor will protect everything, your chest, spine, shoulders, elbows, hips, and butt. You also have the option of buying each piece separately. This is nice if you’re looking to supplement your current protection or need a specific size for each piece.

Motorcycle armor comes in various styles and designs

Chest and Spine

This is the most commonly purchased piece of protective armor after a helmet. It’s designed to protect your torso. Since all of your vital organs and spine are in this area, it makes sense that this armor is so popular. There are some pieces that will have the majority of their protection on either the front or back. 

However, the best choice is one that gives you complete protection of your entire torso on the front and back. These are the most effective at absorbing impacts and dispersing the shock force. Your vest should fit snugly against your body and conform to your torso shape. 

Shoulders and Elbows

There are three ways you’ll find shoulder and elbow armor. They either come as a part of an upper-body armor set. Mesh material will construct the sleeves, and the armor is sewn in. The other option is to buy individual shoulder and armor protectors that have straps to secure them into place. 

Your third option is to buy the individual shells. You can add them to your motorcycle jacket as an addition or replacement for your inferior shells. Some modern motorcycle clothing comes with pockets for you to add your own armor, and these individual shells work for these too.

Hips and Butt

All too often, people underestimate their need for hip and butt protection. But these two areas are highly likely to see injury when you fall. If you want to have hip and butt protection, you’d have to buy a pair of leather or textile riding pants. Thanks to modern innovations, you can buy motorcycle armor with the shells built in that you wear under your regular pants. 

The best armor will mold to your body and feel like a second skin for the most comfort while riding. You should also look for tailbone protection. This bottom part of your spine is susceptible to injury and very painful if injured. 

How We Tested The Motorcycle Armor

The best way to test motorcycle armor is to go down in it. But we don’t recommend purposefully crashing to test out the gear. This would be dangerous to both you and your motorcycle. Instead, you can look at the safety rating and test data from the manufacturer and independent third parties. Some tests will show you how the gear performed in a variety of situations, such as impact absorption and abrasion resistance. This gives you an idea of how the gear will perform when you need it most. 

The second part of testing out the gear is how it works with you. This means putting the gear on and riding in it. Pay attention to how comfortable the gear is. Find out what your range of motion is while wearing it. Wear it in different temperatures to determine its breathability and insulation. 

The Most Important Features of Motorcycle Armor

When shopping for motorcycle armor, there are three things to consider. The first is to find armor that’s CE approved for use while on a motorcycle. The second is to find the armor that’s meant for the area of your body that you want to protect. The final thing to look for is the correct size so that it will fit you. 

CE Approval 

For a manufacturer to claim that its armor is protective, it must qualify through independent testing for CE standards. There are two levels of protection for motorcycle safety gear. Any armor that you buy should have a CE marking and either Level 1 or 2. Level 2 is the higher and more protective rating. 

Another popular armor you will see is D3O. Don’t let the name confuse you: It’s describing the material the armor is made out of. It comes in both CE 1 and 2 level protection. Some affordable jackets will have foam pads instead of armor. It is not CE-rated and not nearly as protective. Most riders replace it. 

Body Part Protected

If you know what part of your body that you want to protect, then you can narrow down your armor search to those pieces that will protect that particular body part. This makes shopping for armor easier. 

Once you find the armor for your needed body part, the next step is to look at how it protects it. Consider the shaping of the armor. Some will fit closer to the body than others. Then consider the armor’s size, as some will protect a larger area of your body than others. The shaping fit and coverage are a personal preference. 

Breathability 

Wearing a ton of gear can get hot and heavy, and not in a good way. You want armor that will absorb impact but also not get so hot that you pass out while riding. Look for gear that has perforations and channeling. This allows for increased airflow. Pay attention to the fabric that holds the armor. It should be breathable, allowing air to flow through and keep the rest of your body cool. Basic armor will use mesh. High-end armor uses innovative materials that look more solid but allow air to flow through. A moisture-wicking lining is also good. This will pull moisture away from your body, allowing it to evaporate and keep you feeling cool. 

Abrasion Resistance 

While impact protection is important, it isn’t the only concern. Your armor also needs to be abrasion-resistant. This quality protects you when sliding on the ground after a fall. The most protective armor has Kevlar fiber reinforcement. However, you will see a variety of innovative fibers woven or layered in the armor to protect against abrasion. To ensure the best protection, look for an A, AA, or AAA rating. A is the lowest level of protection but suitable for leisurely city riding. An AA rating is protective enough for touring riders with more abrasion protection. The most protective is the AAA rating. The gear is highly abrasion-resistant but tends to restrict ergonomics. You’ll see this rating on leather suits and track gear. 

Intended Use 

How you plan to use your armor will affect the type of armor that you buy. If you only need to replace your back protector, you can buy a single back armor piece. If you’re looking for more protection under your other gear, an armored vest will work. Shorts and leggings will add additional protection under your pants. A set of armor shells are perfect for adding armor into the pockets of your jacket. If you want to wear street clothes while riding, look for armor you can wear as a base layer.

Care and Maintenance for Motorcycle Armor

Caring for your motorcycle armor ensures that it will last for years to come. The first thing you should do is air it out after riding. This gives it a chance to dry so that bacteria and mold don’t grow.

Motorcycle armor is a necessity for safe riding.

The second thing you should do is wipe it clean. This gets the dirt, grit, grime, and bugs off of it. These contaminants can cause your armor to age and deteriorate faster. 

When you’re deciding where to store your armor, it needs to be in a cool, dry place. This will keep the armor and material from rotting, molding, or developing mildew. 

  • Air it out
  • Wipe it clean
  • Store In a cool, dry place. 

Best Motorcycle Armor FAQ:

When you start comparing motorcycle armor, the natural question is to ask which one is the best. Then you’ll see different types of armor names. It helps to get those questions answered to be fully informed when making your purchase. We are going to help you understand what you’re looking at. 

Q: What is the best motorcycle body armor?

The best body armor is the one that fits you, is comfortable to ride in, and is certified to be protective while riding a motorcycle. 

Q: Is D3O armor any good?

Yes, D3O is very good armor. It’s thinner than other types of armor, which makes it lighter and more comfortable. 

Q: Can motorcycle armor stop a bullet?

No, your motorcycle armor won’t stop a bullet. You need Kevlar that’s strong enough to stop a bullet. 

Q: What is motorcycle armor made of?

Several materials are used in the construction of armor. There are Kevlar hybrids, leather, mesh, and other textiles. 

Our Top Pick

Our top pick for the best motorcycle armor is the Icon Stryker Vest with its articulated injection-molded back protector. Its low-profile design makes it possible to wear this vest in a variety of combinations. The adjustable shoulder and waist straps ensure you can secure it to your body. The vented BioFoam and Airmesh chassis help to keep this armor comfortable in warm weather. 

Final Thoughts

You can’t go wrong with the Icon Stryker Vest with its quality construction, comfortable fit, and CE-approved armor. Its Hydradry moisture-wicking liner, adjustability, and low-profile design make it comfortable enough to wear all day. 

For a more affordable option, the Alpinestars Nucleon KR-2i Back Protector Insert won’t let you down with its CE-certified level 2 armor, plenty of ventilation, and universal compatibility.

Sources:

  1. Motorcycle Armor – Wikipedia

MORE TO READ

Load more...