Does Motorcycle Armor Work?

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Many riders now consider buying a helmet to be an essential purchase. Yet despite the fact that it also reduces injuries in an accident, body armor isn’t always viewed in the same way. Here’s why it should be. 

Being out on the open road is why so many riders love their motorcycles. Although anyone who’s been riding for a while will know that it doesn’t come without any risks. As of 2019, 84,000 injuries and more than 5,000 fatalities were reported as a result of motorcycle accidents, which accounts for around 58 deaths per 100,000 US-registered motorcycles. 

This risk has led some states to introduce universal helmet laws, which require all riders to wear head protection, for their safety. Indeed, the positive impact of wearing helmets on rider safety is widely reported. Studies show that motorcyclists not wearing a helmet are three times more likely to suffer traumatic brain injury and helmeted riders reduce their risk of death by between 37% and 42% during an accident. 

Although it’s also been proven to protect motorcyclists from the worst impacts during accidents, some riders still view body armor as optional. 

What is motorcycle armor? 

Otherwise known as body armor, motorcycle armor is protective equipment that is worn on the chest, back and limbs to reduce the risk of injury to riders during an accident. Motorcycle armor helps to minimize the likelihood of injury from impacts from riding accidents on the road, track or trail. The impact protection materials, like D3O®, which make up motorcycle armor, are what help reduce the risk of severe injury and soft tissue damage. Wearing impact protection armor can mean the difference between a few scrapes and bruises, and life-altering injuries.

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. It’s more likely to be worn by riders who are commuters or leisure riders, or otherwise want armor that is more lightweight, flexible and thin. Level 1 is often included as standard in motorcycle clothing, such as jackets and pants.

Level 2 armor is designed for more extreme impact protection, and tends to be chosen by riders who want the highest level of protection possible. This includes racers and off-roaders who may be more likely to have a serious crash or fall. Level 2 armor is usually purchased separately and isn’t fitted as standard into most motorcycle clothing. Typically riders might upgrade a few key pieces of their Level 1 armor to Level 2, such as their back, knee, elbow or shoulder pads. 

Always check the level of certification and testing when choosing motorcycle armor. Look for the CE and UKCA marks to guarantee a good quality product that’s been through rigorous safety testing and is fit for use in motorcycling. 

The best motorcycle armor is flexible, breathable, comfortable and durable. Motorcyclists should feel protected while they’re riding, without feeling restricted in their movement or overheating in their gear.


Different types of motorcycle body armor

There are many types of body armor that help to keep riders safe in the event of an accident, whether that’s a high speed crash on the track, or a wobble off your bike on an uneven road. Not all riders will wear all these types of armor, but it’s good to know about the different types if your riding style changes or you’re keen to add extra layers of protection to your gear. 

  • Back protector. It’s crucial to keep your spine protected with a back protector. This is one of the most common pieces of motorcycle armor, typically fitted into the back pocket of jackets. 

  • Chest armor. Chest armor can be included in jackets as standard, or more specialist protectors are available for motorcyclists involved in track racing. It protects the ribs, sternum, lungs and heart. 

  • Shoulder pads. Built to help take the brunt of impact in the event of a sideways fall or collision, shoulder pads are fitted into motorcycle jackets and cover the top of the shoulder. 

  • Elbow pads. Whether you’re riding a sportbike or cafe racer, your elbows tend to be flexed, making them vulnerable in the event of an accident. They’re also at risk of getting scraped and bumped if you’re off-roading, trail riding or riding motocross. Elbow pads help reduce the risk of serious impact or injury.

  • Knee protectors. Your knees are key to keeping a good riding position on the bike, so protecting them is top of the agenda. Knees can be clipped by trees and debris when riding on trails, they can be knocked while racing, or even in traffic. Reliable knee protectors will save your knees time and again. 

  • Hip pads. If a bike knocks over into you from standing, it’s most likely going to strike you in the hip or upper thigh. Equally, if you fall from your bike in a crash, your hips are a vulnerable point that can strike the ground and result in injury, so it’s important to keep them protected.

  • Knuckle guards and palm padding. When we fall, we naturally put our hands out to stop the impact. But if you do this while not wearing impact protection gloves, you’ll be setting yourself up for injury. Palm padding helps resist the worst of impacts and abrasions, while knuckle guards help deflect debris and impacts in the event of going over the front of the bike.

  • Ankle guards. Any motorcyclist will tell you that your feet are critical to a safe and smooth ride. Protect your ankles from impacts such as falls, striking debris and more with ankle impact protection built into your motorcycle boots. 

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.

D3O® motorcycle armor offers the most advanced impact protection available on the market. Based on non-Newtonian principles, D3O®  materials are soft and flexible in their resting state, but stiffen under an impact to disperse the energy of the force across the surface area of the product. D3O® armor is durable and designed to withstand multiple impacts, only needing to be replaced when showing wear and tear. This is in contrast to other armor which can flatten out over time, quickly losing its ability to protect effectively.

The design of motorcycle armor is also key to ensure it gives maximum levels of protection and comfort. Each piece of D3O® armor is designed to fit specific parts of the body comfortably, including the back, chest and limbs, such as knees and elbows. This gives these areas optimum coverage and reduces the likelihood of injury. 

What are the benefits of motorcycle armor? 

As you may expect, motorcycle armor’s main benefit is to give riders protection from serious injury in the event of an accident. But what other benefits can it offer?

  • Impact absorption. In a similar way to a high-quality helmet, the best motorcycle body armor helps to absorb and disperse impact forces. This is something riders of all levels and disciplines should wear to keep themselves safe and riding time and time again.

  • No riding restrictions. Some motorcyclists are concerned that wearing body armor will restrict their movement and mean they can’t perform tasks, such as looking over their shoulder or steering, as quickly or easily. However, specifically designed body armor for motorcyclists, like D3O, lets you move freely and ride comfortably while still protecting your body and limbs to a high standard. 

  • Climate control. For adventure or urban riders in hot environments, choosing body protection that’s breathable and regulates temperature effectively is key. Armor that is designed to help with air passage and moisture flow even in extreme environments will help riders stay comfortable and not distracted by sweat.

Should you wear motorcycle armor? 

Although many motorcyclists who ride competitively wear body armor to protect themselves while they’re pushing their limits, some everyday riders see this as optional. Yet some of the biggest names in motorcycle sport say that body armor is just as essential for everyday riders. 

Michael Dunlop, an internationally-recognised road racer and 20-time winner of the legendary Isle of Man TT, is one of these body armor ambassadors. He said: “It only takes a slight second for it all to go wrong. Life can bite you, something I’ve unfortunately experienced.” He also explains that finding body armor that will keep you comfortable as well as safe is key. 

He said, “With D3O® you get the best of both worlds, it fits you perfectly but also provides the best protection that you can ask for. That’s the name of the game. You have to get back up on your feet.” 

Explore the full range of D3O® motorcycle armor today and upgrade your safety kit to get protected.