Motorcycle Gear > The Truth About Motorcycle Body Armor

The Truth About Motorcycle Body Armor

The Truth About Motorcycle Body Armor

We say it all the time. Motorcycle protective gear is crucial when you’re riding. The acronym ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time) is a ritual and mindset that should be followed when you ride. Defensive riding can prevent most accidents, but protective gear, including motorcycle body armor, can save your life when defensive riding isn’t enough.

Why Motorcycle Body Armor is Important

Body armor is a piece of motorcycle safety gear that is often forgotten and rarely discussed. Helmets are the first thing talked about because it protects your head and neck, and is essentially the highest protection priority. Riding with a helmet has a direct correlation with your chances of surviving a motorcycle accident, but what about other protective gear?

A jacket, gloves, riding pants, and riding suits are all items that contribute to saving your skin, protecting your bones, and preventing significant sprains in the event of an accident. Each of those items contains body armor in some fashion. High-density foam paired with carbon fiber or Kevlar composite abrasion panels is the most prominent form of body armor available for motorcycle safety gear. They will provide impact and abrasion protection to all major and minor joints that have the highest potential of impact during an accident.

Does Body Armor Work?

There will always be a question about the effect of motorcycle-specific riding gear and whether body armor does make a difference. Although there are not many studies surrounding the effectiveness of body armor, there is no argument that motorcycle body armor does provide more protection than riding without. We’ve known riders that have walked away from high-speed crashes on a closed course with nothing more than a bruised ego. The protective gear had internal body armor that protected them from the initial impact and the following abrasion as they slid to a halt.

CE Ratings

Once you start shopping for body armor, you may see a tag on the protector or the packaging mentioning a CE rating or an EN European rating. Most international brands that offer protective gear in multiple global markets label their protective armor based on a CE rating. CE stands for Conformité Européene, which translates to European Conformity. The term CE Marking has been used since 1993 and conform to motorcycle safety standards in Europe. The United States hasn’t officially adopted these standards, but most authorities and organizations use them as guidelines to understand the safety standard of the gear in question. You won’t be required to ride in CE Mark certified protective equipment on U.S. streets and highways, but you may be required to wear them on a closed race track. That will be dictated by the track or sanctioning organization running the event you’re participating in.

Manufacturers are starting to adopt an international standard that will encompass all standards around the world. Europe and the U.S. have different rules, and they don’t completely coincide with Australia or Asia. This makes it costly and challenging to create protective gear for each area on the globe, so adopting a design that can be used anywhere in the world is best for the rider and the manufacturer.

Opting to buy protective gear with or without the CE rating doesn’t indicate that you’re buying better or worse protective gear. An American brand that only sells in the United States may decide not to design and certify to a European or International standard, but can still produce protective gear that meets or exceeds the same criteria without the extra work for certification. Just do your research on the specific protective equipment you are interested in, whether it’s certified or not.

Types of Body Armor

Armored Vests

Armored vests are designed to fit over the torso and offer front, chest, and back protection. These provide excellent impact and abrasion protection for your chest and back but do not provide any protection for your arms. Most feature a hard abrasion resistant outer core and a padded interior that works well under a jacket or can be worn over a shirt or sweatshirt.

Armored Jackets

Motorcycle specific jackets are typically armored at the significant impact points such as the back, shoulders, and elbows. Materials can be leather, mesh, a Kevlar hybrid, or textile that can be better suited to all-weathers. They typically have internal and external pockets and tightening mechanisms around the neck and wrists (straps or snaps).

Jackets don’t have a predetermined replacement period, and you may get many years of riding out of the gear. Use your best judgment on the condition of your jacket and protective armor and decide when is the proper time to replace it with a new one.

Armored Suits

Riding suits come in different materials and options for pockets, closures, and materials. You may enjoy a one-piece suit that offers that racing feel, even if it’s made for all-weather riding. Beyond the one-piece option, there are two-piece suits that connect around the waist to simulate a one-piece and add extra weather protection while riding. You can also use the jacket or pants separately on a ride, where the one-piece is an all or nothing option.

Both suits offer strategic armor placements in the shoulders, back, elbows, hips, legs, and knees. They typically feature cinch-up wrists and ankles to help with wind and weather penetration. Leather and a Kevlar hybrid are great in the hot summer months, especially if you need extra abrasion protection. If you intend to ride in rain and wind, a textile material does a great job of shedding water.

Armored Pants

Armored riding pants come in leather or textiles, depending on where and in what conditions you ride in, and both offer protection in the hips, pelvis, legs, and knees. Look for the features that match your riding style the best and then search for what is affordable based on your budget.

Motorcycle Boots

It’s arguable whether or not having motorcycle boots is necessary for riding, as many riders prefer to ride in their hiking boots. According to the 1981 Hurt Report, a motorcycle safety study conducted in the United States, wearing any boot provided a 53% reduction in risk of any foot or ankle injury and a 73% reduction in open wound injuries. However, armored motorcycle boots reduced the risk of an open wound injury by 90%.

Motorcycle boots come in many different styles and functions. You can choose amongst a boot with more outer protection around the toe for abrasion, and a steel toe insert for more toe impact protection or just a good over the ankle boot to offer ankle support. All motorcycle boots should have an oil-resistance sole that can handle a slippery surface when you step in an oily puddle at an intersection. Some motorcycle boots offer a string enclosure that can be tucked inside the boot with a hook-and-loop closure, while others come in a slip-on version.

Armored motorcycle boots reduced the risk of an open wound injury by 90%.
– The Hurt Report

– The Hurt Report

Elbow and Knee Guards

If you’re not looking for a suit or jacket, but still want the protection offered from armor, there are options for just armor available. Some manufacturers offer a thin shirt or thin riding pants that contain protective armor padding and can be worn under standard riding apparel. You may have a set of riding jeans that you enjoy riding in and want a set of armored pads to wear underneath them. These guards are the perfect option for those occasions. There are also external elbow and knee pads that can go over a shirt, jacket, or pants if you prefer to wear them on the exterior.

Back/Spine Protector

A back/spine protector may seem like equipment that only someone who races on a track or closed course should wear. Although it’s a standard item for racers, it doesn’t have to be a race-only protective item.

The Hurt Report mentioned that back protectors contributed to the reduction of soft tissue damage on the back and sides of the body when the rider was involved in an accident. (Soft tissue damage can be associated with bruising only, not a broken back or cracked vertebrae.) Most back protectors limit spine movement and will stop a puncture or abrasion from occurring. In the event of an accident, back protectors provide more advantages in terms of protection than not wearing one.

Hip Protection

Hip protections usually come in the form of padded shorts that you can wear underneath your riding pants for added protection. They’re designed to fit snug to your hips and legs to keep the pads in place as you move about the motorcycle on a ride.

Motorcycle Armor Wrap-Up

Motorcycle body armor is essential to your safety during your motorcycle ride. Whether worn externally or internally, built-in or removable, on your jacket or all areas of your gear, it is designed to keep you safe in the event of an accident occurring. Remember that ATGATT is a mindset you should engrain into your mind every time you take the bike out. Take the actions to keep safe on the road and enjoy your ride! Please feel free to drop a comment below, letting us know how you feel about body armor. If you enjoyed this content, check out more content on motorcycle gear here.

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  • guest posting sites
    May 16, 2020 at 7:22 am

    This blog is really great. The information here will surely be of some help to me. Thanks!.

  • Martin Michalko
    April 22, 2020 at 3:41 am

    Wear this wear that… bullshit. It is all passive safety. In order to be safe, one must have safety in mind and behave accordingly. Safety is a result of one’s ability to manage risks. I squid all the time, and I’m aware of that shit may happen. That makes me a better rider, because I’m vigilant and actively participate to stay out of trouble. Full gear gives one a sensation of invincibility. That is more dangerous than not having any gear. In case of a serious accident, the gear will only make you look good in your coffin. The attitude is more important than equipment. Active safety, to avoid accident, not passive to reduce damage… I see this atgatt people dying every year, behaving like organ donors lol. At least those less fortunate in terms of health can come about spare parts.

    • Abel Goddard
      May 16, 2020 at 7:25 am

      That’s your own bias against armor, Martin. “I squid all the time” “that makes me a better rider” “actively participate to stay out of trouble” – these are all the words of someone not smart enough to realize that there are times that you can’t predict or even imagine what’s about to happen. Even if you are the best rider and make zero mistakes on your bike, you’re surrounded by idiots in cages.

    • Howard Clarke
      June 1, 2020 at 5:33 pm

      Martin, you aren’t fully in control of all the possible events that could happen to you, yes be vigilant and careful, ride conservatively, but you can’t control the old lady that hits the gas pedal instead of brake, or the drunk driver, or the dog that runs out in front of you, all reasons to put the gear on. cr&p happens sometimes, wrong place, wrong time and your bouncing down the road like a sack of carrots.

  • Lolo
    February 20, 2020 at 4:10 am

    I glanced through a lot of the article as I am an ATGATT rider in any case but I couldn’t help noticing the egregious typo (I hope!!) saying that back protectors CONTRIBUTE to soft tissue damage! Should be contribute to “reduction of”? If not, please let me know!!

  • Joseph Schott
    December 15, 2019 at 5:04 am

    Thanks for the article. I live in Houston and ride and air cooled Harley. It can be incredibly uncomfortable and hot to wear armor during the summer with the heat and humidity. But I still wear it because any increase in my chance to walk away from an accident (even just 1%) makes it worth it to me to bear the discomfort. I love my bike and I love riding, but I love my wife and little girl more and I will take every advantage to come he to them in one piece.

  • Latham
    November 20, 2019 at 5:48 am

    i need this website email anyone know please reply back

  • Stan Augustowicz
    November 5, 2019 at 11:44 pm

    Having just sustained a knee injury from lowside fall at 45kph, I think the CE 2 rating on the knee armour in my riding pants didn’t provide the protection I expected. The armor and pants move of optimum location to provide required protection, the soft padding armour needs to be wider than what is fitted to riding pants. I’m seriously considering cutting up CE1 armour and gluing extra on the sides of the main CE 2 armour pad. I think CE testing needs be improved to recognise real collision situations.

    • Ed Wilkes
      July 2, 2020 at 8:55 am

      I couldn’t agree more stan! knee armour especially should be a full 270 degrees of protection, with some semi rigid component on the outside. The knee pads you get with things like motorcycle jeans are an absolute joke. I am currently fashioning my own, and also considering external armour such as Dainese Knee V E1, I really like my knees.

  • Pete Bjerkelund
    March 11, 2019 at 8:29 pm

    The article refers to the 1981 Hurt Report continuously… nothing like a 38 year old materials and technology spec sheet to base a decision on…

  • Chris Gilliand
    October 25, 2018 at 9:15 am

    My track leathers and accessories were damaged in the recent hurricane “Micheal “ they were completely submerged, and roof fell on them. The CE armor is damaged and the entire suit is molded and wet and seems to have shrunk, helmets too took a large impact from debris. I say they must be replaced, my insurance company says they can be dry cleaned. They can’t dry clean the built in armor. Is there a site or reference saying damage like this is replacement only????

    • Doofus Amungus
      December 6, 2018 at 8:05 am


  • Kristen
    August 9, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    Thank you for your article. It’s a quick simple rundown and the takeaway–WEAR ARMOR and be protected on every ride. At Bohn Body Armor we say “the only armor that works is the armor that you wear”. If it isn’t comfortable, cool, flexible and allows you to have range of motion on your bike, what good is it? It will end up on a hanger in the closet. We take pride in offering a wide range of products and fabrics to keep you cool and protected from shoulders to shins on every ride. Give us a shot!

  • Sam Raws
    December 24, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Professionals only should create on this issue as in any safety-related problem. Appropriate devices can create an tremendous distinction in many stances.

    Posted by: Sam | Up Your Imports

  • brancaleon
    December 23, 2014 at 10:21 am

    ahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahah…oh god, oh god save america by Americans

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