The world of motorcycle back protection can be a bit of a nightmare to navigate. There are lots of products claiming to come with CE approved armour but there are different CE approval tests for anything from bicycles to motorbikes.
Table of Contents
What You Need To Know
So if you want to upgrade the armour in your motorcycle jacket, look no further. In this guide, we’ve picked out some great insert back protectors that offer proper motorcycle-approved CE Level 2 protection.
If you do have some form of protection built into your biking jacket, why not take a look at it. If it’s a flimsy piece of foam, then it won’t offer any worthwhile protection.
If it’s CE certified, check it’s tested to the EN1621-2-2014 standard, this is the motorcycle test for back protection, if it’s 2012, not 2014 then it’s motorcycle impact protection (ie shoulders and elbows) but not back specific.
Anything else and it’s probably tested to a bicycle standard which won’t be of much use to you in a 30mph+ impact.
For around £30 you can upgrade your back protector to the best possible standard. It’s a worthwhile investment.
CE Level 2, breathable and flexible
At 18mm thick the D3O Viper is reassuringly chunky – it surpasses the EN1721-2:2014 Level 2 test – but the flexible material ensures it won’t feel like you’ve got a plank of wood stuffed down your back. It can be used more than once – but we recommend you don’t try it.
CE Level 2 protection from a trusted brand
Forcefield specialises in impact protection and this Pro Lite K is a nifty bit of kit – offering the same CE Level 2 protection as their top-end strap-on back protectors but for jacket inserts. As armour upgrades go, it’s the business.
Insert or strap on?
There are two types of back protector; an insert or a strap on.
The insert types are the ones we’re covering in this guide. They slot into a pocket in the lining of your jacket. They’re generally smaller than a strap-on back protector but people like them as they’re easy to use. You just stick ’em in and you’re set.
The strap-on types are a separate back protector which you wear over your shoulders like a rucksack and secure it in place with a waist strap. These offer the greatest levels of protection and they’re more popular for bikers on trackdays, although road riders also wear them.
Even if the protection in your biking gear is marked with the CE logo, it might only have been tested for skateboarding or cycling. Dig deeper and you may find the armour in your bargain motorcycle jacket might also be the same armour used in some American Football jerseys..
While you may want to upgrade your back protection, you might not be a fan of a larger strap-on type back protector, in which case you can upgrade your insert protection with aftermarket insert-type protectors.
Check out our other guide if you’re interested in finding the best strap-on motorcycle back protector. They’re slightly more expensive than an insert-type but they can easily be used across multiple biking outfits and they offer slightly more protection due to the fact they cover a larger surface area.
Insert Back Protector Buying Guide
Upgrading your back protector is a great move. They're cheap and built to do the job properly. When it comes to back protection there's no point skimping on quality.
Size: Insert back protectors come in different sizes, depending on your jacket size. Some will also come in Male or Female specific cuts.
Manufacturer specific: Most of the popular brands will produce their own back protector upgrades. Brands like Alpinestars, Dainese, Held, Furygan and RST all product their own, which are designed to fit into their internal linings.
Breathability: Back protectors that aren’t vented get hotter, faster. A sweaty back protector isn’t a pleasant experience. Some back protectors have a mesh surface that sits in contact with your back and provides additional airflow.
CE Approval: It goes without saying you want a back protector that has been tested to CE standards. However there are two levels, Level 1 and Level 2. Level 2 offers the most protection, so if you can, go for a Level 2 back protector.
Motorcycle back protector CE levels
There are two levels of protection Level 1 and Level 2. In short, a Level 2 protector offers more protection than a Level 1 but both are a huge upgrade on not wearing a back protector at all.
The CE European safety standard for back protection is EN1621-2-2014. This is broken down into two levels. Level 1 back protectors need to transmit less than 18kN of force from a 50 Joule impact. Level 2 protectors need to transmit less than 9kN.
But what do all these kilonewtons mean? Medical types reckon that any impact to your back over 4kN can potentially result in a serious injury.
Of course, no-one’s going to stop at Level 2. Level 3 motorcycle back protectors are coming but it’s worth mentioning that some Level 2 back protectors far exceed the Level 2 standard. The Level 3 standard is used in horse-rider protection. This standard only allows the maximum of 4kN of force.
For now there’s “CE Approval Level 2 T+ / T-” which means the armour works at LEvel 2 standard at 40-degrees celsius and down to minus 10 degrees celsius.
Where is my armour meant to be used?
In order to work out what the armour has been designed and tested for, look for the following markings:
- CB = centre-back
- E = elbow
- FB = full body
- H = hip
- K = knee
- K+L = knee and shin
- L = lower leg or shin
- LB = lower back
- S = shoulder
The cheapest back protectors
Back protector upgrades aren’t expensive. We’re talking about £30 to £50 to buy a quality CE Level 2 back protector insert.
That said, not everyone has £30 to spend on a back protector but should you buy a cheap one? The short answer is: no.
The cheapest insert back protector we could find was this one on Amazon but it’s tested to EN1621-1 2012 standard which is not actually the back protector standard (that’s EN1621-1 2014), it’s for motorcycle armour in general. So it’s not a Level 1 or Level 2 back protector.
Would we buy it? Nope, at £11.99 it’s a false economy.
If you are on a tight budget, far better to go for a quality insert-type back protector like this Back Protector Insert, which is CE Level 2 approved to the correct standard. You know will offer you the protection you need should you need it and it’s a few quid cheaper than most of the insert back protectors on the market.
Back protectors: Ben's Top Tips
- Some manufacturers make back protector inserts designed to fit perfectly in their jackets. They usually slip into the sleeve and have a popper or velcro fastening system to keep them secure.
- Don’t buy a second-hand back protector. It’s an important bit of kit, you want to be 100% sure it’ll do the job you want it to.
- You can use any back protector insert in any jacket providing it fits. Measure the pocket size on your jacket and compare that to the specification of the back protector you're after. If it'll fit, it'll fit.
- Back protectors will bed in with use, so don’t worry if it feels like you've got an ironing board wedged down your back. It'll soften up and you’ll get used to it in no time.
The Back Protector For Those Who Don’t Like Back Protectors
Some bikers don’t like the idea of wearing a strap on back protector as they find them uncomfortable. Others don’t have an insert pocket in their jacket to add an insert back protector.
However motorcycle luggage maestros Kriega have come up with a great solution. Their back protector insert slots into the internal pocket of their rucksacks meaning you can upgrade your rucksack’s back protection status from zero to CE Level 2.
The specialist multi-layered Nitrile foam construction allows multiple impacts with no loss of protective performance, unlike many impact protectors which will withstand only one impact and must then be discarded.
Nitrile closed cell foam slows the moment of peak transmitted force and spreads the impact over the whole surface.
The small-sized insert fits R15 backpacks while the medium sized insert fits R20, R25 R30 and R35 backpacks.
It’s a neat solution.
Back Protectors With Good Reviews
There are lots of great back protectors on the market. If the Forcefield and D3O above don’t float your boat, then why not take a look at these?
Alpinestars Nucleon KR2I Back Protector Insert
Forcefield Upgrade Back Insert 001
Back protector FAQs
What does CE approval mean?
As explained above, it’s a test that ensures the back protector meets a given standard. Not all CE approved armour that comes in your jacket is tested for motorcycles, so check that any back protector you buy has been tested to the correct standard.
Can I re-use my back protector after a crash?
This completely depends on the make and model. Check with your back protector’s manufacturer.
Do they make back protectors that can be stored in a bag?
KNOX used to make a back protector called a Stowway and a Kompakt but they have since been discontinued. They roll up and can be stored in a carry case (which can double as a pillow if you’re camping!).
Should I buy a second-hand back protector?
We wouldn’t advise it, unless you can prove it’s never been in an impact but even so, is it worth taking the risk to save a few quid?
Thanks to the following websites which helped us research and write this back protector article.