One of the simplest ways you can improve your motorcycle gear is to upgrade the armour.
A motorcycle armour upgrade not only improves the level of protection that your kit offers but it will also improve your comfort. It’s a simple upgrade that you will instantly benefit from.
One of the main differences between budget motorcycle clothing and top-spec kit is the quality of the component parts that the manufacturers use.
When it comes to price-conscious motorcycle gear, the armour is usually basic. While it should meet the minimum CE standards, it’s usually the lowest protection level and is often bulky, inflexible and uncomfortable.
For a small outlay you can replace your existing armour and upgrade it with the latest lightweight and more protective offerings.
It doesn’t matter who made your current kit, most armour is build to a similar size and I’ve never had an issue fitting aftermarket armour inserts into the pockets that are in the lining of my bike trousers and jackets.
Isn’t all bike kit CE approved?
In short, no.
This is a bit of a grey area but recent legislation means that as of 2018, all motorcycle clothing is deemed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and therefore the garment itself has to meet a CE standard and not just the armour.
Years ago, manufacturers could get away with the shortfall in the average consumer’s understanding, by selling a piece of clothing but include CE-approved protectors. Most consumers would think meant the whole jacket was CE approved and therefore a better quality garment but this wasn’t the case.
For example, a wax cotton fashion jacket could be sold with CE approved armour and you could reasonably expect it would be fit for use on a motorcycle but the jacket itself might offer little to no resistance to abrasion or impact. The CE armour in the jacket would be next to useless if the jacket split on impact and the armour came loose.
CE approval standards
You might still find kit being sold that doesn’t meet the new legislation but ay kit that’s manufactured today, for use by motorcyclists will have to meet the new regulation.
It might add a bit of cost but it will improve the level of protection for all bikers.
There are three main standards of CE approved protector that you’ll find in your motorcycle kit.
Limb armour (EN1621-1:2012)
This standard covers shoulder, elbow, hip and knee. It will be certified to either Level 1 rating or the higher Level 2 rating.
Back protection (EN1621-2:2014)
Again the levels are Level 1 and the high quality Level 2.
Chest protection (prEN 1621-3:2017)
This standard is still in consultation but there will be a Level 1 and Level 2 standard. However chest protection is only really found in the highest quality (and most expensive) motorcycle jackets.
Foam armour and why it’s useless
There’s a chance that your motorcycle jacket includes ‘armour’ that looks like this. It’s not armour, it’s foam padding and in the event of a crash, it’ll be next to useless.
Fortunately, with the new CE standards, this sort of padding won’t be common in motorcycle jackets.
This padding came out of a wax cotton motorcycle jacket that I bought more than 5 years ago. In fairness it was never sold as being for use on a motorcycle but it’s reasonable to expect that a jacket being sold in a motorcycle shop was designed for use on a bike. However that has not been the case until recently. Now all kit must meet a CE standard, these foam inserts alone won’t be allowed.
While this padding is comfortable and it does add shape to the shoulders on the jacket, it’s pretty much pointless. It weighs just 10g and I don’t think even NASA could develop a material that, at 10 grams, could offer any meaningful impact protection.
If your motorcycle jacket or trousers has this sort of padded insert, it makes sense to switch it out for armour that will actually help you avoid injury in the event of an accident.
The different types of motorcycle armour
Pictured above are three different types of motorcycle armour insert. These are all designed for the elbows/shoulders in a motorcycle jacket.
On the left is a basic CE approved Level 1 armour insert removed from a budget-priced jacket. It’s chunky, it’s not that flexible and when it’s in the jacket you can definitely feel it pressing against your elbow when you’re in the riding position. The material feels sold and has little give. It weighs 122g. It’s designed to perform a function at a price and it’ll no doubt offer good protection in the event of a crash.
In the middle is an aftermarket upgrade by armour specialist D3O. It’s called the LP2 Pro. It’s certified to CE Level 2 standard – the highest standard as I write this. It is quite thick but it’s flexible and comfortable when in place – in fact you can barely notice it is there. The holes in the armour ensure it stays breathable so you don’t get clammy on a warm day. It weighs 135g.
On the right is an armour insert removed from a high-end Dainese jacket. It’s certified to a CE Level 1 standard, it’s well made, with a hard armour exterior in two parts, stitched to a soft material interior. Due to the two-part construction, it’s comfortable and flexible.It weighs just 86g.
Should you upgrade?
If your armour looks like the armour on the left, then there are two reasons you might want to upgrade. The first is to improve the level of comfort and the second is to improve the level of protection from Level 1 to Level 2. In my view, it’s definitely worth upgrading armour of this type with the more comfortable D3O armour.
If your armour looks like the armour on the right, then the only reason to upgrade is to improve the protective qualities. You could upgrade your protection to CE Level 2 but the comfort of the Dainese armour in this example is just as good as the D3O. Personally I wouldn’t upgrade my armour if it was built to this standard. Instead I’d put the money towards a motorcycle back protector.
The thinnest motorcycle armour
Armour specialists D3O produce a fairly radical armour insert which they call Ghost.
It’s certified to CE Level 1, it’s incredibly thin and it weighs just 86g.
Fitted to my jackets, it makes a huge difference to comfort.
It’s especially good on some of my leather jackets, where the leather itself is quite thick and with the addition of regular armour the jacket becomes cumbersome and the armour can dig in.
For me, the Ghost is a great addition to any leather jacket; it measurably improves the comfort of all the jackets I tried it in. The flexibility is great – if something is comfortable, you’re more likely to wear it, right? There’s also a handy little cut out in each of the protectors that allows you to thread through the hook-and-loop or popper buckle that some jackets have in them to hold the armour in place.
With this Ghost armour fitted, you honestly can’t feel the armour at all. With my elbow bent, I had to double-check the armour hadn’t slipped inside the jacket because it’s so thin it has no noticeable outline. On my slightly looser textile jackets, the Ghost armour did slip around inside the lining.
It’s available in Hip/Shoulder and Knee/Elbow formats.
Fitting your armour
Changing your body armour is simple. Every jacket or pair of motorcycle trousers that I’ve owned has an internal pocket where you can locate your armour. I’ve never had a garment where the armour is switched in and removable.
It can be fiddly removing and replacing armour.
I find the easiest way to replace your body armour is to turn your garment inside out, as then you can easily see the internal picket that the armour is located in.
Slide out your old armour and replace it with your upgraded armour. Make sure you’ve positioning it the right way around.
When you turn your garment back again it might be a bit tricky to get the armour to pass through the narrower sleeve of a jacket, so when the jacket is the right way around, just double check the armour is still located in the right place.
Great aftermarket options
There are lots of decent armour upgrades out there. Below I’ve listed a few good brands who produce quality aftermarket motorcycle body armour that’s properly CE tested.
Carbon fibre never goes out of fashion. It has an appeal that almost no other material does in the world of biking and motorsport at large. Until they start making motorcycle helmets with a titanium outer shell, we think carbon fibre will always be THE coolest material you could use to produce a motorbike helmet.
In our showcase below, we’ve picked out 7 different carbon fibre motorcycle helmets, at different price points and in different styles. Here’s a full run-down of each of these great helmets:
If you have any questions or comments about upgrading your motorcycle body armour, just drop them below and I’ll get back to you.