Body Armor

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How to choose mountain bike body armor: Although scars and scrapes are a great way to impress your friends, and looking cool in a t-shirt on the hill is always fun, some of us need to show up to the office on Monday in one piece. Short of not riding at all, body armor is the best preventative measure against upper body injuries. Modern designs are light, breathable, provide great protection and most importantly are comfortable. If protecting your body is important, a new set of body armor and a pair of knee/shin pads is the way to go.

Body Armor

Types

There are four types of body armor depending on how much coverage they offer: spine only, torso, torso with short sleeves, and full upper body. Spine only armor is popular with experienced riders and racers who know the benefits of spinal protection in major crashes, but prefer to be able to move their arms without restriction. Some race organizers make spinal protection compulsory for all participants. Torso protection combines the spine board with a layer of padding on the chest, and sometimes collarbone area of the rider. Torso protection with short sleeves adds plastic shoulder cups and protection on the upper arms. Finally, full upper body armor protects the full length of the arms as well. All four types are available with varying degrees of protection, from thin foams to hard plastic.

Sizes

Most manufacturers offer their body armor in five sizes: small, medium, large, extra-large, and extra-extra-large. Sizing charts are typically based on chest and waist circumference, but trying it on is the best way to ensure proper fit.

Materials

Most body armors are composed of a thin layer of breathable material that fits like a shirt, onto which the padding is sewn. Padding is made from foam, hard plastic, special impact foams that harden on impact, or a combination of these materials. A zipper is usually used on the front or side, along with an elastic velcro strap at the waist to keep everything in place.

Things To Look For

First, determine what type of protection is best for you. Next, find something that fits and is comfortable. Because armor protects so much of a rider's body, especially full-sleeved models, finding a design that fits like a glove and allows full range of motion can be tricky. Manufacturers solve this problem by offering padding with enough adjustments to ensure a comfortable fit for most body types. For riders with uncommon body types, look for models with adjustable shoulder and elbow straps that allow enough extension or contraction of the arms. It is recommended to try a model on in person if at all possible, as this is the only way to know how a set of body armor will fit. Also, riders who wear neck braces should look into models designed for use with a brace.

How Much To Spend

Body armor ranges in price from $50 to $475.

The $50-$150 range includes some thin base 7layer padding and all types of hard plastic body armor. These models provide great protection and value for the weekend warrior.

Moving up to the $150-$300 range, models become more breathable and lightweight thanks to the use of superior materials like impact hardening foam. This range also includes top of the line spine only, torso and short sleeve models.

The $300-$475 range items are top of the line full body models that combine the best materials, technology, fit and protection into a competition level product.

Product Reviews

Before buying, be sure to do your research and read product reviews. Reviews are a great way to find out specifics about a particular model, user impressions, and things to watch out for. After you've purchased a product and had enough time to thoroughly test it, we encourage you to leave a review for other people to see when they are researching bikes and parts on the web.

We hope you've found this information to be helpful. If you have a question that isn't answered in this guide, our mountain bike forums are a great place to get advice from knowledgeable riders. Your local bike shop is also a great resource.

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