Anyone who has ever watched motocross knows that it’s a dangerous sport. The thrill of hitting a new jump or ripping through a turn is well worth the risk to get the adrenaline pumping, but that doesn't mean we should be overlooking the right safety equipment to prepare for when things go wrong. In a previous post (here), we touched on helmet safety when we reviewed the 6D helmet. Today, we will be focusing on chest protection.
If you look around the track, you will see a variety of chest protection products. When you see the pros on TV, most of the top riders opt to not wear anything, while others usually wear thin roost protector types to create a buffer when getting pelted by rocks, but don’t offer much crash or impact protection.
One thing that I noticed when researching this topic is the variety of options that are available. The most basic type is a roost protector as I mentioned above. These are very light, breathable, and usually worn underneath of the jersey. While providing some protection, they are not going to save you from breaking ribs or if you crash and/or get run over or tangled up with another rider. Most of these are made up of very thin foam and some thin plastic that cover the chest and some of the back. I have a lot of experience with the Alpinestars A-1 model.
While most companies make a lightweight roost deflector as mentioned above, they also have a chest protector that is more heavy duty. Typically this type is constructed with a combination of bio foam mounted inside of a hard plastic shell. Most of these are marketed to be worn both over and under the jersey, depending on rider preference.
In regards to protection, they do offer more impact resistance, puncture resistance, and overall coverage than a basic thin roost deflector. An example of this type is the Evo 5 roost deflector by EVS (https://www.evs-sports.com/collections/roost-deflection/products/revo-5-roost-deflector?variant=4473107677225).
The biggest complaint that riders find with this style is that it can feel bulky to wear at the motocross track and they feel restricted due to the hard plastic shell. Since it is thicker, due to the added protection, this style also tends to be less breathable and hold more heat. Most of them slip on over the head and have a fastener around the waist that clips or hooks to the front panel.
While these do offer a lot of adjustments at the shoulders and waist to ensure a secure fit, the coverage might be a little lacking if you are bigger than the average rider since these are made in only two sizes: kids and adults. The main design is intended for front and rear protection, meaning there isn’t much covering your ribs or oblique areas. Typically roost comes from straight ahead, so that works well, but if you crash, who knows how you will fall, catch a handlebar, or get run over…If that happens, you will be glad you have something on, but it’s far from the maximum level of protection available.
If you are looking for maximum protection and a custom fit, then there are a couple of options available. These chest protectors are made with more exotic materials and are designed to offer maximum impact protection and safety. As with any premium product, they come with a premium price tag due to the advanced materials, research, and technology that goes into them.
In my opinion, the best option is the MotoXVest
By using ballistic foam, their design is unique because the materials soak up a lot of the impact during a crash into the vest rather than your body. The MotoXVest is also very durable; in fact, many of them are used for over 5 seasons with minimal wear. Just power wash it when you clean the bike and it’s good to go after air drying. In addition to covering the front and back of the rider, these also offer 360 degree protection by covering the ribs. This is ideal in a crash where a handlebar, footpeg, rock, or who knows what may be jammed into the rider.
The 'con' that comes with maximum coverage, though, is that it also comes with maximum heat. Typically, these are going to have much less air flow than a thinner style roost deflector. However, they have addressed that with an updated pro-cool option that has 45% greater air flow than the original design, according to their website. As also mentioned above, the more coverage, the more the rider may feel that it’s bulky, but this entire vest only weighs 2 lbs. So, it is really light despite the excellent coverage and protection. Additionally, the MotoXVest can be tailored to the rider's size: for example, I have a much broader and longer upper body, but I still have a slimmer waist. My vest has been designed with a longer torso and wider arm holes to provide the mobility that is required when on the track. Custom sizes can be made by calling before you order. With all of these features and more expensive materials, this vest has a significantly higher price point at $349.
Whereas MotoXVest uses ballistic foam, the RXR Bullet provides maximum protection with an airbag design. Essentially, you just pump it up like a tire and it has an airbag between you and whatever comes hurling your way. This design also looks really unique, but can offer a challenge with airflow since its made out of plastic, especially on a really hot day. I would also have to guess that the air bladder is prone to a flat just like any other ball or tire, and you have to check the air pressure and make sure the bladders do not get popped or punctured. Also, this has a higher price point than most at $215. For more details check out their website at (https://rxrprotect.com/en/)
There is another unique option that is a newer design: the 3DF Airfit Chest Protector by Leatt. We have all heard of Leatt and know they have made some pretty big advancements in safety gear (i.e. neck braces). This chest protector is unique due to the fact that it is a soft shell design much like a thinner roost protector. However the material is super high tech inside the vest. Upon impact, the gel inside the foam becomes very hard, which offers the protection you need in a crash. It is also low profile, light weight, breathable, and offers some rib protection. This is not as beefy as some of the other models, but is definitely a good compromise for the person that wants a low profile and real protection, too.
The biggest downfall of the Leatt is the sizing options. There are only 2 sizes available: regular, and XXL. If you are a non traditional size, this would probably not offer the ideal fit and coverage that you need. This also has a more reasonable price point at $159, which makes it a good value for those on a budget. For more information, check it out at: https://www.leatt.com/shop/catalog/product/view/id/2899/s/chest-protector-3df-airfit/category/627/