Armour plating: Best of the vest

Published: 23 October 2016

Watch your back with these protective vests.

It's not just as simple as choosing one that fits, you'll want to decide what sort of riding you'll be doing while wearing it, the temperatures you ride in and whether or not you want chest protection. Here's a quick rundown of what to look for.

Breathability
Think about how hard you’ll be riding – if you’re track riding you’ll want breathability (and washability). 

Central or full?
If we’ve marked a vest as CB, that covers the central back – FB stands for full back.

Hot/cold tests
Optional tests within CE show whether the protector can still meet the standard in cold (-10°C) or hot (+40°C) conditions.

CE mark
CE approval comes in two levels where Level 2 performs considerably better in tests than Level 1.

Chest protection
Before you say you’re not bothered, think about the vulnerable bits it will cover.


Held Keltor, £142.99

The most serious coverage of all the vests here comes from the Keltor, which combines Level 2 performance for the back, chest, kidneys and a removable extension that reaches down to cover the coccyx. The protectors can all be removed from the washable, stretchy mesh vest that also wicks away moisture to help it dry quickly after intense rides. This is one hardcore offering.

Coverage: Back, chest, tailbone, kidneys
Level: 2 (FB)
Hot/cold tests: Cold
Sizes: S-XXL



Rukka Cepi Vest, £159.99

File this under the tag ‘why has no-one thought of this before?’. This combines a one-piece D3O chest protector and Level 1 back protector, both stored in a vest that zips to Rukka trousers. Braces go over the rider’s shoulders to hold the whole shebang in place. It’s made from Cordura with an Outlast lining for warmth.

Coverage: Back/chest.
Level: 2 (FB)
Hot/cold tests: Cold (Level 1)
Sizes: XS-XXL



Dainese Body Guard, £149.99

High-airflow vest that’s made from wide-aperture mesh and contains a Level 1 hard-shelled back protector insert along with two-piece chest protection. It has two storage pockets, fit adjusters on each side at the waist as well as a loop at the base of the spine to attach the vest to a belt.

Coverage: Back/chest
Level: 1 (CB)
Hot/cold tests: None
Sizes: S-XL



Safe-Max SK2 Vest, £68.99

Budget option that boasts a Level 2 back protector inside a breathable vest made from mainly mesh material to allow air to flow through. It secures with a central zip and there are adjuster bands to ensure the right fit around the waist. Ribbed elastication panels on the two sides of the ribcage help get snug positioning for the back protection.

Coverage: Back
Level: 2 (FB)
Hot/cold tests: None
Sizes: S-XL



Rev’It Force Vest, £109.99

The main thrust of Rev’It’s offering in this field is around the ability to wear the vest on its own without looking a plonker. It’s a vented high-airflow vest with a Level 2 back protector insert that’s made from the company’s soft, pliable Seesoft material. There are hip pockets on either side, stretch panels down each side of the ribcage and good doses of light-reflective material.

Coverage: Back
Level: 2 (CB)
Hot/cold tests: None
Sizes: S-XXL



Knox Track Vest, £159.99

Passes all available tests to the higher Level 2. The protection comes from the company’s Aegis back protector, with a mesh vest attached by zip, which makes it easy to detach the protection and wash the vest itself. There’s a main zip to fasten the vest, a waistband with an adjuster that allows the rider to reposition it to suit their shape, as well as light padding at the chest, where there’s also a Velcro strap to attach a chest protector.

Coverage: Back | Optional areas: Chest
Level: 1
Hot/cold tests: None
Sizes: S-XXL



Icon Stryker Vest, £112

The strikingly designed Stryker can be worn under or over bike kit, and is sold as low-profile protection. The back section is the only approved protection, with the chest panel offering more of a lightly-padded deflector. The back panel meets the lower of two CE-approval standards – the literature suggests it creeps under the 18kN test barrier with a 17.4kN impact score.

Coverage: Back 
Level: 1
Hot/cold tests: None
Sizes: S-XXXL



Forcefield Pro Vest, X-V £124.99

Base layer meets armoured vest with this Forcefield offering. It combines a Level 2 back protector with two-piece chest protection in a breathable, stretch-fit vest that can be washed separately. The armour is soft and pliable and there’s a central fastening zip as well as a removable Velcro waistband.

Coverage: Back/chest
Level: 2
Hot/cold tests: Cold
Sizes: XS-XL



Knox FastBack Gilet, £89.99

For comfortable protection while touring the FastBack is a highly vented mesh jacket with Knox’s soft Flexiform armour covering the back. It has extensive ribbing to help air flow. The panel meets the lower Level 1 standard of the CE approval. There is a waist adjuster band and a Velcro panel stitched into the chest section will help secure an optional chest protector into position.

Coverage: Back | Optional areas Chest
Level: 1
Hot/cold tests: None
Sizes: S-XXL



Held Shelter II, £104.99

Held’s build quality shines through on this vest, which has a removable Level 2 back protector tucked in a washable, breathable vest that’s made from a tight-knit mesh and has an adjustable Velcro waistband. Buyers need to take care with the Velcro waistband, which will pull on the vest and make it look untidy if the rough side comes into contact.

Coverage: Back
Level: 2
Hot/cold tests: Cold
Sizes: S-XXL