It would not occur to you to go for a motorcycle ride or race a motorcycle without protecting your head with a good fitting helmet. Protecting your spine and all the other vital organs contained in your torso is just as important, but often overlooked. In the event of an accident, your back is at high risk of injury. A good motorcycle back protector is a vital piece of protective riding equipment to protect against that risk.
The Risk of Injury in the case of an accident
In the event of a motorcycle accident, around 13% will result in a back injury. Unfortunately a motorcycle accident can cause serious damage to the spine which can lead to minor or devastating consequences such as:
1. Partial or total paralysis
2. Permanent ongoing pain
3. Loss of sensation in parts of your body
A rider may be left with long term problems and pain, even from minor injury caused to the spine.
Different types of back protectors
There are a variety of different back protectors available on the market. It is likely that your motorcycle jacket comes with CE certified armour already installed into its lining. However, this armour within the jacket, upon removal, often does not offer the same level of protection as a quality stand alone back protector.
Your back is so important and worth protecting with a quality product.
There are generally 3 different types of back protectors available to choose from:
1. An Insert
2. A strap on back protector
3. An airbag vest
The Inserted Back Protector
As discussed earlier, it is likely that your motorcycle jacket comes with some type of pre installed CE certified back protector, however, upon inspection you will likely find it to be fairly flimsy in structure. If you do not wish to upgrade to a strap on or airbag back protector, consideration should be given to at least upgrading the pre installed insert with an upgraded aftermarket version.
The Strap on Back Protector
The second, and more protective option, is to invest in a strap on back protector. When choosing your strap on back protector, ensure that it is the correct size and feels comfortable to wear. It should cover the largest surface area of your back, while also being comfortable.
Ensure that your back protector has shoulder straps which are adjustable, along with a strong waist belt to ensure the back protector remains in the correct position in the event of an accident. We would suggest choosing a back protector which also covers your kidneys for extra protection.
When choosing a back protector, it is recommended to choose one with a mesh surface on the area which sits against your back to allow for airflow, breathability and reduced sweating.
Our Recommendation for the best Strap on Back Protector
While there are a range of back protectors to choose from, from the likes of Forcefield, Alpinestars and Dainese to name a few, our top recommendation for this type of back protector, and the one that we use is the Alpinestars Nucleon KR 1 Back Protector, which comes in a range of sizes from extra small through to extra large.
The Alpinestars Nucleon KR 1 Back Protector is certified to CE Level 2, which is currently the highest back protector standard revision (prEN 1621-2:2014).
The Nucleon KR 1 features a hard shell vertebrae protection along with high energy absorbing viscoelastic memory foam. With excellent ventilation and ergonomics, the Alpinestars Nucleon KR 1 Back Protector is a fantastic choice for both road racing or street riding with its lightweight design.
Junior Riders recommendation
For the junior riders, there is a youth version, the Alpinestars Nucleon KR-Y Back Protector which is especially made for the younger riders. The Nucleon KR-Y Back Protector is also certified to CE Level 2, the highest back protector standard revision (prEN 1621-2:2014).
For the smaller framed or younger riders, the Alpinestars KR-Y represents an excellent choice of protection, being extremely lightweight, flexible and ergonomically profiled, with an airflow channeling system to allow for cooling and comfort. This back protector also features a kidney belt with dual hook and loop grip closure system to ensure the protection is kept close to the body, as well as adjustable and detachable elastic shoulder straps via a snap fit system which allows for comfort and ease of use.
The Air Bag Back Protector
The third, and our most recommended system of protection for your back and other vital organs, is to use an airbag system.
The majority of airbag systems are supplied by Alpinestars and Dainese. They come in a variety of different designs, some are worn as external vests, some are integrated into race suits and jackets, and others are worn inside your jacket. Some are designed to attach to the bike, causing them to deploy when you become detached from the bike in an accident. Other systems are wireless and use technology to deploy automatically when they sense certain changes in motion or angles.
Our choice and recommendation, and that used by us for road racing, is the Alpinestars Tech Air 5, which features an autonomous motorcycling airbag system.
The Tech Air 5 is a self-contained wearable airbag vest which can be worn under any motorcycle jacket with 4cm of space around the riders chest. The Tech Air 5 covers the shoulders, chest, ribs and full back, ensuring full upper body protection. An all too common injury in motorcycle accidents is shoulder and collarbone injuries, and this system provides the best protection to minimise the risk of such injury being sustained.
The Tech Air 5 comes with 6 integrated sensors, 3 gyroscopes and 3 accelerometers, in addition to a crash algorithm. These features allow the system to monitor when the airbag should be deployed in the event of an accident. In the event of an accident, the protective airbag is deployed, with a maximum inflation time of 20 to 40ms to provide the most effective protection to the rider on impact. In fact, testing, verified by SGS, an official CE Certification company, found that the Tech Air 5 airbag system offers the same protection as that provided by 18 CE Level 1 back protectors. It decreases the impact force by up to 95% compared to a passive CE 1 Level back protector.
The Tech Air 5 also has its own Tech-Air App and Bluetooth connectivity allowing the riders phone to display the battery status, the system’s operational status and a detailed analysis of the ride. The firmware can also be updated directly using the app.
Motorcycle back protectors are a highly effective way to protect against the risk of serious spinal injury, or other injury to vital organs in the torso in the event of an accident.
As the saying goes, ‘You get what you pay for‘, and with back protection, this is no different.
Ask yourself – ‘How much is my back worth to me’?
You will have spent many thousands of dollars to purchase the motorcycle, leathers, gloves, helmet and boots. When it comes to protection of your back, this is not the time to scrimp for the cheapest solution. Accidents happen so easily, and if they do, you want to be able to have the best chance of walking away.
So with this in mind, we would highly recommend investing in an airbag system for the best, and ultimate safety, and piece of mind that should the worst happen out on track, or on the street, you stand the best chance of not injuring your spine or other vital organs in a possibly permanent or life threatening way.
For us, the choice would be the Alpinestars Tech Air 5. We feel you simply cannot go past the safety features, comfort and versatility of this product, and these days we do not let our rider out on track without wearing his.
As always – be protected – be safe – and enjoy the ride!