Pirate's Back Protector Shoot-Out
It's a curse being as anal as I am. My wife often compares me to Adrian on the show "MONK." Not high praise. I can't just take someone's advice on ANY product and go out and purchase it. I must talk with people who own said items, read reviews, and ultimately try on or test out the product just to make sure I'm getting what's right for ME and MY body. I MUST research, therefore I am. I have this same sick ritual I go though for choosing riding gear, ...helmets, gloves, boots, suits, etc. It's the only way I'll have piece of mind and no regrets. It's not that I'm cheap as money is never or rarely and issue. I'm one of the few fortunate enough to be able to buy just about anything I want at this point in my life. Never thought I'd be saying that!
First of all, for those about to read the following review, I don't claim to be an expert on motorcycle riding, back-protectors, or safety. I'm just a rider just like you with an opinion and a computer I can use to spew said views around the world and into your home, office, or cell. I have been riding for 35+ accident free years on just about every type of high performance bike. Most of that road time has been in excess of virtually all posted speed limits and I have the velocity awards to back that up, but as age has it's way with me (I'm on the scary side of 49) I take fewer chances and safety seems more of a concern than say..20 years ago when I was like Connor MacLeod of the clan MacLeod... immortal. My reflexes are not quite as godlike as only a few years ago and due to this fact, I ride slower on the street.. still faster than most, but slower by MY standards. However.. I just recently discovered the joys of TRACK DAYS and now I'm hooked and can speed to my inner demon's content in a controlled environment.
With the requirement of a back protector in an upcoming track day class hosted by my good friends at www.sportbiketracktime.com at the Barber MotorSports facility in July, I'm forced to go through my ritual of choosing a required piece of equipment.... a back protector. Hopefully an item that I'll never use, but should I go down, my goal obviously is to walk away with functioning legs and an undamaged spine, ...one of the top 3 body essentials I cherish second only to my dic..er.. brain.
After reading numerous articles both in US and Euro magazines and speaking with at least 2 dozen seasoned track regulars, I decided to order 3 of the best back protectors on the market and evaluate them side-by side in my own inscrutable, nonscientific way. Cost for each of the 3 was within $10 of each other.. all in the $165 range. I should mention that I did NOT road test any of these products.. I am judging them for fit, comfort, design, and yes.. even looks. After my evaluation I will return the two that do NOT suit my needs and keep the other. I spoke with company reps before ordering and they chose the size for my height/ weight so all were of the correct size. In case anyone is curious.. I paid full retail for each of these. I get no kickback for anything good I say about any of them, not that I'm above that. I go into ALL tests unbiased.
Pirates' Lair Back Protector Shoot-Out Challengers..
1. The Bohn Pro Racer Cool-Air @ $165.US / Purchased from www.sportbiketracktime.com / Made in the USA
2. The Teknic / Knox KC2000 X1 @ $165.US / Purchased from www.brightpowersports.com/ Made in the UK
3. The Forcefield @ $155.US / Purchased from www.johnsonleather.com/ Made in the UK
Bohn Pro Racer Cool-Air:
This is the lightest of the group and I would imagine the coolest and that is it's main selling point. According to their furnished literature..."The Cool-Air ProRacer has an exclusive breathable foam material KonformAir. You can pour water through it, and in fact some racers may soak it before a race! Evaporative cooling will remove heat from your body as it evaporates." Used by US racers, Ben and Eric Bostrom, Jamie Hacking, Aaron Yates, etc.. It is a proven favorite. It's also the ONLY US made product in this 3-way shoot-out. My initial impression is that it's light as a feather and almost feels like you are NOT wearing a back protector. Carbon look with white accents.
Weight: 1 lb .3oz
Center back protection at widest point: 4.5"
Comfort Level 1-10: 9.5
Thickness: About 1"
Appearance: Kind of cheesy, but who will know except for Superman?
Waist band infinitely adjustable.. would be a plus if you don't like being restricted at the gut level or for varying thickness of riding wear. The second best kidney protection of the 3. Ultra lightweight and the obvious choice for HOT weather. You can see light through it if held up to the sun. The straps on this one were the easiest to adjust with plastic flip-up snaps. Just get the straps the length you want and snap it into place. easy. great design.
Cons: Doesn't conform to the body. At the widest point, the spine protection is only 4" wide. Not pretty.. It's the least attractive of the 3, but hell.. this ain't no stinkin' beauty contest.
Teknic / Knox KC2000 X1
Waist band and straps very sturdy. Quality is equal to the Bohn. Best
kidney protection of the 3...Has a crossover strap in the front which
should keep the protector in place during a tumble.
My initial goal was to purchase the lightest, coolest back protector I could find for the hellish July Alabama temperatures, which would mean the Bohn would win this shoot-out hands-down. However, the Forcefield is simply the finest back protector is this bunch and the overall quality can NOT be ignored. The design and feel are exceptional. Unlike the other choices, the material that forms the platform for the shock absorbing material feels similar to the Tempur-Pedic foam used in those life changing mattress's. If you do NOT own a Tempur Pedic mattress, you are missing out on one of life's greatest pleasures.. but I digress. The Forcefield seems to mold to your back as the foam heats to body temp. It feels like part of your body instead of something strapped to it like the other two in this comparison. According to the furnished literature, "The Forcefield back achieves level 2, the highest rating possible against the latest European standards" Good enough for me. It's also the thinnest.. an important concern for those with tight leathers. I actually feels good when strapped on.. Surprising.
Weight: 2 lbs.4oz
Center back protection at widest point: a full 10"
Comfort Level 1-10: 9
Thickness: About 3/4"
Appearance: Sleek, nice
Pros: Overall, the best coverage of the entire back.. not just the spine. Ultra comfortable. Conforms to body. Sleek, slim design.. attractive, even. All black. Quality is second to none.. at least in this group.. While not the lightest, you can see light through it if held up to the sun so ventilation, in theory should be good..
Cons: Of the 3, it has the least amount of kidney protection. It's the heaviest of the 3, but only by a few ounces. This shouldn't be a factor in consideration, IMHO.
Click for Larger Image... If You Dare
In summation..: I learned a lot during this evaluation. Hopefully this info will help others. First.. It is my opinion that if you are considering purchasing a back protector, you should also consider the fit of your suit. I have 4 riding suits...3 are leather. These back protectors would NOT fit under any of my leather suits.. I could NOT zip them up!.. but I admit, I like my riding leather snug.. The only suit any of them fit under was my textile First Gear Kilimanjaro and it's NOT a track suit. I would suggest, if possible, to try a potential back protector on under your riding suit before shelling out your hard earned dollars, pesos, doubloons.
Bottom line, ANY of these 3 choices would make your back 1000% more protected than without. Remember, your spine is as fragile as your head and you wouldn't ride without a helmet would you?? Unless you're a fucking moron..
If you are looking for the coolest protector on the market, I'd easily suggest the Bohn Cool-Air as I can NOT imagine anything lighter or cooler. The Knox KC2000 X1 was a decent offering, but didn't fit MY body type. However.. if you are wanting what could possibly be the finest back protector (at least in this price range) on the market, my money is on the British made Forcefield.. the one I have decided to keep.
While my goal was initially to find the "coolest" back protector, the more I thought about it the more that I decided that other criteria should take precedence over the one comfort issue. Yes.. I may sweat a little more in the Forcefield, but if I go down at supersonic speed, I want the best protection I can get and in this comparison..that would be the venerable Forcefield . So it is written.. so let it be done.. P out.