Body armor is more commonly associated with riding dirt bikes, but there are some serious benefits to using them when riding ATVs as well. They should always be worn when racing ATVs and when doing aggressive off road driving. There are different types of body armor, but I prefer using a chest protector. Other kinds include Roost Deflectors, Air Style Chest Protectors and Jacket-Style Body Armor. There are several reasons I prefer a chest protector that I will explain below, but the chest protector I recommend is the Leatt Adventure Lite Chest Protector. (It looks like the Lite Chest Protector is out of stock, so if it doesn’t come back, look at this really good Leatt chest protector too)
A chest protector like the one I recommend is the best way to protect your chest, organs, shoulder, clavicle and back in the event you suffer a serious fall. An added benefit is protection from cuts and scrapes that you commonly get while riding through branches and bushes. Chest protectors are constructed from flexible plastic and dense foam, designed in theory, to provide maximum protection combined with comfort of wear.
When picking out a chest protector, I highly recommend you avoid getting the cheap Chinese body armor you can find on Amazon. Those cheap options will likely break before your first riding season is over. Not only is it annoying to have to buy a new chest protector, I would not feel comfortable putting my body’s protection in the hands of a product that breaks down on its own within a year. The Leatt chest protector is much higher quality and will likely last a good number of years without question. In addition, it is loaded with vents to keep it light weight, breathable and comfortable. It can also be worn over or under your jacket or jersey comfortably.
Don’t Buy a Roost Deflector
When looking at body armor, it can be tough to know whether you are looking at a roost deflector or an actual chest protector. It is important you figure out the difference and avoid purchasing a roost deflector. All too often, riders buy a cheap roost deflector from Fox, thinking they are protecting their body from a crash. They are not. The roost deflector is not designed to actually protect your chest, organs, back or anything else from a serious fall. They are only designed to protect you only from getting cuts and bruises from riding through branches and bushes, or from roost (dirt and rocks kicked up from another rider). They will not protect you from serious impact.
Air Style Chest Protectors: Not Ideal, but Better than Nothing
Air style chest protectors are basically just a compression tank top with some dense foam or a combination of mostly foam and a little plastic. They are primarily designed to be worn under yourjacket or jersey. These air style chest protectors do not offer as much protection as I want when I am riding aggressively, but they are better than your cheap plastic roost protector. Two of the most popular examples of this style of chest protector are the Fox Titan Race, or the Fox Titan Sport models.
Jacket-Style Body Armor
Jacket-style body armor takes a chest protector and elbow pads and sews them “conveniently” into a jacket. The biggest draw to this style of armor is convenience and protection. It is easy just throw on a jacket and it is nice when that jacket usually offers more complete protection than any other system we have discussed. There are some major downsides to jacket-style body armor; however, that prevent me from personally using it.
There are three main problem with jacket-style body armor::
(1) Because the pads and protectors are sewn in, the jackets do not allow for individual placement of the pads. This is a big deal because some body types will end up with pads not covering where they should. Because I have super long arms, this is a problem for me.
(2) You have to wear the jacket to be protected. I live in Las Vegas. Las Vegas gets really hot in the summer. I don’t want to wear a jacket during the summer in Las Vegas.
(3) The jacket-style body armor is cheap. I don’t like buying expensive items, and I especially don’t like replacing expensive items when one piece of that gear breaks. So, if one pad or zipper or anything on the jacket-style body armor, you can’t fix it and have to replace the whole thing, which is expensive.
If you don’t go with the Leatt chest protector I recommend, there are some key things you need to consider when you are looking at your options.
- You want ventilation to keep you cool so make sure there are plenty of cooling vents to allow air flow to reach your body.
- You want a chest protector that is light weight and comfortable. A chest protector with flexible plastics will be more comfortable as they allow it to move and conform to your body
- Make sure the construction offers maximum protection. A chest protector made of high impact polycarbonate materials are your best bet.