After watching my buddy crush his tank with his chest in a CCS race crash last summer, I decided it was time to invest in a high-quality back and chest protector. There are a lot of options out there, so I trusted the judgment of my local dealer as well as the aforementioned buddy—Forcefield armor is the way to go.
The newest back protector model from U.K. company Forcefield is the Pro Sub 4. My local dealer in Wisconsin raves about the Pro Sub 4, saying it’s the best back protector on the market. It also accommodates the matching Race-Lite chest protector.
The main figure of merit for back protection is the force transmitted to the back under the impulse specified by CE standard EN1621-2, which allows up to a four kilo-Newton force to be transmitted to the body, the amount of force considered by medical experts to be the maximum allowable to prevent severe back and rib trauma. Independent testing of the Pro Sub 4 by independent testing company SATRA in the UK shows a mean test result of 3.38 kilo-Newtons, making it the first motorcycle back protector in the world to attain this level of performance, according to the manufacturer. It’s impressive that such a high level of protection is possible with such a light (two pounds) and comfortable unit.
Forcefield products boast something called “Repeat Performance Technology.” This means the Nitrex (a polyvinylcloride/nitrile rubber materiel with very good shock absorbing and dispersing properties) layers that make up the armor can be used for multiple impacts. Compare that to other back protectors and armor which are designed to crumple or crush on impact, saving you from injury but not financial damage.
The Pro Sub 4 back protector comes in four sizes, small to extra-large, and lists for $190. I’m six foot even with long legs, so I bought the medium size, which worked out perfectly.
The Pro Sub 4 is over an inch thick (which means you may have to either have your leathers tailored or lose a few pounds), so I was worried it would be too warm. My two track days in a warm, muggy week at Road America were a good test of that issue; I was happy to find that the venting of both the back and chest protectors was excellent, and I was no hotter than I was in my former arrangement. In addition, the comfort and flexibility of the back/chest protector combination are also very good, and I was just slightly aware of it while riding the track (One piece of advice I’d give is to be sure to take a deep breath before tightening the back protector, since the wrap-around straps will restrict your breathing if you make them too tight).
The Race-Lite chest protector is a shaped slab of the same layered and perforated Nitrex as the Pro Sub 4, and is strapped to your chest using elastic straps and Velcro fasteners. It comes in three sizes, small to large. Because my jacket is fairly snug, I chose the small size, which turned out to be too small. However, I doubt that its protection is reduced significantly, and it’s comfortable, so I’ll keep it. (The medium size is less than an inch wider and taller.) It lists at $75 and comes with straps for use with a Forcefield back protector or stand-alone use.
I’m quite happy with my choice of the Forcefield back and chest protection set, and highly recommend it to anyone seeking comfortable, yet highly protective body armor.
Forcefield Armor is distributed in the U.S. by Johnson Leathers in San Francisco. Johnson can also retro-fit your leather or textile riding gear with Forcefield armor.
Sam Hokin lives in Madison, Wisconsin and is active in the local BMW and sportbike communities. He rides and tours on a 1991 BMW K75RT, often with his wife Carla, and rides a 2001 Suzuki GSX-R600 at track days. If you’re wondering, he is MD contributor Gabe Ets-Hokin’s cousin—his grandfather (Gabe’s grandfather’s cousin) discarded the “Ets” for unknown reasons. Maybe it was too heavy.