Forcefield Armor Pro Shirt X-V Review
For years off-road motorcycle riders had two choices for upper body protection — ill fitting roost protectors that do little in a crash (but deflect roost nicely), or nothing. As I have never found a roost protector that I truly felt comfortable wearing, I usually rode dirt bikes with only a jersey protecting my upper body. Now that I’ve been introduced to the Forcefield Armor Pro Shirt X-V that has irrevocably changed. From here on out, when I’m dirt bike riding, I won’t ride without it.
Looking at the Forcefield Armor Pro Shirt X-V, I was skeptical. It is a single-piece garment from waist to neck to wrists (with thumb holes), and it has what looks like lumpy armor on the chest, back, shoulders and elbows. To be sure, the Pro Shirt X-V has real-deal armor. The multi-layer back protector is long and CE Level 2 (which you rarely see in motorcycle jackets), and you get CE Level 1 armor elsewhere. This is not just some foam or thin plastic to soften the blow. This has the high-level Euro-spec armor that you want in the case of a crash, and who hasn’t crashed countless times in the dirt?
My first attempt to put on the Pro Shirt X-V was comical. I tried to put it on like a jersey, over my head. In a word: No! My wife pointed out a zipper than arcs from the neck to the waist. I was concerned that would get caught in my manly chest hair (no manscaping here), but I gave it a shot. It turned the seemingly impossible task of donning the Pro Shirt X-V into an easy job, and I didn’t lose any hair—totally painless.
Once on, it’s obvious that this is a well-designed piece of protective gear from Forcefield Armor, a British company (imported by Motonation). It was immediately comfortable—I expected it to be annoying, but practical, particularly the chest protector. Walking around the house, it didn’t bug me at all. I was able to do whatever I wanted, including typing and taking out the trash.
All of the armor in the Pro Shirt X-V is soft and pliable Nitrex Evo material that uses Nitrile rubber. It feels soft, until you hit it. At that point, it stiffens and protects. The shirt is made of a BeCool, a fiber that is designed to wick heat away from your body and replace it with cooler outside air. Again, around the house the material is comfortable and imminently wearable. Time to go riding!
The first test was to see if my jerseys would fit over the Pro Shirt X-V. I wear a large jersey, and both my Fly Racing Evolution 2.0 Switchback and Alpinestars Techstar Venom jerseys fit over the Forcefield Armor shirt. While the jerseys aren’t as loose as they are when riding upper-body commando, they fit and actually look pretty good. On one cooler day, I wore the Pro Shirt X-V with a Fly Racing Heavyweight Base Layer Top underneath, and it didn’t negatively affect the fit of the jersey, or the comfort of the Pro Shirt.
While you can certainly be aware of the Forcefield Armor Pro Shirt X-V if that’s your focus, the reality is that it pretty much disappears under your jersey and you won’t notice it when riding. Whenever I did think about the Pro Shirt, I was thinking about how nice it felt and how much protection it was offering me, especially in the chest and back areas.
On a day in the 50s with no base layer, I was perfectly comfortable. In the cold, which was in the 30s and 40s, I was just right with the Fly Racing base layer. We haven’t had a heat wave, so I’ll have to wait to report on how it works in the 80s and 90s—and I will update this review—but the BeCool material appears to be the right stuff for keeping a comfortable temperature on your body.
In tests of 450 enduro bikes from Beta, KTM, and Yamaha, I wore it constantly. These are bikes that require concentration and more than a little effort to ride fast and hard. Again, the Forcefield Armor Pro Shirt X-V never distracted me, except on my own terms (thinking about testing). It allowed me to up my pace, as I felt more confident when protected so fully, especially compared to my usual no-protection choice.
I had a few of significant impact testing opportunities. One was hitting a pointed stick in my shoulder at about 30 mph. I definitely felt the force of the blow, but the CE Level 1 shoulder protection fully shielded me from the sharp end. After it happened, I imagined the damage it likely would have done to an unprotected shoulder, especially my skin. Without the Forcefield Armor Pro Shirt X-V on, I would have had to slow down a bit, or I would have suffered some undoubtedly serious consequences.
Lower speed get-offs allowed me to test the chest, elbows, and back protector in rocky terrain. Again, you obviously feel the impact, but the dispersion is excellent and zero injuries result. Knowing that I have a CE Level 2 back protector gives me a huge boost in confidence.
I was concerned that the thumbhole design of the sleeves might bug me. It didn’t. You will feel the tug on your thumbs more when you are walking around the pits or at a stop than when you’re underway. The long back protector was also something I was wondering about, but with the jersey on, it is absolutely not an issue.
If you are an adventure rider with a nice jacket, but wanting more protection, you’ll need to remove the armor from the jacket so the Pro Shirt X-V has a chance of fitting, especially in the arms and shoulder. With that done, it will be a matter of trying it on to see if the jacket still fits without binding, which will be totally dependent upon how tightly or loosely it normally fits.
Here’s the deal—you wear a high-quality helmet and boots. You might have a high-end knee brace. At that point, why would you have a flimsy roost protector for your upper body? You want that CE Level 2 back protection, and the CE Level 1 everywhere else. Forcefield Armor has made it possible to get that protection without having to feel awkward or uncomfortable—it’s far superior in comfort to any roost protector I’ve worn, and it doesn’t get in the way of your helmet in any way. It may conflict with your neck brace, so some adjustment in the brace may be necessary.
I may be coming off as a late-adopting evangelist, but some of us can be a bit slow in changing our ways. If you’re making the mistake of thinking a roost protector will protect you from crash impact, you owe it to yourself to look into the Forcefield Armor Pro Shirt X-V. It made a believer out of me. For $299 with the armor included (if you have existing armor that can be used, the basic shirt is $179), the Pro Shirt X-V is essential off-road apparel.
Photography by Hugh Warren