While off-road motorcycles continue to attain new heights in technological advancements such as fuel injection and traction control, so too has protective gear been making significant strides, albeit with perhaps a little less fanfare.Improvements in road-race protection have ushered in high-tech suits outfitted with new energy-absorbing materials, accelerometers, and automatically deployed internal airbags.
Fortunately for dirt enthusiasts, these innovations have had a trickle-down effect. The CE-certified body armor now available is eons ahead of the old plastic clamshell JT chest protector I wore as an amateur.The Alpinestars Bionic Tech Jacket is really not a jacket at all. It is more akin to an ergonomically protective exoskeleton in the form of an undergarment for your entire upper body. The spine and chest protection feature CE Level 2 protection, while the shoulders, elbows, and forearms receive CE Level 1.CE protection ratings are a bit cryptic, but the critical thing to know is that Level 1 protection is good and Level 2 is even better when it comes to energy absorption capabilities. Consider the fact that none the old-style chest protectors and roost guards are CE-rated, and we’re talking serious step up in protection.Usually, and fortunately, we typically don’t test the impact protection of safety apparel. However, I was wearing the Alpinestars Bionic Tech Jacket during a huge get-off, so I have a first-hand story.There I was, early morning on my test loop, like I have done hundreds of times before, testing a Yamaha YZ250FX. Over a high-speed crest on a whooped-out section of ridgeline, I landed the front-end on the downhill side normally.Somehow, the front suddenly tucked, slamming my body down, cartwheeling the test bike (sorry Yamaha), and starting a slide that terminated 40 feet from the initial point of contact. I was fortunate to walk away with only a few bruises on my hips and thighs—no Bionic Tech protection for them.With the back-story out of the way, here’s what I love about the Alpinestars Bionic Tech Jacket:1. It’s comfortable, so I hardly realize I’m wearing it. I wear this protection all the time, whether I’m play-riding, training, or racing. In the summer months, I wear it against my bare skin with a vented jersey over it. In winter months, I’ll start with a Spandex shirt with the Bionic Tech jacket on top of that, followed by a jersey. If it’s really cold, I add an enduro jacket.2. The level of upper body protection is unmatched. Not only is it CE-certified for impact absorption, but the protection stays in place while sliding across Mother Nature, facilitated by the stretch fit and built-in kidney belt.3. The elbow and forearm protection fit well. The myth that elbow protection can contribute to arm pump is just that—a complete myth. Moreover, with the clever cinch system, it’s completely adjustable, so even riders with Popeye-like forearms will have to look elsewhere for arm pump excuses.4. I can comfortably wear it underneath my adventure backpack. Previous incarnations of body armor were always problematic for adventure riding with a backpack, always chafing at the neck opening and feeling loose and out of balance in technical riding scenarios. Since the protection is integrated into the Alpinestars Bionic Tech jacket, I can comfortably wear a pack on top and feel snug and balanced.5. It stays fresh, and the elastane stretch mesh is lightweight and easy to clean—I do a quick hand-wash in my laundry sink. If I forget, I typically get a friendly reminder from a buddy, or at least a hint that my gear bag needs to go in the bed of the truck rather than the back seat.So, if you are riding and racing with only a roost-guard (what we now call an old-style chest protector), it’s time to elevate your protection to CE standards with the Alpinestars Bionic Tech jacket. Consider this your wake-up call. You’ll be glad you did the next time you find yourself doing an unplanned high-speed body slide.
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!