For starters, let’s set the record straight. 80% of the time I wear my chest protector over my riding shirt. The remaining 20% of the time I want my shirt with my printed name and number to be visible on my back because I’m hoping that someone will take an Insta-Worthy shot of me as I ride past a spectator checkpoint in a race.
So why do I not like wearing a chest protector?
It all comes back to one traumatizing event. I was racing through a tight winding section of farmland. Thick bushes and sticks poked at me from all angles while low-hanging branches slapped my handguards and arms. As I slowed down to turn through a tight corner, a thick branch hooked through the arm strap of my chest protector and ripped my arm off the accelerator. I lost control of the bike and was speared to the tree as my bike ghost walked into the ravine.
Sounds ridiculous. I know.. But I’ll never forget it. Since that day I’ve always had a fear of wearing an enduro-styled chest protector over my shirt. Now I’m not blaming the chest protector, I should not have had the arm straps so loose. But when riding 5 hours of hard enduro terrain, the last thing you want is any kind of arm pump because all the straps on your gear are too tight.
Wearing A Chest Protector Saves You More Often Than Not
There have been countless times when I have silently thanked myself for putting on a chest protector before starting a ride. Particularly when out trail riding. The whip of a low-hanging branch against the upper arm guard often leaves me with a reminder of why wearing a chest protector is a good idea.
Difference between MX and Trail Chest Protectors
For the most part, MX and Enduro chest protectors serve the same purpose. Protector your core from being damaged. MX guys often refer to a chest protector as a ‘Roost Deflector’ because in Motocross racing you only really need to worry about the roost coming off the back wheel of the rider in front of you. When riding enduro, the chest protector covers you from roost, branches, thorns, stones, and even when falling over onto a rock. MX Roost deflectors usually don’t protect your upper arms, although in most cases, brands usually have both an MX and trail version of the chest protector for you to choose from. Below I’ll provide a link to both options if available.
Do You Need An Under Jersey Chest Protector?
Any chest protector can be an under jersey chest protector if you buy a larger jersey. It will almost always be the case that you will need a bigger jersey. Especially if you ride enduro where you have additional items on your back like your hydration bag and tool bag.
If you’re opting for an under jersey chest protector, pay special attention to ventilation. Both on your chest protector, and your riding shirt. I usually ride with a chest protector over my shirt because this improves the amount of airflow that reaches my skin. This is very important when riding long technical sections where overheating can become a serious problem.
Most of the guys I ride with will have both their chest protector and hydration pack under their shirts and the tool bag clipped around their waist over their shirt. If you ride with a neck brace, make sure the neck opening of your shirt is larger enough to fit. This is almost always a two-man job.
The Best Under Jersey Chest Protectors
This is a great entry-level chest protector that I actually use myself. I got it as a hand-me-down from my father (Which might explain why the arm straps I mentioned early were so loose) It's super durable and certainly has protected me over the years. You really don't need anything more than this unless you are a serious rider looking to compete.
Here's the exact same option in the Motocross style. Notice that the arms guards and shoulder guards are missing. Here is the exact change in this model compared to the enduro model as per the manufacturers specifications. "Bio-foam shoulder pads with fully integrated adjustable strap system for proper fitment" If you don't need those, then this is your best choice.
Alpinestars are one of the most well-known brands in the dirtbike world. I personally think they have some of the best-looking riding kits. When it comes to the A4 chest protector, it certainly does look a bit different to the typical chesty. It somehow looks both clunky and yet all that padding makes it seem super comfortable.
Two of my riding buddies both ride with the Alpinestars A4. Their overall sentiment was pretty good and both agreed that the reason for buying the A4 was because it felt the best when trying it on under a riding jersey.
Compared to the other options, the A4 is definitely more minimal. Both in design, and protection. The backplate is much smaller than something you'd find on the Leatt's. So if you're just looking for the best under jersey roost guard, this could be a great option.
At the top end of the range you have the Leatt Pro 5.5 HD Chest Protector. Designed for the serious rider looking for the best protection. This the the top of the 5.5 range from Leatt.
Both the back and chest guards have been put to the ultimate test and are both rated at CE level 2. The cheaper models in the post are certified at CE level 1.
One of the best parts about this chest protector is that it is specifically designed to fit both under and over your riding jersey. As I mentioned earlier, ventilation is very important and Leatt agree. They have added 47 ventilation slots for maximum cooling while you ride. In addition, the 5.5 Chest Protector has perforated 3DF foam which further helps airflow.
If this is an item you're interest in but the price tag is not appealing - check out the mid range option from Leatt
The latest and great introduction from Leatt is their 6.5 range of gear and accessories.
The Leatt Moto 6.5 Pro Chest Protector extremely durable and protective. It's been stress tested to the max and passes the highest levels of certification which is CE 2 protection rating on both the chest and back areas and and CE rating for the shoulders. This is the same standard you can expect on their mid-range options.
With the 6.5 range, Leatt have put a lot of focus on comfort and mobility for riders. This is evident from the amount of moving plates and sizing straps. It's really quite impressive that his chest protector has 8 multilayered moving plates.
Another great feature particular for riders that use a neck brace is the movable rear plates which allow your neck brace to fit under the protector for over the jersey use, or under your jersey for top brace fitment.
I’ve been riding with the same chest protector for 4 years now. My dad wore that chest protector for 2 years before he gave it to me. A chest protector is a piece of gear that’s likely to last you a long long time! If I were buying a new one today, I’d splash a little extra cash and now that I’m gove to be covered for many years of riding to come.