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Old 04-25-2006, 03:33 AM   #8
license2ill's Avatar
Joined: Dec 2003
Oddometer: 715
I've been looking into this subject quite a bit recently, here's some info real chest and rib protection, sorry if it doesn't flow, I'm just gonna piece together some related posts from other discussions:

I notice that there is alll this dialogue and fuss over the use of back protectors, but the realities of their capabilities vs the expectations, and the actual injuries suffered in regard to their use in the area are extremely rare, and less common than chest injuries. But there is only a few dedicated cehst protector options and not even any kind of standardization for their use. The only thing we can look to are the similar needs of the ribs from the back.

Here's the numbers again, to get a better perspective of how lacking chest protection really is:

"...13% of motorcyclists sustain back injuries in crashes, the majority of these injuries are due to blows to the head or to bending and twisting of the back. A back protector will not prevent these types of injury. Less than 1% of injured riders suffer serious injuries from direct blows to the spinal area, however back protectors will provide protection from more minor injuries such as bruises and strains (EN 1621-2, p. 4)."

Proportion of all motorcycle casualties with injuries to the chest:

* Proportion of all injured riders: 19%
* Proportion with soft tissue injuries: 12%
* Proportion with fractures: 9%

Chest injuries can include internal injuries although these are relatively rare (7%).

Chest injuries are most likely to be caused in an impact with another vehicle (Otte, 2002).

So, chest injuries are more likely to happen on the street, 6% more likely to happen than any back injury, and when including the issue that those back innjuries are not affected by direct impacts, whereas chest injuries are, you've got an area where a pad could make a real difference in about 1 out of 5 accidents with no solution, and something that happens 1 out of 100 falls covered with an inferior solution.

Perhaps it s the thought of paralysis and the immediate thought of the spine, that have kept the focus off of real solutions, but that appears to be really missing the bus in terms of real solutions for those needs. What's the answer? I don't think one exists yet. Tragic that we don't have a clear path or the ammunition in our pocket to ask for and expect better options.

When possibly the best piece specifically made for motoryclists comes out, like the new T-pro rib/torso protector, and says it complies with Level 1 of a standard that is inappropriate for the coverage requirements of the area because no guidelines actually exist, and those guidelines are hugely inappropriate in terms of impact results, in that the standard allows up to four and a half times more force that is capable of causing minor fractures and soft tissue injuries(bruises), you gotta kind of throw your hands up in the air and wonder how that is allowed to happen, and start wondering when you may find real solutions to those hopes, fears, and outcomes. It's almost like the days of leather beanie helmets. The same thing sort of happened with back protectors, which is why a specific standard now exists, and back armor in the 90's was apparently often marked as CE approved to the limb armor standard, that also seems to continue today in many stock inserts found in jackets even after the new standard is in place. But if we don't even have the Euros demanding this stuff by law to triclke down to us, even with the compromises as seen with back protectors, I wonder where, when, and who are going to look to address the need with an appropriate solution.

T-pro has a new piece out. Covers much more of the rib cage than others, wraps around. I guess it can be worn front or back, they show it in the picture worn on the back. Says it meets the level 1 standard(for back protectors). There's not a specific standard covering the chest or ribs, but I'm guessing this is the best piece now available for specific chest protection. Not sure that it really meets the back protector standard because of the coverage area, a misstatement perhaps, but with their other products all being properly certified and meeting higher performance standards, I'm guessing they can back-up the impact absoprtion numbers. Level 1 numbers are still not very appropriate for ultimate fracture protection, but I'd take that over a manufacturer that still hasn;t got any numbers or certified any of their products to those available standards. It's also held in place with shoulder straps, which seems like a better idea than just a floating piece under your leathers. If it's anything like their back protector, it's also going to be thin and comfortable. It's also less expensive than any others at $70.

I think a horse rider's vest is probably the best available option for overall torso protection and coverage. One that passes the BETA 2000 Level 3 standard, which requires them to meet the lower levels of force, only 4kN at which ribs break. The impact energy(drop height/weight) used is slightly less than the motorcyclist standard for back protectors, 45 Joules vs 50 Joules. There are only a couple that pass that level of force, and most motorcyclist-specific pieces don't offer the coverage area, or can't limit the forces to those levels.

And here's a pic of another one being worn, the Charles Owen tosro vest, This one actually looks really thin:

The back protector in the Velocity Gear jersey is the only part that meets the Level 2 requirements which is specific only to back protectors. As I tried to say above, there is actually no standard available for chest coverage pieces, so it's a cloudy issue as to proven performance for any piece you get. I believe Velocity Gear has said that the chest portion is the same as the limb armor pieces, which, if properly certified to the CE limb armor standard are much less protective for ribs, allowing up to 35kN of force vs the 18kN that the Level 1 back protector standard allows or the 9kN that Level 2 allows. There is only one level of performance for limb armor(two sizes, type-a and type-b), but there is also another high-performance standard for limb armor called the Cambridge standard, established by the Cambridge Protective Reasearch Facility in England, which uses higher levels of impact energy at 75Joules and 100Joules and requires less than 25kN of force to pass. T-Pro has the only limb armor that I know of that also passes the Cambridge standard, but again, that's for limb joint armor, not rib armor, ribs can actually break at only 4kN of force. So the back protector levels of force allowance are much closer to the most apporpriate for ribs (front or back). The horse riders standard requires the 4kN level(albeit at 5 Joules less impact energy than the CE requirement, 45Joules), which is the most ideal out of any available guidelines, though the impact energy used is on the lower side.

Helimot still only implies that theirs is made for comfort, but alludes to them using the same materials as their other armor, all of which is not CE-certified or shown with any type of performance data. Originally, they said their chest piece was simply to cushoin a rider laying against the tank, they say they've updated the design with similar materials to their back protector, but still don't say that is capable of real crash protection, or provide any type of impact absoprtion data even for their back protectors.

Impact Armor is similar. They started with an old T-pro design from the '90s and have been producing similar looking protectors to those old T-pro's. I don't know if they've come up to speed with the current CE standard forces, it certainly doesn't look like it with the materials. The owner refused to discuss any performance issues when emailed a while back. I got the feeling he didn't really know how much energy they are capable of managing or how much force was transmitted through them, or he knew they weren't capable of the current CE required numbers and didn't want that out.

And whatever you do, steer clear of Bohn, they've got a sordid history of phony CE claims, and if you look at their marketing blurbs for their piece, they don't even mention impact protection. Real shady and probably not an effective piece of armor for any kind of apporpriate protective levels.

For further clarity about all these guideleines of protective levels and performance proof, there's a CE standard(legal standard for Europe, kind of like DOT for helmets in the US) for limb impact protectors and also one for back protectors. There's the Cambridge high-performance standard for limb armor, and there's a standard for horse riders with the identical British Equestrian Trade Association(BETA) and the CE Horse riders body protector standard. There's also CE standards available for other aspects of motorcycling-specific protective gear as well, like outer clothing, gloves and boots that specifies other areas and issues of protective concern besides just impact protection. While that gets too complicated or involved for some that would prefer to use hail mary's instead of lab testing or data, I don't think it's in our best interest to buy anything for our protection and safety without some sort of tangible proof of efficacy like the kind those labels offer, especially when we are asking for "the best" to suit our needs and expecting real solutions.

Within all that talk of impact energy and force levels, I wish we could say these differences amounted to splitting hairs, but I think there is still a lot of room for improvement here, even at the highest levels of performance, information, and options. Basically, once a level of force at the point for which the injuries we are seeking to prevent or minimize is established, then you can set a level of impact energy to make impact protectors compliant to those neccessary levels to create a range of usefulness. That really hasn't happened within the motorcycle protective gear world. 50 Joules is fairly apporpriate as a drop height/mass to use for testing of impact protectors, but the products haven't been designed to break a fall to the point at which the injuries we hope to prevent will occur at those heights/mass requirements when speaking of the ribs and spine. The chest seems to be an all but forgotten area of the body, even within the available motoryclist guidelines, completely unspecified for protection, except within the available equestrian rider guidelines.

Hope that offers something useful. Yes, motorcylists have been more concerned with looks and feel, and have dropped the ball in terms of real performance. I guess the reason that these issues have been more addressed within the horse riding world is that the culture is slightly different, you've got more women, and specifically young girls, rather than adult men participating in the majority of horse riding activities, and you'll find that no matter what the activity their foremosst concern is almsot always real safety issues, and especially crash or fall protection. Funny thing is, just as in the motorcycle racing world, the expectations of jockeys is slightly less protective pieces that focus on lightweight and greater comfort. That's a trap you will also see very often within the motorcycling arena, the idea that pieces built for racing are going to be built safer, when the usual concept is to build lighter weight items with more comfort and you'll see that in every piece of clothing available for racing activities, whether it's helmets, kangaroo suits, thin gloves, or reduced coverage and lighter spec armor.
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