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Old 08-07-2006, 06:37 PM   #1
ldbandit76 OP
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Tipperary Air Esprit Vest review - big pictures

Thanks in equal parts to License2Ill's long-winded rants and my personal fear of broken ribs, I ordered a Tipperary Air Esprit equestrian rider's vest. It arrived this past weekend, just too late to take it along to the Neduro Clinic at The Farm.

Since I haven't seen any other reviews of the thing, I'll start one here.

I bought this vest to assist in protecting against broken ribs and similar torso trauma, including the bar-end-in-gut effect. The reason I chose a horse-riding product instead of a moto-specific item is because of the stricter performance standards equestrian items meet compared to bike stuff.

Breaking news: This vest is not BETA Level 3 certified:

http://www.advrider.com/forums/showp...&postcount=124


However, other, similar items are. See the posts following the above link for examples.


In short, BETA 3 vests are roughly TWICE as good as the very best cycle gear at absorbing impact energy.* For more details than you probably care to read on that front, including numbers, data, criteria, and analysis, see here:

http://www.advrider.com/forums/showp...32&postcount=8

and here:

http://www.advrider.com/forums/showp...4&postcount=36


This vest provides full wrap-around coverage of the entire rib cage, something no cycle product does. And it does all that and only costs $135 shipped. So it seemed like a good deal. I bought the vest from Four Winds** in Colorado, here:

http://www.fourwinds.net/engcloth/tp2005.html

I'm 6' 1" and 165 pounds, more-or-less rail-shaped. I'm between sizes M and L per the sizing chart. I ordered a large, but it turns out a medium is just as long, and probably would have provided a leaner, closer fit for me. But the large works okay.






The vest is adjustable enough that getting a good fit is pretty simple. Three main portions are connected by large velcro swatches: the back and two wrap-around front pieces. There's velcro at the shoulders and sides, so the vest can be adjusted for both girth and length. Once fitted, there are no gaps in coverage; the whole torso is protected, all the way around. There's even a supplementary panel behind the zipper to add impact protection there.

When I got it fitted, the back came down to my tailbone, and the front to just above my belly button. This is as low as I'd want it in front, since any longer would make it difficult to bend forward at the waist. But my solar plexus and upper abs are covered, which is nice.

The shell is made of very light nylon and mesh; the interior is all mesh. It seems durable enough to last, but as light as possible for air flow. The protective panels are harder than you'd think on the outside, and slightly squishy on the bumpy parts on the inside. Unlike the CE pads in my textile jacket, the Tipperary vest places the bumpy part of the pad next to the rider, to allow air to flow between the bumps. Given that, and the largely-mesh shell, it seems it'll be not-too-hot to wear. Probably no worse than any of the Pressure-Suit style torso protectors. I may choose to add to the few holes in the panel; I doubt that would compromise protection much.



The protective panels actually do look at a lot like CE pads; same color, same general texture and feel, very similar thicknesses, though the Air Esprit stuff is just a touch thicker and firmer. I picture this vest as being one big CE pad that I can wrap myself in. Only better. Note how much bigger the back is than the pad from my jacket.



The vest fits under my mesh jacket pretty well (MC jackets seem to be made for folks bigger around than me anyway). I might even use this thing for street or track use should I desire maximum torso protection, but I'll probably save it for dirt riding most of the time. My mesh jacket will go over the top to provide shoulder and elbow pads.

I haven't had a chance to ride with it yet, but it'll get a good shakedown during my trip to Colorado at the end of the month. In the meantime, here's a summary:

What the Tipperary vest does do:

1) Offers good (but not best-in-class) impact protection. See the BETA 3 vests for that.

2) Wraps all the way around the torso, providing full rib coverage, including adjustable fit for girth and length.

3) Provides air gaps next to the rider to help with cooling.

4) Costs $135 shipped.

What the Tipperary vest doesn't do:

1) Offer shoulder or elbow pads

2) Make you look like Ricky Carmichael, a Stormtrooper, or an extra from Mad Max.

3) Give you an excuse to go shopping at your local cycle store.

I'm pretty sure the Air Esprit will help reduce injuries from all manner of impacts, including the bar-in-gut, the inconveniently-located-rock, the fall-on-my-own-elbow, and the slam-flat-on-back-after-nasty-highside. I'd like to think I won't be field testing it, but history shows that's just not the case. It'll get a good test in a couple weeks when my dad and I (he bought one, too) go trail riding in Colorado.

Dave

* Velocity Gear offers a back protector that claims 4.5 kN transmitted force at 50 J impact. That's roughly the same performance as required by BETA 2000 level 3, which the regular Esprit and several Charles Owen protectors at least meet, and may well exceed (though I don't know that). But equestrian vests cover the whole torso, not just the back.

** FourWinds lost my order, resulting in a two-week delay. Other tales of poor service follow in this thread. A couple other shops carry the vest for slightly more money, here:

http://www.tackroominc.com/catalog/p...oducts_id=3344

and here:

http://www.doversaddlery.com/product...cd2=1157571278

I recommend at least calling Four Winds to verify inventory before ordering.

ldbandit76 screwed with this post 06-12-2007 at 11:02 AM
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Old 08-08-2006, 10:01 AM   #2
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Dave, is this foam one-shot type (like a bicycle helmet) or does it retain (or regain) its protective properties after being compressed?


I'll be interested to hear how it does in the heat.
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Old 08-08-2006, 10:57 AM   #3
ldbandit76 OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PackMule
Dave, is this foam one-shot type (like a bicycle helmet) or does it retain (or regain) its protective properties after being compressed?

I'll be interested to hear how it does in the heat.
As best I can tell, it'll take multiple impacts in one area. I've seen no indication that it's a one-hit-wonder on any of the many tags, certificates and descriptors that have come with it. As mentioned, it seems to be similar to the CE pads, which can be re-used.

I'm also curious how it'll do in the heat. More than likely it would be fine on its own, or with separate elbow pads, but with my jacket over it, it'll be a touch warm. That shouldn't be a problem at 9000 ft.

Dave
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Old 08-08-2006, 11:17 AM   #4
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Very interesting item.. thanks for the detailed review
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Old 08-08-2006, 02:37 PM   #5
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Thanks LD, you are the man.

Does it restrict motion or get in the way at all? How about on the shoulders, can you get into a tuck at all while wearing it? Do the shoulder pieces in your jacket still fit properly when worn underneath? What about wearing it over the top of tighter-fitting stuff?

I've been back and forth with Davies O'Dell recently regarding their new Forcefiled rib/torso piece, and they have had some serious questions about the ergonomics of such equipment and manufacturing something they consider wearable and apporpriate for motorcyclists while still trying to meet the most apporpriate levels of force transmssion for the ribs/chest. I've brought up the Beta2000 standard requirements, as well as the simple CE levels with them, and they have now apparently hired-on Paul Varnsverry to consult about it. Right now they say their new front torso protector only provides down to 15.8kN at the 50J CE 16212-2 impact energy level, and they are obviously hitting the limits with that, because they're trying the approach that the CE testing provides more severe conditions due to the bars and anvils used which are not flexible like the human rib cage from which the levels of force in the medical research have been extrapolated from. So, basically they are trying to justify not being able to meet the stricter levels of EN1621-2 or BETA Level 3, of the thicker/bulkier horse riders protectors as of right now. However, they are trying, and are aware of the fact that more of the mc riding community is more aware of these concerns and prefomance values. Varnsverry seems legitiamte in his expertise, but his new relationship with T-Pro may not allow him to be forthright in regards to that particular product or issues anymore. I'm glad to see them seeking outside consult from the leading expert in the filed, but I am a bit disappointed that he now seems to be under obligation to defend there moves, regardless of whether they are entriely correct at this point. We shall see how it all pans out. Hopefully there wil lbe one more feasible option in the T-Pro piece soon, and perhaps it will be an even more ergonomically functional piece in the end.

One other thing to note from the pics is that the Knox CE backpad from your riding jacket is not an EN1621-2 piece, but a 1621-1 piece, so the size requirments have likely been completely ignored by that piece as a proper motorcyclist back protector marked to EN1621-2(level 1 or 2), as well as the stricter force transmssion requirements for that standard. It looks entriely too small to pass EN1621-2 in any size garment, except maybe XXS.

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Old 08-08-2006, 03:00 PM   #6
ldbandit76 OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by license2ill
Thanks LD, you are the man.
Nope. You're the one who looked up all the standards, argued ad nauseam about the numbers, and actually found the piece. I just spent the money.

Quote:
Originally Posted by license2ill
So, how are you planning on wearing this piece? Over or under your Darien? Strictly for off-road activity? Is it hotter than other mc-specific equipment? Does it restrict motion or get in the way at all? HOw about on the shoulders, could you get into more of a tuck at all while wearing it?
I've had the vest two days. I have not ridden in it yet. So I can't give that kind of a review yet.

The plan is that it'll be mostly for off-road stuff. I fall down a lot more (a whole lot more) when I'm in the dirt, so protection is a bigger issue there. If it fits properly, I may use the Esprit to replace my old Knox back protector for track days and such. I'll have to see how it works with my leather and/or kevlar jackets.

I consider the vest overkill for street riding, too much stuff to put on and take off, since I need a jacket over it anyway. It'd work under the Darien, I'm sure. I'm just not going to do that.

I'll be spending several days in it at the end of the month. I'll follow up.

Dave
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Old 08-08-2006, 03:10 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by license2ill
One other thing to note from the pics is that the Knox CE backpad from your riding jacket is not an EN1621-2 piece, but a 1621-1 piece,
I knew there was only one person in the forum who would catch that (I posed the picture to show it), and you did, so I didn't bother mentioning it in the review. But yes, I noticed.

Dave
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