Shoulder/ body armor recommendations Ė comfortable, light weight, cool- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Shoulder/ body armor recommendations Ė comfortable, light weight, cool

    Iím looking for some advice on what armor to buy.

    Iíve had a few bad accidents before but nothing thatís required my bones to be screwed back together and fake tendons etc. Until recently when I smashed my shoulder.
    The whole drama of getting surgery, not being able to drive a car and 3 months of not being able to ride has got me a little freaked out.

    I usually wear knee guards as they have saved much skin and probably bone. (I have some TLD ones and am real happy with them)
    When itís wet and slippery I usually wear elbow guards as well.

    But in talking to a lot of people, it looks like Shoulders are actually the most common injury. It also looks like injuries are most common on the simple stuff, tree root wrong/small log/small jump/just stuffed up. i.e. people are getting the most hurt when they least expect it.

    With that Iím thinking that I need to find some comfortable, light weight, doesnít restrict movement, doesnít overheat you in summer body armor.
    When I look at armor Iím seeing mostly stuff that looks a little full on downhill for me, it also looks hot and like it wonít allow body movement.

    I donít do any serious downhill, I do lots of technical single track and about 3 to 4 foot drops/jumps.

    Please help me out with recommendations - I did a search, but everything seems a little bit oriented to full on downhill pressure suits.

    I donít care about cost Ė compared to shoulder reconstruction surgery and 3 months of no riding Ė body armor costs are nothing! I would rather spend $200 more to get something comfortable that I wear more.

    If you have any recommendations Ė please let me know what size fitted you as I will probably end up having to order over the internet with no try on Ė Iím 5ft8 and 175 pounds.

    Appreciate any advice!!

  2. #2
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    Best advice from someone with a very bad shoulder and has had surgery, USE YOUR THERABAND. Do those excersises everyday and work out your shoulders, these will prevent most shoulder injuries. Also, armor is not going to do alot for your shoulder because most injuries are just from the the impact. I dislocated my shoulder and ripped three of my tendons loose, how? I was on the ground with two 250+ guys on me (football practice with pads on). Making it stronger is your best bet and learning how to fall. There was an article in MBA that talked about Bike Cops and mentioned learning proper techniques for falling. Hope this helps.

  3. #3
    Formerly DMR For Life
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    most armor can have the spine protection removed...I ride a mace Swat jacket short sleeve coolish (haven't ridden in the summer yet) i have an older version 05 or 06 that doesn't have all of the plastic that the 07's have. I'm pretty sure that i have a large and i'm 6'2" 210lbs with a 44" chest and compactish shoulders (most of the armor that i tried on including the 661 pressure suit was to big in the shoulders for me)

    DMR

  4. #4
    TNC
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    Hey Madd...I hear lots of debate about this issue. I think some of it is correct and some not so much so. Body armor that has some kind of padding and is properly engineered will absorb impact and reduce or stop many injuries. I've even heard orthopedic guys argue both sides of this issue.

    Here's the best example of where upper/shoulder body armor will make a difference. We often fall in rocks...why?...because there are rocks...LOL! If you land on your unprotected shoulder in the rocks, aside from the laceration likelihood, your skin and tissue will try to get traction on those rocks, which will then pull the underlying muscle and tissue, and then try to pull on skeletal components. If the force is strong enough, the body damage can go deep. Now...if you have well designed body armor on that includes hard shell coverage at those major contact points...like the shouler and bicep cups...the underlying padded points will absorb some of that initial impact force. But another factor that the cups can provide is highly diminished traction on those same rocks. The more milliseconds of time that you can put off the total impact, the better your body likes it. Those plastic cups can move, slide, and glance off of those same rocks for a little or a lot depending on circumstances which will aid in disipating the impact.

    Now look...there are obviously many types of impacts that will be fast and sudden with just one stop...no sliding or glancing off of stuff. Though the padding and cups and plastic panels will help some, some of those types of impacts will result in tissue or bone damage regardless. If the impact is strong, and the body basically stops in one severe event, injury is likely. And yes, there are some injuries that no amount of armor will prevent...the one where you put your hand(s) out to break your fall on an OTB or such. If you don't break fingers, wrists, or arms, the force is still transmitted to the shoulders and collar bone for potential damage. Even one of those "grizzy bear proof" armored suits won't stop that. This is actually one area where I've had some formal education and hands on experience...accident investigation. They say there are two events in vehicle crash...the one that occurs involving the vehicle only, and the one that occurs with the occupants or rider...rider being the motorcyclist or bicyclist...not to mention pedestrian impacts.

    Madd, you are definitely right on the physical conditioning issue working as a prevention tool. Good conditioning of limbs, joints, and muscles almost always raises the threshold of injury. That "learning how to fall" tip also works. It sounds strange since we're usually not thinking about falling, but learning the quality of rolling, tumbling, and tucking in extremities can make a major difference in how force and energy during a get-off gets disipated. I've use the word "disipate" a couple of times, and that's what you try to accomplish when it comes to diminishing the effects of an impact. The right body armor, proper falling techniques, and physical conditioning all can play a part.

  5. #5
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    Hey TNC,
    Very good points, I was just trying to make it aware that armor may not be the answer, especially dealing with shoulder injuires.

  6. #6
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    Madd & TNC Ė I get what youíre saying Ė it definitely relates to me.
    I was on an easy track with my wife Ė nice slow pace Ė so slow and early in the morning that I was still half asleep. But she stopped halfway down a transition blocking it for me following behind her, a split decision to go around her on the B line (only a 3ft drop), didnít quite make it onto the lip of the B line and hit it way too slow/didnít get the front up enough resulting in an OTB that was too slow to get the body roll forward with it and I pretty much pile drove into the ground with my shoulder. So armor or not I think I would have done damage. But I think less with the armor.
    I ripped my tendons and a couple of big tendons that didnít rip, tore the bone off instead and then I crushed up bits of bone around that. Definitely an impact injury.

    There is definitely a big difference between the pile-driver impact injury and a roll and fall with some style injury.

    Iíve got a few more weeks of waiting for bones to set and then I will be starting into a couple of months of Physio and building up the muscles.
    But I will have many months before I can build up any form of muscle based support and protection. So getting armor should help me get on the bike sooner and compromise for the lack of strong bones and muscles.

    The other thing is mental .... Last time I took a bad fall, even though it was a rib and wrist, I found wearing my knee and elbow guards for the first month back on the bike really helped build the confidence up again. Iím kind of hoping that some armor might do the same thing from a confidence perspective.
    I donít want to sound like too much of a wimp Ė but when you have your arm hanging down by an inch or two and where your shoulder used to be, thereís just a jagged bone end trying to pop outa your skin, it does freak you out a bit. Armor may just help me mentally get back out there quicker.

  7. #7
    TNC
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    rural, this issue of lighter, cooler armor vs the all-out pressure suit has been discussed to death over on DH/FR. I'm one of the few who will argue for the effectiveness of "some" types of high end MX armor. While I would agree that many pressure suits...not even all of them are created equal...offer the most and best protection, it's obvious you can't wear those in many situations where you're riding for a longer period, the temperature is higher, or you're climbing to any degree.

    This is where "padded"...note, I said padded...MX armor can fill the gap. All MX armor is not created equal either. The best type actually has impact absorbing material of different types at strategic impact points to absorb and disipate energy from impacts. It is not just a compilation of plastic panels tied together...though many like that exist which are based on the old roost protector idea. Remember...dirt motorcycle guys fly off their mounts just like us, and they too favor good protection.

    I use an Answer Apex set of MX armor that has these energy absorbing contact points...yet the armor has these points designed to hold the armor slightly off of your body a tiny bit. This accomplishes a little more distance for the material to absorb energy and better ventilation. The plastic panels are all slotted to aid ventilation even more. This armor also allows you to attach just about any brand of elbow/forearm pads to the end of the bicep cups which keeps the elbow pads from slowly working down your arms while riding...and you don't have to have the elbow pads cinched very tightly to your arms...much more comfortable.

    Some bicyclists get downright emotional over the use or non-use of armor...MX or pressure suit. Some actually disdain the suggestion of using armor for anything other than all-out, radical, DH/FR. Others totally disdain the idea of using MX armor, claiming that it is totally useless for bicycle riding. I don't understand the first problem, as people ought to wear armor, or not, as they see the need, or not. The second one concerning the effectiveness of MX armor is probably based more on a lack of exposure to all types of MX armor. Then again, some just think if it ain't for bicycle use, it can't be any good...LOL!

    If you do a search for "armor" on this AM forum and the DH/FR forum, you'll see lots of interesting and spirited debate on the issue. I don't always use my upper armor, though I always use the knee/shin guards...just too easy and comfortable IMO to go without the leg/knee protection. I do wear all my armor at our gnarliest local riding place, and I use it when I go to Moab. I've tumbled off my bike many, many times with this armor on and was able to get up and continue without even a torn jersey. I even wear a full coverage MTB trail helmet "all" the time. I come from a background of dirt motor riding, so wearing equipment that provides protection while still being cool enough to wear has always been logical to me. This is a very personal thing for many riders. Especially when our group goes to Moab, I see every manner of rider and apparel selection due to the relatively large number of riders there. While I am amazed that I see some of these folks bombing down the trails with cut-off, sleeveless shirts and no other real protection than their XC-style helmet and fingerless gloves, I feel that's their call and their business, and I wouldn't think of saying anything negative or otherwise about their choice of riding apparel. However, I find it surprising in a kind of "busybody" way that many of those riders are more than willing to make remarks in a condescending way about my selection of riding apparel...and I don't mean just asking a sincere question about the use of body armor...LOL! Well, people are different, and all don't possess the kind of tact that perhaps would be appropriate. On the other hand, I can't tell you how many times I've come upon riders who had almost no rider protection who were wadded up in one of the many rock piles on Porcupine Rim in particular. It's a rare trip to Moab that at least once during our annual 2-week ride there that I don't encounter a scene like that on Porcupine. But I swear...I've never, never stopped and said, "I told you so!"...LOL!

    rural, here's a pic of that Answer body armor I often use. If you look at any dirt motor armor, make sure there is some form of energy absorbing material placed at the shoulder cups and front and rear panels. I always wear a Camelback, so that adds back protection to some degree. The armor back panel also tends to hold the Camelback off your back to a small degree which also aids ventilation. Good luck with your decision and heal up quickly.
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  8. #8
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    TNC - actually I was up until 3am last night doing searches and I came across your previous posts on the topic. Once I opened the searching to start looking at short sleeve pressure suits - well then I uncovered a wealth of info.

    By the way - I regularly come across your posts on this site and many of them have helped me a lot - so thanks for being such an active and useful member of this forum!!

    So far I'm looking at the pros and cons between these three....

    - Rock Garden Flak Jacket removable Kidney belt, back and elbow guards.
    - Fox Airframe or Roost Deflector lighter weight, cooler - the airframe has slightly lower profile shoulders.
    - Dainese Core Shirt Plus just a jersey with shoulder and Elbow guards built in

    I think each has its pros and cons. At the mo, I'm thinking that I will just order them all and wear the one that's right for the day/style that I'm riding.
    I could have bought a whole new bike for the cost of my after insurance medical bills - so I would rather just order a whole bunch of stuff and at least have multiple options open before the ride.

  9. #9
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    I'm noticing the new 661 core saver jacket. It's more like a vest and it has basic protection for the sensitive parts.
    "If an illegal alien is an undocumented immigrant, than a drug dealer is an unlicensed pharmicist."

  10. #10
    BrassBalled DropbarNinja
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    661 SP-2... My Power Ranger suit...

  11. #11
    I railed it like Kong
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    I love the Rock Garden Flak Jacket. It's got a wide open mesh that conects the pads and you can go short sleeve if you don't want the elbow pads.
    I'm UNIQUE... just like everybody else.

  12. #12
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    i second the RG flak jacket.. its pretty sweet..
    run it sleveless, with our without spine guard/kidney pressure belt.. lots of options. It's cool and comfy.

  13. #13
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    Thor Scattershield is lightweight

    I wear it whenever I can. I am on Porcupine Rim with all my lightweight armour TLD knees and elbows, and the less than 1 pound Scattershield. I look like I should be hucking the world but I am just having fun on the trail rider lines. Everyone waits for me to huck big, but for me that is a 2 foot high jump.

  14. #14
    Bodhisattva
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    Those pressure suits really won't do much to prevent a dislocated shoulder. They may be better than nothing, but not by much.
    In order to prevent shoulder dislocations you'd have to restrict movement in the shoulder to the point that range of motion is severly impeded. Offensive lineman tape their shoulders and wear highly protective gear but all they need to do is stretch their arms in front of them.
    I'm not in any way discouraging the use of armor as it has lots of benefits. But preventing shoulder dislocation just is extremely difficult. The mechanism of injury is usually a fall on an outstretched arm and those shoulder pads do not adequately prevent that motion.

    Shoulder ROM & strengthening exercises are a very good idea.

  15. #15
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  16. #16
    Bodhisattva
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    Quote Originally Posted by dogonfr
    Good links dogonfr. Those types of shoulder harnesses may indeed help prevent shoulder dislocations. But they look bulky and maybe a bit impractical for anything than requires pedaling. Thanks for posting those links.

  17. #17
    TNC
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    No kidding, dog.

    Quote Originally Posted by dogonfr
    EVS has been making some very well designed and functional safety gear for some time. I have a set of their knee protection/support braces for dirt motor riding. They're too bulky for MTB but work great on the motor. Also if you look closely at a couple of their chest/shoulder armor sets, they have that impact material in those important key areas to help absorb impact energy. It's pretty clear that most of us agree that some shoulder/collar bone injuries can't be avoided under some circumstances. I still contend that well designed armor can move the threshold of injury slightly up the scale in some of those same impacts...except that one where you put your hands/arms out to break your fall, of course. Three years ago in Moab I almost ruined my trip on the second day out. I did an OTB into some rocks and landed directly on my shoulder with my armor on. I couldn't even sleep on that side the rest of the trip, but surprisingly I could continue riding without any real discomfort. I can't imagine what tissue injury I would have received in that impact, and I really feel I was pushing the envelope at that spot where the impact absorbing material gave me "just enough" cushion to avoid more serious injury at my shoulder. I realize that can't be truly qualified, but logic would suggest it. I used to post a pic occasionally of that shoulder cup on that armor set, showing a major gouge. The football player scenario has been presented a couple of times in this thread, and it is a very true scenario. I'm glad we don't have 3 or 4 other 250lb. MTB'ers piling into us when we hit the ground. Nothing I like better than being compressed by 750lbs. of fat, donut-eating MTB'ers.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by TNC
    EVS has been making some very well designed and functional safety gear for some time. I have a set of their knee protection/support braces for dirt motor riding. They're too bulky for MTB but work great on the motor. .
    I know a retired pro DH'er & a few others that used to wear the knee braces for training & practice runs after injury. They are bulky & definatly not for daily use. I use the early version of the SCO5 knee & shin guards.
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