We've all heard the story, rider snatches up an endo, the bike goes up and over and this miserable dude catches a twelve bar in the spine. Ouch, to say the least. Thankfully a lot of people walk away from these accidents, but the possibility, of not walking away and sustaining irreversible spinal damage is not a notion to take lightly.
It may still be public opinion that armor is not for cool kids, but I'm going to discuss a few back protector options for your consideration and hopefully alter your perception of armor. Back protectors can look cool, match your personal style and offer non-invasive protection you won't even notice when your stunting.
Think of it as insurance or an investment in your future stunting (and walking) career.
With back protectors there are a few options. One would be a standalone spine protector, that uses suspenders and/or a waist band to attach to your body. Another option would be a vest style, either with or without additional protection for your chest and/or ribs.
Stand-Alone Back Protectors
My favorite brand for armor is Dainese. Dainese dumps a ridiculous amount of money into research and development and when you put on their gear, you can really tell. Everything fits like a glove, does not move around or slide out of place and offers amazing impact absorption and abrasion control. The only con to Dainese gear is the price tag. But if you have the cash, or Aunt Martha is itching to get you a Christmas present or you can use the ol' "Well I would be MUCH safer riding if I had THIS" on your mother...go Dainese and you will not regret it. Dainese offers multiple standalone spine protectors, here are three different styles from their collection:
The Wave with Scapula Protection truly is an amazing piece of armor. Anthony picked one up last spring and never rides without it. His biggest concern was that the length (it's offered in 4 different lengths) would make it hard to sit in the tank, but after trying it out he learned that since he's leaning forward when in the tank, the protector rides up some and never causes a problem. This is the mac-daddy back protector to give you and your loved ones a peace of mind when you're riding (taken from very personal experience). You can pick this protector up on Revzilla for $239.
The Nextwave 3 is technically downhill mountainbike armor, but it's perfect for stunting. It has a hard outer shell and all sorts of amazing high-tech anti-schock core components. The suspender are removable (and replaceable) and it offers a waist band to secure everything in place. The Dainese spine protectors offer a unique design that mimicks the spine's contour perfectly, all their gear not only fits like a gloves but also moves with your body naturally. MSR is $180, but I found versions of it online for $119.
Enough D-love let's discuss another brand. Icon makes the Field Armor Stryker Back Protector . It's the same suspender and waistband style, all of which can be removed and you can insert it into a jacket, a pretty cool dual-functioning product. The Styker starts at $90 and while I've never rode in one, I've watched Nick Apex practice with one and we all know his moves surely are not reduced by this armor.
The Alpinestars Bionic Back Protector is yet another suspender style protector. I rode in the full Bionic jacket for years and really loved it. One feature unique to the Bionic is the additional waist adjustments, which I felt always made my protector fit just right and really held the spine protector against my back comfortably. The Aplinestars model starts online at $119.
A cheaper option is the SixOneSix Backguard . Same old suspender/waist attachment, but the SixOneSix only offers hard protection alone the spine and the rest of the guard is a foam/mesh combination. Less protection and probably less comfort, but it's also less money starting at $69.99 online.
Vest-Style Back Protectors
The Icon Field Armor Vest is as common as the F4i is in stunting. It looks great (ya, the ladies will be swooning) and offers protection to both your chest and back (two places you really don't want to be smashed or impaled). It's a great product and you won't think twice about throwing it on every time you ride. We know your boy has one, go try it on for size and seriously think about getting one, at $100 there is no reason not to. Online for $100 and check out their new high-visibility "Mil Spec" vest for $120.
Dainese Thorax Wave Pro : It's the most comfortable, flexible and offers the best protection. What more can I say? If you got the dough it's online for $299.
Alpinestars S-MX Bionic vest offers back, chest and kidney protection. They say it's meant to be worn under a jacket, but in the case of many stunters, something is better than nothing. Online for around $199.
If You're A Girl...
I have been stunting in a Alpinestars Stella Bionic for the last two years. It is comfortable and has held up to the abuse of stunting wonderfully. It is a full jacket, which is a bit warmer then a stand alone back protector, but the elbow and shoulder armor absorb an amazing amount of the impact when I hit the ground (so I think it's worth the sweat). I highly recommend the jacket as a great quality to cost product. I wear a size medium in the Stella (I am about a size 6) but I have heard of extra petite girls fitting comfortably into the youth bionic jacket from Alpinestars. Online for $229.
I am in love with the Dainese Wave (all of the variations of this product are amazing). While I don't yet have one of my own, I have been known to steal Anthony's out of the gear bag and wheelie off in it. I even tried on a children's size at the Dainese store and it fit really great, still protecting the length of my spine. Online for around $180.