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Best body armour for mountain biking in 2021 | Top-rated chest and back protectors for off-road riding

If you’re hitting the descents hard, knee pads aren’t enough – it’s time to armour up

Best body armour for mountain biking

Investing in body armour for mountain biking is a wise move for anyone who rides fast or tricky descents.

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Also known as pressure suits or back protectors, the options we’ve listed here provide protection for your back and spine, with some options also including protection for your shoulders, elbows or chest.

Many riders opt for knee pads or elbow pads, but wearing torso protection is a good idea, too. After all, we never know when a crash is going to happen.

Fortunately, upper body armour has become lighter and less restrictive compared to the bulky suits of years gone by.

Many now employ protective materials such as D3O or Koroyd and have high stretch or breathable fabrics to create comfortable and secure fits. This makes it easier to wear more of the time –  which consequently means you are better protected on more of your rides.

It’s important to consider what type of riding you do when choosing upper body protection for mountain biking (or, in fact, any type of protection). The more extreme your type of riding, the more protection you will need.

If you’re taking to relatively easy trails and spend more time pedalling than heading downhill, lightweight protection might be suitable for you.

If you’re racing in downhill events, riding black trails or sending some big jumps, you should invest in a jacket or suit that will protect more of your body.

Our pick of the best body armour for mountain biking includes options for all manners of riding. Our expert team of independent testers have racked up hours of riding and considered protection, fit, comfort, extra features and price when scoring these products.

Finally, you should always wear a helmet when mountain biking, so be sure to check out our picks of the best mountain bike helmets and the best enduro helmets.

Best body armour for mountain biking, as rated and reviewed by BikeRadar 

  • Leatt Body Tee AirFlex Stealth: £190 / $200 
  • Alpinestars Evolution LS: £190 
  • Bluegrass Armour Lite: £120
  • Fox Baseframe Pro D3O Guard: £169 / $260
  • SixSixOne Recon Advance: £215

Leatt Body Tee AirFlex Stealth

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Best body armour for mountain biking
Leatt’s Body Tee is comfortable enough to wear all day and is compatible with Leatt’s neck brace, for further protection
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • Price: £190 / $200 as tested

Leatt’s Body Tee AirFlex Stealth slimline top is light and comfy enough to wear all day, and the open mesh fabric means it doesn’t feel too hot on long climbs.

The AirFlex (soft impact gel) back and shoulder padding provide Level 1 protection – a European safety standard that means the maximum transmitted force must be lower than 18kN with no single value exceeding 24kN.

The large chest panel adds peace of mind, and all are highly flexible.

It’s designed to integrate seamlessly with Leatt’s neck brace, with loops and a removable section of padding at the neck.

An off-centre zip makes putting it on a cinch, and the zip shield prevents any skin irritation. Plus it has two easy-to-access stash pockets.

The only thing that’s really holding the Leatt Body Tee back from a full five stars is the price.

What is Level 1 and Level 2 protection? 

Level 1 and Level 2 are CE/European ratings for back protection and other armour. They are used to tell you the effectiveness of the armour in absorbing or withstanding impacts. 

The two levels refer to different amounts of force:

  • CE level 1: the maximum transmitted force must be below 18kN, and no single value shall exceed 24kN
  • CE level 2: the maximum transmitted force must be below 9kN, and no single value shall exceed 12kN

Armour for mountain biking is often rated to CE Level 1. Some mountain biking armour is rated to CE Level 2, but this is more common in motorcycling, due to the higher speeds of the sport. 

Alpinestars Evolution LS

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best body armour for mountain biking
The Alpinestars Evolution LS has routing for a hydration pack hose.
Immediate Media
  • Price: £190 as tested

The Alpinestars Evolution LS armour jacket has been discontinued but it’s still available to buy.

We found it to be comfortable in testing and, while the spine protector may appear bulky, it goes unnoticed when riding.

This jacket has a number of handy features, including a compartment for a hydration bladder and removable sleeves – if you want to use it as a vest without shoulder or elbow protection.

Unfortunately, the cutaways under the arms mean the shoulder pads can move around a bit, but they do create plenty of ventilation.

In terms of comfort, features and ergonomics, this jacket is up with the best.

Bluegrass Armour Lite

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best body armour for mountain biking
The three rear pockets are ideal for stashing kit.
Steve Behr
  • Price: £120 as tested

The Bluegrass Armour Lite was updated for 202o with a new three-layer EVA-foam back panel that offers protection across a wider section of the upper back, and it extends down the small of the back too.

Our size small came up true to size with enough room for a baselayer underneath. Stretch panels provide a secure fit and mesh helps with breathability, although we did find things got a bit sticky on warmer days

Putting the jacket on is easy thanks to a full-length zip. Three rear pockets provide room for essentials and there’s room for a hydration pack too.

Fox Baseframe Pro D3O Guard

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best body armour for mountain biking
The D3O back, shoulder and elbow pads are all Level 1 certified.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • Price: £169 / $260 as tested

The Fox Baseframe Pro D3O Guard uses D3O impact protection back, shoulder and elbow pads. These harden on impact, are flexible, well-ventilated and comfortable, and don’t look too bulky under a jersey. They’re all Level 1 certified.

The thinner chest protection is also unobtrusive, despite being larger than most, while the sleeves zip off easily and feature breathable mesh panels.

The fit is excellent and this top is comfortable against the skin without a baselayer. All the pads are removable for easy washing, too.

With arms attached, it’s quite tricky to pull on and off because there’s no zip on the body, and the material can feel clammy.

SixSixOne Recon Advance

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best body armour for mountain biking
Compared to the older jacket, the back protector is a touch narrower.
Andy Lloyd
  • Price: £215 as tested

The SixSixOne Recon Advance armour jacket is a lighter and more breathable version of the brand’s EVO Compression jacket.

Protective padding covers almost all of the major points on your upper body, including the coccyx, and you can customise the protection by removing the Atrotech foam elbow and shoulder pads.

The back protector is made from two layers of Koroyd, which is relatively light but stiffer than D3O. That said, this wasn’t noticeable when riding.

Overall, this jacket is a strong contender but it does come with a high price tag.


Also consider…

The following body armour scored fewer than four out of five stars in testing to make it into our main list, but they are still worth considering.

7idp Flex Suit

3.5 out of 5 star rating
Best body armour for mountain biking
The shoulder pads and Level 1 back protector are all removable.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • Price: £110 / $130 as tested

The 7idp Flex Suit has sturdy yet removable shoulder pads that give a real sense of protection, and are pre-formed for comfort and to maximise movement.

This top works well for trail riders, thanks to its lightweight construction and five stash pockets. It’s comfortable to wear without a baselayer underneath, and the Level 1 back protector can be replaced with a hydration bladder.

The price is competitive, but there are some compromises. The spine guard isn’t very long and security flaps on the pockets make them tricky to access on the bike. Also, the Flex Suit’s material feels clammy when sweaty and doesn’t dry quickly.

Alpinestars Paragon Lite Protection Jacket SS

3.5 out of 5 star rating
Best body armour for mountain biking
Alpinestars’ Paragon Lite Protection Jacket SS provides good coverage and a good fit.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • Price: £140 / $150 as tested

The Alpinestars Paragon Lite Protection Jacket SS has a CE Level 1-certified back protector, which provides good coverage without being bulky or restrictive, and the chest panel offers good protection too.

It has a good length and fit – snug but not tight under the arms – with a silicone gripper to stop it from riding up at the back, plus a front zip that makes getting it on and off easy. It’s fairly quick-drying and there’s a small rear pocket.

The flexible shoulder pads could be thicker and breathability isn’t the best, though.

We preferred to wear this jacket over a baselayer.

EVOC Protector Shirt

3.5 out of 5 star rating
Best body armour for mountain biking
The EVOC offers a high level of protection but is tricky to get on and off.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • Price: £170 / $190 as tested

EVOC’s back protection has a high Level 2 rating. The removable spine guard gives plenty of coverage, while the chest pad is also well-sized, and both are flexible enough not to impede movement. Shaped shoulder pads wrap around well, too, giving lots of protection.

With mesh side panels, ventilation is reasonable, considering the coverage. Two rear pockets and a sleeve for a hydration bladder add to its versatility.

Getting it on and off is a struggle because there’s no zip and the large back protector gets in the way (it can also interfere with hip packs). It’s pretty pricey, too.

Troy Lee Designs 3900 Upper Protection Vest

3.0 out of 5 star rating
Best body armour for mountain biking
Individual sections of padding can be removed to tune fit and comfort.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • Price: £135 as tested

With plenty of mesh fabric, this Troy Lee Designs vest offers good ventilation, and it fits nicely under jerseys.

The vest is easy to pull on and off, even without a zip, and the highly flexible protective panels don’t restrict movement.

Individual sections of padding can be removed to tune fit and comfort, and it’s been designed with neck braces in mind. We also like the kidney protection.

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It doesn’t feel great next to the skin, and the thin panels don’t offer as much protection as some thicker options. Plus, being a vest, there’s no shoulder armour. Sizing is on the large side, too.