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Let’s talk armor

What is CE armor? What are the types of CE armor?

What is the difference between motorcycle armor?

What is the difference between the 1621-1 type A and type B armor?


High-tech body armor (and the willingness to wear it) can dramatically lower the risk of injury and death from a motorcycle crash. Riding as a squid is one of the stupidest things you can do when riding a motorcycle. Come on, dude, you’re better than this!

There are several options when it comes to the armor: foam, memory foam, silicone, hard plastic (usually stitched over the the foam), and viscoelastic. The most popular ones are foam, hard plastic and viscoelastic. There are good and bad pads; however, the general consensus is that the viscoelastic is what you want to have.

I bought my first set of gear, Fly Butane pants and Terra Trek II jacket, which came with the CE-approved pads (keep reading). The pants are now sold to a quick gentleman for $20 (to say they were in a rough condition is to be modest), and the jacket only sees the light of the day during a colder dual-sport trips; but I kept the armor, and re-use the pads in my other gear as needed.


The beauty of viscoelastic (proper name is VPD – for Viscoelastic Polymer Dough) is the fact that it absorbs some energy from the impact, delays the shock from the impact to the body, and dissipates the total impact over the larger area of your body.

So instead of having a super strong hit in one concentrated area, you would feel a weaker hit over the area that is covered by the pad, which in theory will be less damaging to your body.

1621-1 and 1621-2.

The European standard EN-1621 is used to rate the effectiveness of armor. The pads are divided in the Level 1 and Level 2. In the EN-1621-1 standard, Level 1 means less than 35 kN (kilo Newton) are transferred via the armor, and Level 2 means less than 20 kN are transferred (in simple language, Level 2 will cause less impact to your body in case of a crash).

The EN-1621-1 (:1997) rating is applied to the limb armor only. There are Type A and Type B pads, which indicate the width of the armor, and are based on the size of the protected area.

The back protection standard is EN-1621-2 (:2003). That standard rating is based on that energy being less than 18 kN (EN-1621-2 Level 1) or less than 9 kN (EN-1621-2 Level 2). There are a lot of options; but the best selling one is BILT Dominator CE Back Protector Insert ($19.99 + shipping). The next closest to it is the Fieldsheer Back CE Armor ($17.99 + shipping).

Level 1 vs. Level 2.

When tested to the procedure defined in the standard, the two levels of performance are:

  • Level 1 protectors: The average peak force recorded below the anvil in the tests shall be below 18 kN, and no single value shall exceed 24 kN.
  • Level 2 protectors: The average peak force recorded below the anvil in the tests shall be below 9 kN, and no single value shall exceed 12 kN.

But that is getting boring againYou can read more about the physical specifics here if you need.

If the pads in your gear are marked with the CE logo, but not with EN1621-1 or -2, they might be approved for some other purpose (skateboarding, bicycling, etc.), and probably would not provide sufficient protection in a crash.

If there aren’t any CE markings at all, get yourself some real CE-approved armor.

According to this article, since 2012 all CE armor sold in Europe must have the following pictogram.

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I. This shows that the equipment is meant for motorcycle riders;
II. Category and protection type (S= Shoulder; E= Elbow; H= Hips; K= Knees and above the tibia; K+L= Knees and above and middle tibia);
III. Performance level (1 or 2, as explained above);
IV. Impact test at high temperature (+40°C, which is 104°F);
V. Impact test at low temperature (-10°C, which is 14°F);

My CE armor.

My current limb armor I use in my commuting gear is the Fly Racing CE Elbow/Shoulder Armor Kit (EN-1621-1 type B). It came with the matching Fly Butane pants and the Fly Terra II jacket that I I’ve had since my first days of riding. I low-sided a half-dozen times during the first few months (and a couple more times after); I guess I may have gotten lucky, but I sustained no injuries so far.

I also have two of these 1621-2 pads for the back (large size pad for my winter XL RS Taichi RSJ285 and extra-large size pad for the summer Scoyco JK36). If you like Amazon over AliExpress, not sure if it is the same one, but it looks exactly like the ones that I have: Klim 5079 for $16.67.

Level 2 freaks can get an Alpinestars Nucleon for $49.95.

If you found this article helpful, please share it with other riders!

To learn more about armor (and about D3O that isn’t covered here), read this article: