Although I’m usually not a big fan of body armour, I was surprised and impressed by the fit, comfort and performance of the EVOC Women’s Protector Vest.
I wear the usual knee and elbow protection for most rides, and of course the obligatory helmet, but when it comes to the padded jackets and vests, I’d kind of given up. My experience of torso body armour has been that they’re restrictive, bulky and too hot. I lost my confidence in it when I broke my shoulder whilst wearing a body armour jacket; I decided it was only going to stop cuts and scrapes and haven’t worn it since. I was compromising my safety over comfort.
When I was asked if I wore body armour and if I’d like to test this, I was initially a bit unenthusiastic about the idea because of the experiences I've had before - but when the product description came through for the EVOC Women’s Protector Vest, it really appealed to me. It was the slim, lightweight design that attracted me.
The protector vest is something I think that’s going to appeal to many riders who have the similar opinion towards body armour as me, and want the peace of mind of being protected without bulky, uncomfortable padding.
The protector vest has been designed with riders’ comfort firmly in mind. The moisture-wicking lightweight lycra jersey is so thin and airy with its mesh and honeycomb design that it’s just like wearing an extra sleeveless base layer. It’s light and supple, so it moves with you and isn’t at all restrictive. Soft stitching and seams meant I didn’t experience any rubbing or chaffing; it’s so comfortable, I almost forgot I was wearing it.
A flexible belt around the hips/waist keep the back plate securely in place. The spine protector plate is removable, so you can take it out easily and pop the vest in the washing machine when you need to clean it.
As well as the main ‘Liteshield back protector plate’ that protects the spine, there is also a lower segment that covers the coccyx. These are connected via a ‘backlink’. The Liteshield plate is constructed from segments of foam, which conform to the shape of your back nicely and absorb the energy of any impact.
Handily, the EVOC Protector Vest is also suitable for multiple sports, and I’ll be using it for snowboarding too. In terms of protection certification, it’s CE tested, and conforms to CE standard EN 1621-1 which is fit for motorcycle riders – so it’s able to take some rough handling.
Based on the size chart I found on the UK suppliers site, Silverfish UK, I opted for a medium. Since then, I’ve decided I should have gone for a large, because I have a long torso (50cm) and the medium isn’t quite long enough to cover my coccyx. The best size chart is on the EVOC website, which gives you torso and chest sizing.
[UPDATE: SilverfishUK have informed us that they have updated the size guide on their site]
You can see from the picture above that it doesn’t quite cover my coccyx. For riding, I actually don’t think that that’s essential – however, it is for snowboarding, and it would be better to have it covered for peace of mind.
The EVOC vest couldn’t have come at a better time… The day I agreed to test it, I'd also booked my first downhill race - perfect testing ground as Total Women’s Cycling crash test dummy! I joked about this prior to the race, but then did actually have a crash.
On race day, I wore a base layer, then the EVOC vest, and a riding jacket over the top. The vest is so comfy that minutes after putting it on I forgot I was wearing it. It goes on just like a zip up jacket, and the belt holds the spine protector nicely in place.
The silicone grip hem, which is designed to hold the top in position, didn’t seem to work well over my base layer. I have since worn it without a base layer and the silicone grip did help hold it down.
I had a nasty crash during the race practice at the end of a sloppy wall ride; my front wheel washed out from under me throwing me onto the deck hard. I hit the wall ride, smashed the wood and went over the back of it, down a few feet and landed on a tree stump, followed by my bike, which landed on top of me.Spectacular to watch I’m sure!
It was a thorough test of the Protector Vest, because though I emerged a bit battered and bruised, I truly think that if I hadn’t been wearing the it I may have ended up going to A&E. When the bruises came up, they were noticeably absent from the area covered by the Liteshield Plate, so it certainly did absorb the impact force, and keep me protected.
(By the way, I kept riding, and in the end managed to take 3rd place at the race. Maybe I was riding faster as wearing body armour I trusted increased my confidence?)
The EVOC Women’s Protector Vest has a sister product - the Protector Vest Air+. If I were spending this amount of money on a back plate I would most definitely spend the £40 or so extra for the shoulder, collar bone and hipbone impact protection pads that come with this model.
I normally race enduro, where a lot of riders wear the EVOC hydration pack with inbuilt spine protector. I can’t wear one as I use a sponsors pack, but I’m sure I’ll be wearing the protection vest in the future as it’s light and airy enough to ride in for 6 hours.
Back protectors are now a mandatory requirement in European enduro races so anyone looking to race those should consider investing in one of these.
A great lightweight piece of kit for riders who want peace of mind whilst riding everyday trails or gnarly DH tracks, without having bulky full body armour.
- Lightweight protection
- Easy to put on
- Foam impact spine pad fits the shape of your back and moves with you
- Only spine protection
- Size charts on suppliers website could be better
Size: S, M, L
More info: EVOC
Available from: Silverfish UK
What EVOC say about the Women's Protector Vest:
- Super-light CE-tested LITESHIELD BACK PROTECTOR (EN 1621-2)
- Coccyx protector element conform with CE standard EN 1621-1
- Hip strap with ergonomically shaped back section
- High degree of comfort through optimized fit
- Seamless side and shoulder section to prevent friction
- Arm section provided with micro jersey material to prevent rubbing
- YKK zips with protective hem to prevent skin contact and zipper garage
- Machine-washable (protector pad detachable)
- BACKLINK connects LITESHIELD BACK PROTECTOR and coccyx pad and expands protection area