All forms of cycling are hazardous and it’s crucial that you take every measure to protect yourself in case of an accident. The number one piece of protective equipment that every rider should own and wear without fail is a cycling helmet. There is a huge range of helmets available to suit every rider and every budget. Unfortunately all of them are likely to leave you with helmet hair, however, this is a very small price to pay for the protection they afford. Modern designs have great ventilation too so the old problems of getting a sweaty head just doesn’t apply anymore.
For road cycling, the helmet is likely to be the only piece of protective equipment you’ll wear. For off road riders, however, particularly BMX riders and downhill mountain bikers, body armour is also essential. High impact crashes are an intrinsic part of these sports and they’re one of the reasons that these cycling genres are such a rush. Knees, shins, elbows, shoulders, wrists and just about every part of your body is prone to injury when you do come off, however. Thankfully it is possible and in many cases advisable to wear a full upper body suit of armour.
While these suits, such as the FOX Launch suit, may look reminiscent of something a medieval night would wear, they actually boast an array of high tech materials to offer better shock absorption in a much lighter package than the aforementioned. The garments are constructed from moisture wicking fabric with hard plastic or carbon fibre plates in all the key areas to protect your limbs and torso. This type of body armour is particularly designed for aggressive downhill mountain biking. You don’t need to be a pro downhiller, however, to benefit from wearing some extra protection, you can buy individual padded protectors for all of the key areas. Your lower legs are one area that are certain to take some abuse as you cycle across country from sticks, stones and branches that get flicked up by the front wheel.
The most important part of your body after your head to protect is your back. You don’t need me to tell you that a broken back can be a catastrophic injury. For this reason, manufacturers are putting steadily more effort into designing comfortable body armour designed to support your back in the event of an accident. Cycling jerseys are available from POC, amongst others, which offer back protection alone in a comfortable, moisture wicking garment. There’s no getting away from the rigidity of the back protection area, but there’s no reason why the rest of the garment shouldn’t function like any other performance jersey. It is well worth taking a close look at the manufacturer’s specifications when you invest in body armour. The protection may look great, but it’s the shock absorbing and distributing performance that’s crucial here.
The popularity of compression garments has not been overlooked by manufacturers of body armour either. Compression has been demonstrated to improve endurance by supporting muscles as they work over extended periods of time. It is now possible to combine moderate body armour within a compression jersey, take a look at the Six Six One Sub Gear long sleeve compression suit, for an example.