A look at Body Protectors.
As far as I know, you are only here once, if you can convince me otherwise, I am always open to listen, immortality would be great.
So how come I have no problem shelling out hundreds of pounds for vanity? Yet, when it comes to what is truly important, why did my credit card stay firmly in my pocket?
Is it because I do not want to admit to my own mortality? Or the fact that looking after yourself is not particularly flattering or dare I say sexy? Or I just like to think it will never happen to me? Or I am tougher than that? Or I know how to roll?
Do I own a Body Protector?
Sure, I do. I hate it. It is restrictive and crushes me, it is uncomfortable and the less time it stays on me the better.
Do I own an Air Jacket?
Sure I do. How many times have I put it on? Not many. Why? Because I learnt from a stunt man that it simply increases the time to impact but moves the weakness to my head. People whose living is made from doing mad stunts do not wear air jackets. Why? Because in their opinion they are dangerous and move the point of weakness to your head! Let’s face it they should know. So why, oh why, did I not know this little pearl of wisdom?
I have a Protector so I can compete and I used to only wear it when I had to. I have an Air Jacket because like a sheep I followed the flock blindly, everyone else had one, so I am also guilty of lining the pockets of the manufacturers.
That was until I fell off Cross Country schooling and have spent the last few months telling myself that it didn’t really hurt, but it did.
Much as I hate to admit it, I am not getting any younger. I met someone who told me some things about body protection that I could not quite believe. It got me thinking. So, in true Claire style, I started to do some digging, a bit of research to see what I could find out.
EN 13158 2009 Level 3?
For those of you who event, you will know now that for the 2018 season you have to an EN13158 2009 Level 3 protector. But do you know what that means? No, nor did I but I do now.
Essentially it is a series of tests carried out on a body protector without a person inside it. It is done in a cold room and you either pass or fail. There is no credit given for excellence or rankings as to how well a protector protected or didn’t. It is simply a pass or a fail.
So to us, the general riding fraternity, one protector is as good as the next, right? That is what we are led to believe. So then the differentiators are down to style, colour, price and more often than not how cool is the marketing campaign……….Yes, I put my hand up, this is where I was at. Matchy matchy colour, cheapest price and I was in.
So every Body Protector out there is made of PVC Nitrile foam. It is a commodity, it is available off the shelf and then used in various cuts and styles by the manufacturers and of course price tags, so there you are, I was right.
I found out that there is another material, Polyurethane Foam. This is the stuff they use with motorbikes, coming off at very high speed you need to be sure you have excellent protection. Hitting tarmac at even 80 mph, 140mph+ if you are racing, you need something that truly dissipates energy and protects the body really, really well.
STAY WITH ME, this is the important technical bit which, should you come off may just save you hours of agony, weeks or months of convalescence or more scarily, your life.
I have climbed through technical papers and here is what I understand. When you fall of you need something that will absorb the energy of the impact, that the foam is resilient to impact, dissipates the energy and that the foam deflects energy away from the body.
So I looked at an independent test that compared PVC Nitrile Foam and Polyurethane Foam.
Tested to -40 and up to 40, the Polyurethane foam had greater impact strength. The EN13158 test is only done in cold room, it is not tested with body heat or the heat of the day – at temperature the PVC Nitrile Foam is soft unlike the Polyurethane Foam.
With repeated low energy impacts, neither was particularly strong but the Polyurethane absorbed more energy in each impact cycle.
The Polyurethane foam demonstrated a higher degree of recovery after impact.
When the foam was compressed the Polyurethane foam was found to be significantly stiffer and stronger.
The Polyurethane Foam demonstrated that it had significantly higher hysteresis (Hysteresis is the dependence of the state of a system on its history) energy which means it dissipates energy into the foam better during compression.
The Polyurethane Foam showed significantly less bodyside deflection. To put this into perspective, it only takes 4cms of compression into your body to do untold damage ie ruptured internals or broken bones, Polyurethane deflects from the bodyside up to 5 times better than the PVC Nitrile.
Translating the technical stuff above, it basically means that Polyurethane Foam is much better at saving me than PVC Nitrile.
Ok, so where do I get one. The only manufacturer that I could find is Kanteq every other one that I could find is PVC Nitrile. Not so strange when you understand that Polyurethane is far more expensive, well it would be wouldn’t it, it is better at the job you want it to do.
So, I spoke to Wendy Smyth, CEO of Kanteq in fact I went to her stand at Hartpury. I had a long discussion and decided to try it on. She measured my waist, bust and height. I looked at the Protector on the surface it looked bigger than most protectors and just as cumbersome.
When I put it on, the magic happened.
- It was light.
- It was moulded to my female body. Yes, I have boobs, the Kanteq recognises that fact.
- It comes with shoulder pads.
- It is easy to put on and take off.
I couldn’t quite believe it so I wandered round Hartpury looking like an idiot to see if it really was comfortable and it was.
Idiot me. I was angling after a new riding jacket so I made some feeble excuse and trotted off. “Well I wasn’t going to be eventing until April was I, so I would just use the one I had for schooling,” I told myself.
Yes, well needless to say I came off XC schooling, if I had had a Kanteq I wouldn’t have picked up the injury that I have now of that I am sure.
I rang Wendy and bought my Kanteq the next day.
I keep discovering benefits though. I love it, yes how many people can honestly safe that about a Body Protector?
- Easy to put on.
- My boobs don’t hurt
- My ribs don’t feel like they are in a straight jacket
- My breathing isn’t restricted
- but above all...
My riding is unrestricted, I ride better.
How many of you are wearing protectors that are ancient? That have been involved in falls? Now is the time to break from the flock.
Unlike the Protectors I have seen in the market the Polyurethane Foam is not stitched into the outer fabric so it is really simple to check that there is no wear and tear especially if I have come off. If I find damage then it would be a quick call to Wendy to purchase the piece that is compromised.
Now I am as safe as I can be, I know that. Vanity should not get in the way. My lesson on this is well learnt.
What are you waiting for?