Gear: Icon Field Armor Stryker

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This new Icon Field Armor Stryker armor is nearly perfect for its intended customer. The thing is, that’s not me. What I have to remember about HFL is that, despite our fascist insistence on all-black leathers and expensive jeans, we actually have a really diverse readership. Most of you guys don’t look and dress like Grant and I, so with that in mind I expanded my safety gear horizons with this D3O-equipped back, knee and elbow armor.

Here’s the deal with Icon — they’re the only bike gear brand actively attempting to do something about the huge number of young sportbike riders who don’t ride in appropriate safety gear. They’re tackling that problem creatively and aren’t held back by the kind of snobbery which sees other brands fail to offer the kind of gear Johnny Squid will want to wear. We admire that. Protecting more riders more of the time is a good thing.

What the Stryker gear is intended to do is offer a protection system for people that aren’t riding in proper protective jackets or suits. Kurt Walter, Icon’s design director, describes as “an unfortunate reality” the fact that there’s a bunch of people out there riding in cotton t-shirts or hoodies rather than leather or Cordura. As such, Stryker faces some unique challenges. Where normal body armor of the kind that fits in pockets in your jacket or leathers only has to deal with impacts, Stryker needs to help some guy in a t-shirt survive abrasion too. To do that, all these Stryker pieces use a hard plastic shell over impact ameliorating D3O foam.

The need for that plastic shell does limit Stryker’s possible applications. You’re not going to fit it into pockets on existing jackets and it’s not going to fit under jeans unless you’re still stuck in that whole mid-‘90s Jnco thing. If you are, you really need to put down the Hot Topic catalog. Like right now.

Unlike MX armor, which is similarly bulky, Stryker also needs to work on the road and on sportsbikes. That means a different kind of impact — likely on hard asphalt instead of soft dirt — and the need for greater articulation, particularly in the knees which will be folded up, inevitably on the pegs of a GSX-R.

I tested three items in the Stryker range:

The Icon Field Armor Stryker Vest. $110-140, incorporates a CE-approved back protector with D3O and articulated plastic plates plus anti-abrasion Helcor (the carbon-look stuff) across much of the torso.

Icon Field Armor Stryker Elbow. $70, CE-approved. You’re getting a press shot because I had a minor issue with the pre-production sample Icon sent me and returned it so they could take a look. It was a missing rivet that shouldn’t be a problem when the factory starts running stuff down a proper production line. Forgot to shoot it before I put it in the mail.

Icon Field Armor Stryker Knee Armor. $95, CE-approved.

There’s also non-vest back protector that’ll probably work better if you’re wearing it under a jacket and these shorts, which incorporate D3O in the hips and anti-abrasion aramid (the generic name for Kevlar) stretch panels. I just think these look like a good product, so I’m including a picture.

Learning about Stryker has actually been kind of a neat experience. I get so focussed on the kind of gear I like to wear — one-piece leathers when I’m riding fast, two-piece when I’m not, understated jeans and jackets in cities — that I probably forget about the needs of most other riders. Most people haven’t been riding most of their lives, don’t enjoy getting their knee down on the road or do a bunch of trackdays. Instead, they just enjoy riding their motorcycles. More power to them.

That less-experienced customer actually makes Stryker a more complicated product. “If it doesn’t look cool guys won’t buy or wear the protective device, thereby completely devaluing all our research and design time,” says Kurt. And that’s the big challenge here, getting people to want to wear the gear. “The final material in the Stryker construction is a compressed Biofoam. The Biofoam has comfort cushioning properties similar to the removable comfort liner in a helmet. While it is not necessary, it does increase the comfort of the product, thereby increasing the chance a rider will actually wear it.”

The carbon-look Helcor (which again adds extra abrasion protection around the perimeters of the proper plastic), orange mesh highlights and aggressively contoured plastic lends the Stryker armor a technical look. You feel like you’re dressing up for an episode of Gladiators or a cage fight when you put it on. It’s easy to put on too. The secure fit the elastic cuff lends the elbow armor was my favorite, but the vest brings with it a huge range of adjustment for the velcro attachments meaning it’ll fit skinny weenies like me or big fat ‘Busa riders equally well and the knee armor stays on totally securely despite initial reservations that the two velcro straps wouldn’t be enough.

Wearing all the above with jeans and a t-shirt, neither comfort nor limb articulation are affected over the street clothes alone. A layer of HydraDry wicking material means that’ll remain the case even on long, hot rides. The articulated elbow and shoulder pieces fold to stay close to your body when you bend that joint. Your knee, for example, presses against the plates, pushing them to fold against your thigh. Folded up on sportsbike pegs, the conform to the shape of your leg rather than stick out in the air and don’t impair movement as you transfer between riding positions.

That it’s able to offer CE-approved protection completely unobtrusively is Stryker’s unique selling point. The previous generation of Field Armor set out with a similar goal, yet was bulkier and didn’t meet CE standards. Sure, a CE level 2 back protector would be safer, but it’d be bulkier too. With a demographic of riders looking for any excuse not to wear one, opting for the thinner, lighter standard is the right choice for this product. If you can’t tell you’re wearing it, then why not wear it?

Hopefully someone that survives a crash relatively uninjured thanks to Stryker will learn to appreciate the benefits of real safety gear and move on to a more advanced system of protection like that offered by the Icon Overlord Prime jacket or, who knows, maybe even eventually become a gear snob like me.

  • damien

    Good review. Initially I thought I’d grab one of these vests. Then I realized I should probably just step up to a decent jacket instead. My vintage store leather jacket doesn’t exactly meet any CE standards.

    *you guys need to start taking some full body shots with gear on!

    • KP

      That’s precisely why I picked up the vest. It’s great for those jackets which might be more driven by aesthetics rather than protection. Can’t see myself using the knee or elbow pads, however. Maybe for street hockey.

    • Wes Siler

      Ha, I wanted to avoid that here. Was worried it’d turn into a joke about me than a review about the gear.

      • Emmet

        sorry for the shameless self promotion, but I just bought the Stryker shorts and kneepads and have a picture of me wearing them:

        Less Rollerball, more Mad Max IMO.

        • ursus

          Can you get these knee guards under jeans?
          How comfortable are they / do they slowly cut off circulation behind the knee?
          If I have guards on under jeans I prefer to leave them on long-term and they need to be comfortable.

          • Emmet

            depends on the jeans. No way they would fit under a pair of Levi’s 511 slim fit, and they were pretty tight/uncomfortable beneath a pair of 527 bootcut. I found that they can only be worn under a very baggy pair of jeans, but they work just fine over any clothing. Plus, it’s that much easier to take them off when you dismount.

        • jpenney

          Nice looking GS! I still kick myself for selling my ’79 550E.

  • David

    I use the previous Field Armor Leg guards and I was wondering why these new ones seemed like a downgrade, I had no idea what the marketing behind these was like. It makes sense now.

    The old ones might not be CE rated but they sure do look and feel way tougher.

    Pic for reference:

    • Ducky

      “Look and feel” tougher might not actually translate into actual toughness when you crash. It could be that Icon never bothered to do CE certification with the old armour, but with the new ones you can at least be sure it at least met CE standards for impact.

    • Josh

      That’s sort of the idea behind the d3o armor – it’s flexible when you don’t need it, and stiffens up to disperse shock when you do. I rode dual slalom and downhill (bicycles) with d3o knee pads last year, and damn do they work. So thin I was a bit nervous at first, but they take hits like a champ.

      Linkage of marketing speak –

    • iconmotosports

      Hi – Kurt here – Design Director at Icon. On the CE issue – @Ducky is correct – we did not test the first generation Field Armor leg guards. At the time, around 2005, we were not directly selling product in Europe. Therefore the CE testing & certification process was not financially justified. In 2010 we began our European push and felt it was necessary to revamp the entire Icon Field Armor line to conform to CE standards.

      Concerning the use of d3o in the Stryker gear – in our testing d3o performs as well as two to three times the equivalent thickness of PU foam. It’s a bit difficult to get used to the ‘thinness’ of the d3o. Quite frankly it doesn’t seem like it should work, but the impact testing results don’t lie. It is a superior impact absorption/dispersal material.

      The first gen Field Armor was not only thicker than the new CE Stryker collection, it was dimensionally longer and wider. With over five years of use and feedback from end users we opted to go with an overall smaller silhouette. The reduction of visual mass can lead to observations such as @David, where the first gen looks ‘tougher’. It was physically more massive and therefore imparted a certain toughness. We consciously decided to give up some of that look (and girth) in order to provide improved fit and mobility in all the Stryker gear.

      In the end, the Icon design crew is very proud of both the original Field Armor and the new Field Armor Stryker collection. The first generation armor has performed flawlessly for over half a decade, and we expect the new Stryker gear to carry on that tradition – albeit in a thinner, more technology advanced, package. Thanks, Kurt.

      • noone1569

        I sort of anticipated that this was the case. Thanks for coming in here an clarifying, Kurt.

  • aristurtle

    It’s interesting to see this sort of thing catch on. I know here in Bodymore, the standard squid outfit used to be “t-shirt, jeans, sneakers, and full face helmet” and lately it’s been “t-shirt, jeans, sneakers, full-face helmet and back protector”. Hey, it’s a step up. Joint impact is probably a bigger risk than skin abrasion in city traffic anyway.

  • Luke

    Are you giving the review gear to Sean to also … ahem … test?

    • Wes Siler

      We’re just going to wrap him in bubble wrap head to toe.

    • Sean Smith

      I should get together some press bikes and do a gear and frame slider shoot out.

      • the_doctor

        I would pay cash-money to see that.

        • Restless Lip Syndrome


      • GoFasterPB

        I’ll help pick up the pieces.

  • Deep6Dive

    nice jinco’s drop.

  • slowestGSXRever

    I just got one of these vests, I really do like it. Fits under jackets, doesn’t move around when I ride or walk or bend over. Cool stuff. If it looked less … “cool” I might be less ashamed to be seen in it.

  • Kirill

    This was the most entertaining gear review I’ve ever read

  • Ben

    D3O is so weird and awesome. Look it up, it’s crazy.

  • Kentaro rides a H-D Night Rod Special and a BMW GSA

    Is d3o that effective? Since it’s so thin I don’t see how it becoming harder at the moment of impact will save you that much flesh. It sounds interesting but I think it’s too hyped. Am I wrong?

    • Wes Siler

      I was skeptical too, but the impact numbers don’t lie. I’ve got a few pieces of D3O armor here that are pretty amazing, more on them in a few days.

    • fasterfaster

      I’ve used it for mountain biking and it’s pretty amazing. It doesn’t cushion the impact but it does spread it over a broad area. Net result, landing with full body weight on rocks doesn’t hurt. Haven’t tried it at sportbike speeds though…

  • Coreyvwc

    I’m envisioning all of the hardcore “gixxer” club guys hanging out in the parking lot at the beach right now. All of this gear accompanied only by some sweet jorts and timberlands. Some day I will be that awesome…

    Thanks for the ongoing humor Wes. I needed that laugh.

    • Sean Smith

      Jorts? As a connoisseur of both gixxers and jorts, I speak from experience when I say that the shorts crowd rolls in Dickies or gym shorts.

      • Coreyvwc

        Perhaps the inside of my helmet has always been to fogged up from excessive laughter to really get a good look? I also just really love the word Jorts.

  • Sean

    I’ve been thinking of getting the vest to wear under my patrol gear which is quite awesome. It’s easily some of the beat gear for the money out there, and it fits good. Fit tends to be an issue for me so it’s super nice to be able to find something that fit this good and should be able to fit a wide variation of rider shapes and sizes.

  • Endless Mike

    How do the knee pads fit with boots?

  • karinajean

    with all the talk of fancy jeans lately I’ve been thinking more about getting a pair of my own but I’m too nervous about my knees (already had one [motorcycle UNrelated] ACL replacement) to go without armor. something like the stryker knee armor would be awesome for short around-town rides, and maybe even the occasional commute.

    heck, it looks like it might even be MORE safe than my riding pants, because you can be sure the armor will stay in place on your joints where it needs to be.

  • Devin

    My daily commute is 15 minutes of highway in dress pants. I was planning to get protective pants that go over top, but these knees give me another option to consider.

    I live in the country, so going to a restaurant in town is a pain with armoured pants, knees that fit under might be better looking. I’d have to try them on though.

  • the_doctor

    I have been eying the Stryker range for some time, but have yet to pull the trigger on anything but a Alpinestars jacket. I am mulling over getting a back protector for it, and knee pads later on.

    Nice review Wes.

  • Bronson

    Myself and several friends have been wearing the the older model Icon Field Armor vest for years and we like them. Most of the squids around here just wear them over a t-shirt (at least they’re wearing something, right?), but we wear them under our full leathers. After years of abuse and many unplaned get-offs these vests have held up very well. I’d recommend the vest.

  • Todd

    Thanks for the timely review. I’ve been reading about and anticipating the arrival of this new Stryker gear from Icon. In particular I’m interested in the knee armor. Sure, I’ve got various riding pants and overpants that have built-in knee armor. But sometimes when I’m just going someplace in town, or out riding one of the cruisers instead of my sportbike, I’d rather just wear some (non-skinny) riding jeans (usually ones with some kevlar lining), but still want impact protection for my knees.

    For the last couple of years I’ve been using a set of inexpensive motocross knee/shin guards, but I’d like something that is a bit more street oriented, less bulky, and will stay securely in place. I tried on the previous generation Field Armor, as well as some competitors products, but most were difficult to put on/take off with your jeans already on. That’s important to me, as it’s nice to arrive at my destination and simply pull my pant legs up and easily remove the knee armor (and conversely install when it’s time to get back on the bike). It looks like this re-thought design, particularly with its two strap configuration, may be just the ticket.

    These might also be an improvement over the knee armor in my textile mesh overpants I use for touring. As the pants are a bit loose with the liner removed, I worry a bit that the knee armor may not stay in place all that well. Knee armor that’s attached to ME won’t have that problem (as I’ve tested many many many times while riding my dual-sport).

    What’s the price on the shorts? Do they incorporate anything in the way of padding, etc. in the seat and crotch areas to improve riding comfort? I often wear a pair of cycling shorts for long rides/trips that have some padding and such in these areas. I’d gladly replace them with something that’s bike specific with hip armor, so long as they incorporate the rider comfort/distance attributes as well.

    Oops, sorry for writing a book.

    • Wes Siler

      Shorts are $70, I don’t think there’s a bicycle short-style chamois in there.

      There’s other padded motorcycle shorts out there, but these should be pretty slim, so you don’t look like an old lady if you wear them under jeans.

      • LoTGoD

        They are very slim. Even my fat ass looks sleek in them. A bit tight under normal jeans, but they fill in my A* kevlar jeans perfectly.

  • Brook

    Brilliant article. I learned a lot.

  • T Diver

    I am realizing that one must find a balance between ATGATT and no gear. I rescently went to some lame ass night club with all my gear. It was completely retarted. Race boots have no place where there are mini skirts. I am over wearing all this crap all the time. I figure if I want to crash in the canyons, wear gear. If its more mellow, I can actually wear sneekers and jeans (without knee guards) and be ok. Personally it got to the point that all this gear was keeping me from wanting to ride. I don’t want to die but I would still like to have that opportunity.
    This article/website is cool because the guy from Icon actually chimmed in. I would not have expected that. Thanks. (There is no point to this post. Work is lame.)

  • T Diver

    Oh yeah, WTF is with all the people wearing the knee guards on the outside of your jeans? I guess I am the only person who thinks this looks odd. From the mouth of a currently-reforming Atgatt, Leave the knee guards at home if you have to wear them over your skinny jeans. If you want to look awesome in some hot skinny jeans (or Deth Killers), don’t screw up that awesomeness with knee guards on the exterior.

    • Mark D

      I think the idea is hop off the bike, stash them in a bag, avoid looking like you have elephantiasis of the kneecap. Kinda of a neat solution, but you look like a goon on the bike IMHO.

    • Peter88

      If your thighs are large, stuffing a knee pad inside the jeans does not work. I gotta wear ‘em on the outside.

  • HammSammich

    I’m probably the furthest thing from Icon’s target demographic, but I’ve been happily using their helmets and gloves for years. Their helmets, in particular, offer great protection and features at a price that can’t be met by many other manufacturers (with the exception of Scorpion EXO, which has the coolest anti-fog shield ever, but I’m bitter about them because their shells don’t fit my massive noggin correctly). Even though I see a lot of d0uchey squids riding around in khaki slacks, hoodies and bizarrely colored Icon helmets with Demon horns or brightly colored push-brooms attached to them, I have to appreciate that they’re at least wearing a good, if stupid looking, full-faced helmet. It’s a lot more than I can say for the puddin’ bowl HD riders, or even the vintage cafe crowd. Ultimately, I’m really glad that Icon is out there pushing good gear to young riders.

    Full Disclosure: After a high-side last year when my chin bar took a pretty heavy impact, I wrote a thank you email to Icon. I unexpectedly received back, a very thoughtful personal response from an employee, including a small discount coupon for some gear, which I used towards replacing my damaged helmet and gloves.

    • Devin

      Very cool about the letter you received. I have a knack for crashing with my face, I’d never ride without a full face. I bought one for my girlfriend, she really likes it, it was a prior year model, but no where else could I get a good helmet like that for so cheap. Especially since I didn’t want to spend much dough on it incase she didn’t like riding.

  • BeastIncarnate

    Gotta say, guys, you’ve progressively chipped away at my anti-Icon vibe. For every thing I saw that I found cool, there were two or more things that were way over the top. The humor of saying that with a username of “BeastIncarnate” is not lost on me.

    I checked out the new Stryker armor at my local shop this last weekend and was impressed. They’re good bits of gear and I’d have picked up some shorts if they had tailbone protection. If Icon stays on a roll, I’ll have trouble blowing money on more expensive brands in the future.

  • F

    I like that Icon offers most of their line in plain black motif as well, and I’m surprised this isn’t the case with this line.
    @ iconmotosports, just a suggestion but, how about a Stealth tab on the site that allows someone to see the full range of your blacked out, dragon/skull/flame free products. You could even make it a sub-line. The Accelerant Stealth coat and rubatone helmets are in the line of what I’m thinking