Crash Tested: Vanson AR2 with Alpinestars Bio Armor

Dailies, Galleries -


No, no, I didn’t crash again. On Saturday, Sherman Thomas borrowed that Vanson AR2 that I installed Alpinestars Bio Armor in for a ride up Azusa Canyon. Exiting a tight hairpin, he hit some gravel, sending him wide and onto the shoulder, where he collided with a rock. I was right behind him and watched him hit that rock at a good 35mph, then bounce into the road. With the exception of a little booboo on his elbow where the jacket liner rubbed him raw and a buggered 5D, Sherman’s fine. This is the damage the jacket sustained.

If you remember, this jacket is part of a little project we’re doing to make ourselves some riding gear that actually looks good enough to wear off the bike, but won’t compromise safety on it. The AR2 doesn’t come with any armor and I think the bulky armor that Vanson fits to some of its gear spoils those jacket’s ability to not make you look like a power ranger.

That’s why I fitted the Bio Armor, which is less than 1.5cm thick and contoured so it doesn’t impact the fit or looks of the jacket. It does that while still exceeding the CE impact rating by more than double. It’s also easy to work with. The rubber-like material is very dense and comes pre-drilled with holes, making for easy attachment with a heavy duty waxed cotton thread to the jacket’s liner.

That Vanson’s “competition weight” leather is tough you probably already know. This stuff is thick, stiff and heavy. So it’s no surprise that it shrugged off what was a relatively dramatic crash with just some minor scuffing. There’s one little pulled stitch, but the hidden stitching underneath is utterly unaffected. The jacket will still last a lifetime and probably crash like this many more times. I won’t lie, I feel way tougher wearing a jacket with some crash damage too.

We’ve said some pretty nice things about Bio Armor, but I was still surprised by how well it performed. Watching the crash unfold, I was convinced Sherman was going to have a broken arm or collar bone. Catching a slight incline on the shoulder and getting thrown off by that boulder, he hit the road not just at 35mph, but from about five feet up too, landing on his elbow and shoulder. All he suffered was a little abrasion damage as the force of the impact twisted the jacket around his arm a little bit. That’s to be expected. His shoulder and elbow? Not even bruised or sore. My crappy sewing held the armor in no problem, 10+ loops of that braided, waxed cotton thread is pretty strong. Internally, no stitches were pulled and there’s no other damage. Because Sherman walked away unscathed, he’s now going to invest in a proper armored riding jacket and keep riding. Until he does, I’ve loaned him another jacket.

One thing I don’t have in this jacket yet that I wish I did is a back protector. I failed at attaching a D3O back protector in a way that wouldn’t affect its fit and looks, so Alpinestars is sending over a Bionic Air that I’ll wear separately, leaving the jacket free of its weight and bulk when I take that protector off.

Overall, I’m totally satisfied with this jacket. It looks good, it’s safe and it’ll last forever. What more could you want? Oh right, why doesn’t someone sell something like this?

  • Kirill

    Bet you didn’t expect to do any real-world testing so soon! Makes a convincing argument for BioArmor, that’s for sure. I must admit, I was a bit skeptical about the stuff when I first read about it here because of how thin it is.

    And, of course, amazing how good gear can mean the difference between walking away and being airlifted away.

    • Sean Smith

      I was wearing bio armor when I pulled this little stunt and walked away utterly unhurt. The stuff just freakin works.

  • Thom

    Ohhh and the stories you can now create at the local M/C watering hole as to how > You < got that damage on the jacket LoL

    Seems like you've the makings of some real Tall Tales .

    Seriously though , the jacket , the concept , your ' lousy sewing and ST walking away with minimal damage

    Two Thumbs Up !

    Now have a chitty chat with the manufactures to clue them in as to why they need to make this .

    I'll bet first in line makes a killing !

  • Steve

    +1 on the props to Vanson. I had one custom made for my freakish dimensions 14 years ago. Thanks to the expander tabs in the waist I have continued to wear it over the years despite weight fluctuations. 2 crashes in, one of which broke my humorus, it shows nearly no wear or damage.

    I may have to replicate your armor retrofit. I have found the alpinestars stuff for a reasonable price on Amazon.

    Despite being all black with the Vanson logos left off, my jacket still looks powerranger-ish. It fits exactly right on the bike. “In the position” it is no more restrictive than underarmor. Off the bike the fit just does not work. The arms are canted forwards and the jacket chest pulls open if you try to stand up straight with your shoulders back.

    Is 3D0 selling their armor bits anywyhere on the web?

    • Zach

      Revzilla and a couple other places carry d3o pads designed to fit in high end Klim jackets, so it may be a crapshoot trying to fit them into a Vanson or any other brand. Same with Sas-tec.

      • Steve

        My old Vanson does not have pockets, instead it has velcro strips which secure the armor. The selling point on this was it allows you to easily tweak the position of the armor. It will also make it easy to retro-fit any other armor without worrying about pockets. That is assuming I can find an adhesive which will bond to the d3o without messing it up.

        • Wes Siler

          Good luck getting stuff to stick to d3o or Bio Armor. I tried Gorilla Glue and even that didn’t work.

    • Wes Siler

      D3O is really hard to work with for sewing and won’t de-bulk jackets cut for big armor.


  • David

    Come on Wes, come out with it. You let this poor guy “borrow” the jacket you wanted to test and deliberately sent him on a route you knew had debris and watched the events unfold to use him as a guinea pig. That’s totally bad ass.

    • vegetablecookie

      +1 My thoughts exactly.

    • Toby

      For science!

      • JaHo

        Cake, and grief counseling, will be available at the conclusion of the test.

  • Carleton

    Wes, do you have any pictures of the installation of the armor? I am curious to see where and how you exactly sewed in the sections. In your previous post about this jacket, you mentioned that you used the built-in Vanson liner to place the armor. Did you remove the stitches from the liner to slide in the armor? Did you have to cut down the pieces of Bio Armor to make them fit? I’d really love to see exactly where you placed each piece of armor, if you have any additional pictures.

    • Wes Siler

      That’s what I’ve got. Yeah, I unpicked the liner at the base of the back and slid stuff in through there, then had a friend run it throut her sewing machine.

      As for location, it’s just trial and error. It’s obvious where your shoulders and elbows are, the armor needs to cover them.

  • the_doctor

    If we all had this shit, there would be no more annual “Scar-Off.” I think I would be okay with that.

  • Archer

    “I won’t lie, I feel way tougher wearing a jacket with some crash damage too.”

    While I don’t wish this on you, certainly it doesn’t count if YOU didn’t inflict the damage.

    • Wes Siler

      Ha, I’ve got plenty of my own crash damage though.

      And that was totally tongue in cheek.

      • Archer

        Oh, yes, I remember that- 2008?

        Put you on the sidelines for quite a while, IIRC.

      • Denzel

        You need to put a warning on that link… yecchh.

        Different topic: I’d be interested in a piece comparing relative effectiveness of ‘separate’ back protectors vs. inserts. Not much on the web.

        • Wes Siler

          Back protectors are grouped by CE rating. level 1 is good, level 2 is twice as good, but tends to be bulky.

          With an insert, you typically compromise coverage. Separate back protectors tend to be longer and wider, extending coverage to the shoulder blades, kidneys and tail bone. Inserts are obviously more convenient.

          • Denzel

            Thanks, yes, I guess I’m waiting to hear about a new miracle insert…Convenience has a strong pull for me.

      • karinajean


        and dude, what a great photo!

  • Mr.Paynter

    Ah man, my jacket has served me through 3 crashes, 2 over 100km/h and I’ve walked away nearly unscathed (under that jacket) but it doesn’t look nearly as good (straight up branded everywhere black and white power-Ranger) and is also now staring to get super tatty with stitching etc starting to give!

    Someone has to be watching this and realising there’s a market!

  • jonoabq

    Had more than a few decent jackets over the years, all have +’s and -’s. The Vanson fit great on the bike, like hell off. Swapping crap armor for good stuff was/is always problematic. Recently had Alan at Johnson Leathers in San Francisco make me a jacket I could ride in, walk around in, etc. with pockets for armor of my choice. A tad spendy, but I’ve never been happier about a jacket choice. The features and cut I want, none of the stuff I don’t, crashable, comfortable, and lets me blend in the the normal population when not perched on a motorbike.

    • Mr.Paynter

      Show us photos!

  • paul

    hmmmm pre crashed jackets by a third party now there’s a new market, Just like distressed denim in the 90′s, Imagine the 2012 belstaff range complete with “man scuffing” ;) But seriously I have heard of guys sandpapering there leathers for a ‘patina’ Good idea getting someone else to take the fall.

  • Graham

    “Oh right, why doesn’t someone sell something like this?”….

    Raven jacket

    Not seen them in person but I’m told they are pretty good.

    • Devin

      They have a ridiculous process to go through just to get a price quote. Someone bother doing it?

    • BenP

      Not to mean but… Tiger Angel? Really? Is this some aussie thing I don’t know about?

  • zato1414

    How did you get that rock to jump-out and crash poor Sherman? I can’t believe you are using your friends to be “Crash Test Dummies.” I like my leather and I like your stuffing that armor and keeping the looks, it worked out well.

    • sean

      it’s ok. wes is gonna buy him a new camera for offering his body to science.

  • Justin C Knapp

    I guess comparing the RS Design Ronin with armor to the AR2 is like comparing apples and oranges?? looking at both for a tour..

    • Wes Siler

      Nah, they’re fairly similar. The RSD is lighter and vents better with its perforated panels. Easier to buy the one with dedicated armor and pockets than it is going to the relative extremes I did by adding my own armor and back protector.

  • Erkki

    Would love to see some pics and detail about how the non-Vanson armor was attached to the suit!!