New CE 2 standards for body armor and the D3O protectors that exceed it

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What you’re looking at is D3O’s new “Xergo” range of elbow, shoulder, hip and knee protectors. At just 20mm thick, they’re capable of transmitting as little as 13kN of force to the wearer in standard CE testing. The minimum requirement to pass that test? 35kN, 2.7 times more. It even exceeds the absorption dictated by the new CE 2 standard for limb armor.

CE 2 for elbows, shoulders, hips, knees and shins? You’re probably already familiar with the whole CE 1, CE 2 thing from back protectors. Two levels of energy absorption providing two options for riders: slim, light and fairly safe or thicker, heavier and very safe. Beginning in 2014, the same tiered system will come to limb protectors, along with revised test methodology.

In the CE tests, body armor’s ability to absorb energy is measured by propelling an 11lbs weight with a 1.5 x 1.0-inch striking face into the armor with 37lb/ft (50J) of energy. The amount of energy transmitted through the armor is then measured and expressed in Kilonewtons.

The current CE standard has two blind spots: 1) some of the open cell foams used in cheaper armor can deteriorate in wet conditions or even experience “hydrolock” when soaked, eliminating the foam’s ability to compress and therefor absorb energy. 2) While the mean of all strikes in testing can’t exceed that 35kN figure, a single strike can transmit up to 50kN and still pass.

The new set of standards, dubbed “EN 1621-1″ now includes testing ambient, wet, cold (-10 degrees Celsius) and hot (40 degrees C) conditions. CE 1 armor needs to transmit 35kN or less mean and still allows a one time spike of up to 50kN, but not in “Zone A,” the center area of the protector. CE 2 armor drops those numbers to 25kN mean and 35kN single.

Sorta mumbo jumbo, right? In layman’s terms, CE 1 (same energy transmission as current CE standards) is enough to prevent broken bones in most crashes at street speeds. CE 2 will absorb 71 percent more energy, making it substantially safer. Like with the two levels of back protectors, this then gives consumers the ability to choose between light, thin, flexible and fairly safe or safer, but also a little heavier and thicker.

Now as thick as traditional armor, D3O’s Xergo range transmits very little impact energy to the wearer.

This is not to say that some motorcycle armor doesn’t currently absorb enough energy to meet or exceed CE 2. Alpinestars Bio Armor, for instance, already exceeds the CE standard by 100 percent and is only 15mm thick.

In the case of D3O armor, that thickness increases from 13 to 20mm from the stuff that meets CE 1 to CE 2 and these new Xergo protectors don’t just meet the standard, they drop way below it.

D3O is made from an impact sensitive polymer mixed with a foam base. The armor itself actually doesn’t go hard when impacted, the force is simply spread across a wide area. So you’re still getting good energy absorption. The active ingredient is actually a liquid that does turn hard, but, in its production form, that liquid is set into a foam that remains pliable. Because it can spread impact forces across a large area, it can afford to be thinner, absorbing the same amount of energy in a slimmer package than traditional armor or more energy if it’s the same size. These new Xergo protectors are as thick as traditional armor, meaning they’re very safe.

The first product available in America to incorporate Xergo will be the new Klim Adventure Air Jacket. Fittingly, it’s a heavy duty ADV jacket designed to flow tons of air in hot weather riding. Xergo isn’t just thicker than the 1st gen D3O armor, but incorporates larger holes too, so it helps the Adventure jacket breathe.

  • fi-fi

    would be cool to see this technology evolve hopefully soon they can devolop things like d3o and liquid kevlar so we can have whole suits of it and walk around like f***ing iron man

    • Daniel Silverman

      They (the US Army) has liquid armor already, it’s just too expensive for civilian use…

      • fi-fi

        so do the british army and the technology is not that expensive, were just a couple years away from iron man suits

      • orthorim

        … or they don’t want to give it away for competitive reasons. Too expensive for army use makes sense, as for civilians there’s a lot of rich ones that would pay a lot to be iron man. Who wouldn’t.

  • Michael Miller

    You guys talk this stuff up, and I appreciate that, but you never mention Price!

    • Jesse

      With the exception of the Klim piece, there isn’t much to base price on. I know that I value my functioning elbows, shoulders and knees at at least $100 a joint. A fully set up leather jacket with 3DO at shoulder, elbow, back and chest protectors? I’ll gladly pay $600, thank you.

    • Jasiek Wrobel

      I looked for prices of Sas-Tec protectors on RevZilla, and then compared it to what I need to pay in Poland. $26 for hip pads! I bought mine for about half that price in Poland.

  • Jhon Alexander

    At the very least CE2 should be the standard,,glad to see they’re getting revised..that being said, current CE1 is useless. In the case of back protectors, a CE1 will probably be ok for preventing muscular bruising and further abrasion at best…”Spine protection” is kind of a myth with any current back protector…at street speeds, wearing a CE1 back protector and nothing at all is almost the same thing, A direct or severe side impact to the largest disc in your spine will cause fracture at 10kn, the forces required decrease the smaller the discs get..the smallest disc will fracture from a direct force as small as 2kn..any bone in general has a direct impact tolerance of 4-6kn..although rare (13% of accidents are back related,,BUT,,from blows through the head or the side, causing severe lateral hyperflexion)..sorry to break the bubble, but a back protector won’t do anything for any of these..(not yet anyways!), bet is to wear moto jeans or pants with hip pads,,a neck brace if you’ll be doing some hi-speed track racing..and at least a CE2 for those semi-rare back impacts…

    • owen

      Very Interesting! I always wonder how the physics of spine injury work and your answer really sheds some light on the whole ordeal. I still think a back protector is better than naught, but I suppose it doesn’t mean I should be counting on it to protect me from everything spine related.

      • Jhon Alexander

        Something is definitely better than nothing!…just don’t neglect the other areas,,axial loading on the spine is a lot more traumatic than a back impact…the fault lies squarely with manufacturers who don’t inform or outright mislead their consumers and the CE standards themselves. Folks mistakenly equate the minimum as the fracture limit of the bones in the respective area, those two are waaaay off from each other,,,

        • KevinB

          You’d think so, but back protectors were actually found to have a negative correlation with injury in a recent study. i.e. people with back protectors were injured more often than those who don’t wear one. I’m with JB below and still wear my CE2 D3O every day as I know I’m going to try and slide on my back if I can and I can’t see it not helping in that situation.

          It’s an interesting read nonetheless though, as I think it’s really the first scientific study on gear.

    • JB

      This is an accurate assessment. Most (as in nearly all) spine injuries from motorcycling actually come from impacts to the hip, shoulders or neck/head, with the energy being transferred into the spine. A spine protector does nothing to stop these injuries. However, the spine protector offers moderate protection against abrasion injuries from slides or falls directly onto the back, falls that wouldn’t otherwise fracture your vertebra (loop a wheelie and you’ll know what I mean). I regards to the slide, if you watch racers who go down, you’ll notice that if they ever get a chance to stabilize in the slide, it’s usually on their back. A back protector won’t save your spine, but it can make the difference between getting up and riding the same day or having to take a week off because of a bruised or torn up back.

  • Ballzach

    Can Joe Blow on the street buy a set of these to retrofit into his own jacket? And where might they be found?

    • Mykola

      This right here, for everyone not particularly interested in buying an(other) adventure jacket

    • KevinB

      These sound new, but probably in time. I bought a set of first gen D3O stuff for some of my gear and it went in without a hitch.

      • Jesse

        Nice find. Looks like I need to do some measuring and retro fit my favored perf’d leather jacket with some 3DO love.

        • Wes Siler

          Existing D3O products are no safer than other armor and don’t work great as a retrofit since they’re much smaller than most of the armor pockets out there. If a jacket is cut for traditional/bulky armor, it’s not going to get any less bulgy by adding D3O and that armor will literally swim around inside the jacket.

          Alpinestars Bio Armor IS safer than most existing armor in jackets (it’s not up there with the GP armor in good leather suits and whatnot) and DOES make a good retrofit.

          • Jesse

            Well then. Looks like my trust ol’ Icon jacket is getting some A* underpinnings. Thanks for the heads up, Wes.

          • KevinB

            I only got the D3O for hip and back but I didn’t have any issues fitting either. If anything, it’s a little tight. The back protector is definitely an improvement over the standard one as it’s CE2 rated (while the bioarmor one is only CE1). That said, I went with bioarmor for shoulders and elbows, mainly because it’s relatively cheap.

            • Wes Siler

              I’ve got a CE 2 D3O back protector in one of my Astars jackets. As you say, it’s great. Same size/thickness as their CE1 item while being softer and more flexible.

  • Mark Vizcarra

    If this stuff is so awesome, why isn’t used on helmets?

    • Wes Siler

      Helmets are pretty different creatures.

  • fletchty

    Has anyone tried retrofitting D30 or the Alpinestars BioArmor into a roland sands ronin jacket (or other RSD jackets)

  • Strafer

    Can this material be used in a helmet?
    Because helmets are huge these days and one time use
    Maybe they could use it to make a slimmer helmet that is possibly multiple use

  • Mark

    Does anyone knows an Europe based seller of the Xergo protectors?

    Rezvilla doesn’t ship under 300$ to Europe and i want inly the xergo pads (if revzilla sells these)

  • DragosStefan

    Sas-Tec have even better numbers, why aren’t they mentioned? The article reads a bit like an advertorial.