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During the summer, Grant and I set out to make ourselves a couple of jackets actually capable of real protection, but that wouldn’t make us look like Power Rangers. Thanks to this Alpinestars Bionic Air Back Protector, I’ve finally finished mine. Now, I can fall off a bike in my Vanson AR2 without being paralyzed. Light, incredibly slim and very comfy, you can probably benefit from its protection too.

Photos: Grant Ray

To give you a little recap, the point of the project was to demonstrate that safety and style needn’t be mutually exclusive. We don’t mind looking like bikers, we do mind looking like logo-whoring MMA cage fighters with color blindness. Literally every existing motorcycle-specific jacket makes one, if not all of the following errors:

1) Too many fucking logos.
2) Garish colors.
3) Bulky armor that distorts fit.
4) El Cheapo materials.
5) Boxy, baggy cuts designed for fatties.
6) Too many fucking logos.

Typically, it is all of those errors.

And continuing our recap, we aren’t the kind of guys that only ride for two hours on Sundays or only to work, to file some TPS reports, then home to eat nachos and watch American Idol reruns. We use our bikes every single day to go to meetings, meet friends, run errands and to go out to bars and parties. Personally, I also believe that a motorcycle should help, not hurt, my ability to pick up fantastically beautiful women. It definitely hurts that ability if I roll into a bar looking like Barney the Dinosaur in some ridiculous bike gear. Even if that logo-whore jacket would save my ass in a crash.

A typical group of motorcyclists out on a Sunday ride.

That’s not to say we don’t want to be safe when we ride. It’s one-piece race suits and head-to-toe armor anytime we’re going fast. MX gear anytime we’re off-road. Two-pieces, again with head-to-toe protection, if we’re doing distance. But, aside from occasional forays into leather fetish bars, a skin-tight race suit really isn’t appropriate for day-to-day wear. Not if I want to park my motorcycling within sight of where I’m going.

So, we set about finding jackets capable of real abrasion protection, found armor capable of providing impact protection without adding bulk or altering fit, then installed the latter in the former. My Vanson AR2 fits like it’s been tailored, even with Alpinestars Bio Armor sewn into its lining. That Bio Armor is about 1.5cm thick, yet provides more than double the protection decreed by CE safety standards. Our buddy Sherman ate shit while wearing it and bounced right back up, a little shaken, but not hurt. The one chink in my good-looking armor? I couldn’t figure out a way to install a back protector without seriously affecting the way the jacket fit. In supplement, I’d been wearing a slim, but giant Knox KC2000 protector on occasion, but more often than not, just going without. Neither I nor you should be riding on the street without a back protector. Especially on the mean streets of LA. Enter the Bionic Air. Nobody wants to be a vegetable.

Over other Alpinestars protectors, the Bionic Air meets only the lesser CE1, not race-level CE2. I figure that’s fine riding around town in jeans and a leather jacket. If I’m riding in a manner that dictates more protection, I’ll wear a suit. That lesser protection is more than offset by its convenience. I literally wear this everywhere now, even going around the corner. If I get clipped by a cab or flub a corner, I’ll be pretty well protected.

By opting for CE1, Alpinestars has been able to make the Bionic Air exceptionally light, slim, comfortable and convenient. It’s made from two layers of interlocking plastic honeycomb, a design tailored to maximally absorb impact while slashing weight and flowing air. The interlocking plates articulate with your back’s movement fore-and-aft and side-to-side. Check out how closely it fits my body’s contours in these photos. The lower half of the protector also pivots a bit to account for twist. The plastic plates are backed by foam and mesh-under-tension for comfort and, again, air flow.

I went for the version with straps and a Velcro belt ($120) over the one designed for pockets. This particular Vanson wasn’t made with motorcycle use in mind (despite thick leather and hidden seams), so didn’t come with armor pockets. I also find the straps-and-belt to offer better fit and the protector itself is longer in that configuration, offering more coverage. I’m 6’ 2” and this medium provides total coverage from tailbone to the base of my neck without poking out the bottom of the jacket.

Under the jacket, you can feel you’re wearing the protector, but it’s totally invisible from the outside. Last night I stood around a fancy bar in Venice for an hour or so wearing it and my friends were all totally surprised when I eventually took it off and unstrapped the protector; they never would have guessed it was under there. At around 2cm at its thickest point and able to totally conform to your body’s shape and movement, the Bionic Air is utterly unobtrusive.

How is this all relevant to you? Even if you’re wearing, say a regular Alpinestars jacket with a back protector in a pocket, the Bionic Air (with straps and belt) is capable of expanding the area of your back covered while likely offering more comfort. The shoulder straps adjust for length and multiple mounting points account for variances in shoulder width. The Velcro belt is wide and generous, but still cinches tight enough for a skinny little bitch like me. Additional velcro straps connecting protector to belt allow you to further tailor precise fit. If you’re not currently wearing a back protector, this one will work with literally any jacket or other piece of gear and do so comfortably and invisibly. This is the easiest, most comfortable, most convenient way into a back protector and that’s a very good thing.


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