Gear: Kriega Back Protector Insert

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On Wednesday, I got off a plane at LAX, walked out to the parking garage, unlocked my helmet, pulled on my gloves and rode home. I did so without removing my backpack, the only piece of luggage I carried with me and I did that ride safe in the knowledge that I was wearing a CE2 back protector that covered the entirety of my back. How? The new Kriega Back Protector Insert is just brilliant.

What is it?

Designed by armor specialist Forcefield, the insert is specifically sized to fit perfectly into any Kriega backpack. I have the largest pack they make, an R35, which accepts a Medium insert.

Four layers of foam rubber in varying density are bonded together in the center, allowing the layers to slide over each other as they flex to enhance freedom of movement. Together, the layers absorb impact energy in a controlled manner so significant that it meets CE2 safety standards. That’s the highest level of safety available in a back protector and is more typically reserved for bulky plastic-shelled protectors worn under racing suits.

What makes it unique?

Kriega makes the absolute highest quality, most versatile and most comfortable motorcycle-specific backpacks out there. Know how hiking packs carry their weight on your hips? The Kriega harness pulls the packs weight through your chest, which is perfect for motorcycle riding, making it possible to carry lots of weight over long distances with no reduction in comfort and freeing your shoulders and arms to move unencumbered.

The insert makes it possible to add that highest level of protection to any pack without appreciably reducing its internal volume. At just .75 inches thick, the insert slides into the “laptop” sleeve that exists in the packs already and is perfectly sized to that back, completely filling its vertical and horizontal space to maximize the area of protection.

Who needs it?

That’s a good question. If you’re already smart enough to own a Kriega pack, then you’re likely also smart enough to wear a back protector in or under your jacket or suit.

Common sense also suggests that a backpack full of stuff (like three day’s worth of winter clothes for a trip to NY) will offer protection in a crash.

But, what if you need to go pick up something, riding there with an empty pack? What if the objects in your pack end up actually focusing impact forces rather than absorbing them? What if all those t-shirts, undies and sweaters don’t actually add up to CE2 protection?

Where the insert begins to make sense is when you consider its simplicity and convenience. Stick it in your backpack and you’ll never have to think about wearing an additional back protector again. You’ll just benefit from the highest possible safety every time you wear it.

I’m actually surprised at how much I’ve ended up relying on mine. Where I typically wear a separate, strap-on back protector under my city jacket, I’m now free to go have dinner with my girlfriend and all I have to lose between bike and booth is the backpack (already carried with laptop etc so I can go straight to work the next morning). When I flew to NY on Monday, I just threw the R35 in the overhead bin and climbed into my seat. No need in either situation to take off the jacket, the separate back protector, then find a space to stow the latter.

The insert is easier, faster and more convenient than that separate, strap-on back protector and, as an added bonus, is safer too. The Alpinestars Bionic Air Back Protector is only CE1, the idea being that its slimness and flexibility aids convenience. The Kriega insert is CE2 and is actually more convenient in some situations.

How much does it cost?

This is going to be the biggest sticking point — $75. Kriega packs are premium products and are priced accordingly, but adding $75 makes buying the insert more than a no brainer decision.

Most jacket inserts start at around $25 and a good, strap-on back protector will also run you $75+ without requiring the backpack.

How’s it perform?

I’m hoping that I won’t get to test this one’s safety. Both Forcefield and Kriega are among the most reputable names in the business, meaning we’re happy taking their word for it. Passing the CE2 test isn’t easy either.

Aside from that, it works great, adding that significant protection with really no downsides aside from cost. While yeah, the total volume of foam probably adds up to a liter or two, the overall package is so slim and integrates into the pack so well that I haven’t noticed any appreciable reduction in capacity. That’s while literally living out the of R35 pack, I use it to carry my groceries, day-to-day work equipment and as my only item of luggage when I fly. Even with the insert fitted, it’s still more than large enough to swallow any size load I require of it.
I’m also pleasantly surprised by how large the area of coverage is. The Medium insert measures 18.1 inches in height and 10.2 inches in width, which is large enough to cover virtually my entire back, running from belt to the top of my shoulder blades and filling the horizontal space between my shoulders.

Should I get one?

Versatile, safe and convenient, Kriega’s insert is probably the easiest way to wear a CE2 back protector there is, if you’re wearing one of their packs. I already own at least a half dozen other back protectors in various configurations, but it’s this Kriega item I’m now wearing most often, simply because it’s so easy and so nice to be able to take it off simply by removing the backpack.

It’s not as universal as a good, strap-on back protector that can be worn with literally any configuration of riding gear, but neither is it as bulky and it’s likely safer than other easy, convenient choices out there due to its CE2 rating and area of coverage. So yeah, as another weapon in your safety arsenal, the Kriega Back Protector Insert makes a strong case for itself.

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