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How to Choose: BMX Body Armor

by Jim Bartlett June 07, 2016

BMX armor is essential if you're racing, riding vert, or doing any tricks where you're going airbone. Reliable, properly fitting body armor can prevent injury to your shoulders, clavicle, and ribs. You have a lot of options in this area, so some of the choice is personal preference--you like the look or feel of one piece of BMX armor better than another. But pay equal attention to functionality. Like any type of protective gear, what you choose in BMX armor depends on what you're going to be doing.

How to Know if You Need BMX Body Armor?

Are you racing or dirt jumping? Riding vert or doing any sort of aggressive riding where you're going airborne? If the answer to any of these questions is "Yes," then you need BMX body armor.

BMX Body Armor Coverage Alternatives

Your coverage options range from chest protectors to vests to spine protectors to full jackets/shirts. What you need to ask yourself is what parts of your upper body do you want covered? What areas give you the most concern? If you've had back or tailbone issues in the past, perhaps you just want spine coverage. If you've had a shoulder injury in the past, maybe your primary objective is to keep that area protected.

  • Chest Protector

    A Typical BMX Chest Protector

    BMX chest protectors fit under your jersey or shirt and are designed to protect your chest/upper body. They're deliberately cut short, so there isn't much rib or lower back protection. They offer upper body impact protection in a crash. Many BMX riders prefer a chest protector because they stay a little cooler and they feel it allows them the greatest range of motion on their bike. Some BMX chest protectors also have a bit of shoulder padding and even a little upper arm coverage. A chest protector is a great choice if you're riding in very hot weather.

  • BMX Vest

    A Typical BMX Vest

    If you want full torso coverage, you might want to consider vest-style BMX body armor, which covers your chest, ribs, and lower back (but remember that pad placement and thickness on vests varies). Vest-style body armor does not provide arm coverage, which is a boon if you're riding in hot weather or if full-coverage BMX protective clothing feels too constrictive. Some riders match vest body armor with BMX elbow pads so they get that vital joint protection without the sleeves.

  • Spine Protectors

    A Typical BMX Spine Guard

    Spine protectors strap onto your back like a backpack, only with far more flexibility and a lower profile. Spine protectors give you back and spine coverage, with most extending down to your lower back; some will give coccyx/tailbone protection. This is a good choice if you're doing vert, dirt jumping, or other tricks where you're likely to get airborne and/or flip onto your back.

  • Full Jacket

    Full BMX body armor comes in either a jacket or shirt design and will offer a combination of chest, rib, back, kidney, upper/forearm, and/or elbow protection. This is the coverage for BMX racing and other aggressive riding. Full coverage body armor generally uses very lightweight mesh fabric under hard- or soft-shell padding for breath-ability, however, a full jacket may not be your best bet if you live in a very hot weather areaand/ or if you have a tendency to overheat.

BMX Body Armor: Hard-shell vs. soft-shell

Just like with tacos, you have two basic constructions to choose from in BMX body armor: hard-shell and soft-shell. A third option would be one of the advanced protective materials that are designed to be soft and pliable during normal wear but stiffen immediately upon impact. Some of these materials include VPD (visco-elastic polymer dough), which was designed by POC; d3o, which you''ll find in gear from SixSixOne; and Poron, which you'll find in gear from G-Form. We've created a page about Advanced Protective Materials in case you want to learn more.

  • Hard-Shell BMX Body Armor

    Hard-shell body armor has molded high-impact plastic cups covering key areas, such as your chest/sternum, spine/lower back, shoulders, and elbows. While this is a bit bulkier than soft-shell body armor, it’s more protective. Hard-shell BMX body armor is a must if you're racing, dirt jumping, or doing any other high-speed or aggressive riding. Hard shell BMX armor offers slightly more impact resistance than soft-shell body armor in the event of a crash or fall, plus hard-shell gear is more resistant to slides on a half-pipe.

  • Soft-Shell BMX Body Armor

    Soft-shell body armor uses foam padding to protect your chest, ribs, back, shoulders, and elbows. By design, soft-shell body armor is more flexible and lighter weight than hard-shell body armor. Soft-shell BMX body armor is a good choice for: flatland or street riding; beginners who want extra protection while they advance their skills; or anyone with a prior back or shoulder injury who wants a bit of coverage.

BMX body armor, bulk, and weight

Some riders don’t want to wear BMX body armor because they think it’s too heavy or bulky and will slow them down. However, the risks associated with BMX racing, dirt jumping, or vert demand upper body protection. New technologies, like POC’s VPD technology, have made body armor lighter and more pliable than ever before while still providing excellent protection.

BMX Body Armor Price Ranges

There is a wide range in pricing for mountain body armor. For the most part, more money will buy you greater protection as well as greater technology. However, bear in mind that more protection/coverage does not necessarily mean more weight or more bulk.

  • BMX body armor under $100

    BMX armor under $100 will almost always have soft-shell construction. Some manufacturers may use a combination of foams to improve impact absorption for sudden, hard impacts, and/or to reduce weight. Many jackets and vests in this price category will use traditional EVA foam of various thickness. EVA foam doesn't have the puncture-resistance of a hard shell.

  • BMX body armor from $100-$200

    BMX armor in this price range includes both soft- and hard-shell armor. Some, like the innovative Vigilante Air Jacket incorporate a bit of both. The Vigilante Air has hard-shell shoulder and elbow caps, stiff (but not hard-shell) spine protection, and soft-shell chest, rib, and upper arm protection. Other pieces of armor in this price range could feature a vented, one (or two) piece plastic chest plate, flexible hard plastic shoulder, elbow, and bicep protectors, and maybe even a removable, lightweight articulated spine protector.

  • BMX body armor over $200

    The top price range gives you cutting edge body armor technology and incredibly protective, yet lightweight gear. For example, POC's high-tech VPD material hardens upon impact, giving you hard-shell impact resistance with a soft-shell feel. You may also find durable construction, (anti-abrasion fabric), versatility, reduced weight, and/or neck-brace specific designs within this price range.

Are You Ready to Buy Your BMX Body Armor?

Hopefully, the above information will give you a good idea of what type of BMX body armor will be best for your needs. XSportsProtective carries a wide range of BMX armor - you can check out our full selection of BMX Body Armor here. If you still aren't sure what you want, or if you have questions about a specific piece of BMX armor, please contact one of our protective gear specialists.

Jim Bartlett
Jim Bartlett


Founder of XSportsProtective, snowboarder, mountain biker, father of four young kids who love action sports.

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