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The vest fits tight like roadie gear, intended to be worn under a jersey to provide maximum protection while adding minimal stuffiness. Shown here worn over a blue base layer.

Spine protection is forever in fashion, and the Paragon Vest from Alpinestars uses Level 1 CE certified motorcycle racing standards to pad your vertebrae. The three-layer ergonomic protector can be removed on laundry day, or replaced should you damage it. The back protector covers a larger patch of my back than most protection-fortified backpacks and is nearly unnoticeable while riding.

Gravity race promoters typically require that back protection, kneepads, and full-face helmets are worn at all times. For enduro racers, such parameters can mean 2+ hour climbs under the summer sun, sodden in stuffy gear. Finding protection products with maximum ventilation that is easy to get on and off is paramount.  Alpinestars has addressed gravity riders’ practical needs with the Paragon Vest.

The removable 3-layer protection pad is cut to conform to the shape of your back. At its longest and widest points, the pad measures 40 x 23cm (16 x 9in) in my size small vest.

Vest specs

  • Slim fit designed to wear under a jersey or jacket
  • Lightweight, stretchable mesh main construction for max ventilation
  • Back protector sleeve leaves room for a hydration bladder
  • Water tube loop on the upper left shoulder
  • Double cut-out on back panel for bladder tube to pass through
  • Three pockets, each with internal padding
  • Materials: 45% polyester, 35% ethylene acetate, 10% polyethylene, 10% other materials
  • Sizes: XS-XXL
  • Weight: 420 grams
  • MSRP: $99.95 (available on Amazon)

Alpinestars doesn’t specify the bladder size that the vest is designed for, but I managed to cram a 1.5L in the protective sleeve without much trouble. The bladder and spine protection sit in the same pocket, and there is a strap at the top of the sleeve to keep your hydration bladder suspended upright.

So how does it feel on the trail?

My partner bought the vest a couple of years ago, and luckily for me it was too long for her back. She bought a smaller size, and I inherited this sweet piece of gear.

The Paragon Vest is one of the most breathable back protectors on the market today. The large front and side panels are made of a highly elastic fishnet-like mesh that feels light against your skin or over a tight base layer. The material stretches with you as you breathe, and does not feel restrictive when you are redlined and gasping. The collar is cut wide, adding to the overall unrestricted sensation.

Two padded side pockets and a third zippered pocket just under the protector provide loads of storage. Each pocket is roughly the size of a large cellphone.

A full-length front zipper makes for quick exit or entry, and can be unzipped for max airflow when you have to climb with it on. Outside of racing, you can strap the vest to your handlebars and climb unencumbered.

Another way to cool off while riding is to have less gear on your body. With three pockets and room for a bladder, this vest makes the dream of bagless riding a possibility. If you strap tools and flat repair to your bike, you can cram your hydration and snack needs in the provided pockets. Depending on the ride or race you are doing, this may be enough storage to make your hip pack or backpack unnecessary.

After a couple years of abuse, my Paragon vest looks and functions like new, save for a few chain grease marks. If you need or want spine protection for any reason this is a top-shelf, yet still affordable, option to consider.

Buy Alpinestars Paragon Vest at Jenson USA

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