It’s not uncommon for folks to roll into their local gravity tracks wearing the minimum amount of protection. These riders know where each rock is lodged like a cat knows where the food and litter containers are, so there’s a low perception of risk. They keep a back protector and full-face lid around for weekend trips to the park, when the cat will be left home to laze about.
I typically roll local with a half shell helmet and kneepads, unless I’m riding with friends and hitting jump lines. Minimal safety gear hasn’t always proven optimal. One random Wednesday afternoon I was testing a full-face helmet on my daily lunch lap and I had the chance to really experience its impact rating when I pogoed headlong into a tree right after dropping off a chin-high rock. I cracked the carbon shell of that helmet and made my shoulders angrier than they normally are, but overall I was okay. That crash got me thinking about lightweight protection that I might be willing to wear on hot backyard spins. The Seamless Lite D3O back protector from Bluegrass has become an integral piece of that “light ‘n’ breezy” kit.
With this piece of armor, the Bluegrass engineers aimed to create a unisex-fit torso sleeve that’s as comfortable and breathable as possible, and then added the trusted D3O spine pad that they use in similar products. The result is a back protector that disappears beneath your jersey like a well-fitting sock does on your foot. When was the last time you thought about your socks? Maybe the time your cat hid one of them under the sofa?
The black mesh sleeve is trampoline stretchy, with large holes to pass air and moisture through. It dries quickly, and thanks to some anti-stank-science you can wear it multiple times before it needs a wash. When laundry day comes, it takes about a full second to remove the protector so that you can wash it separately. There are two small pockets on the lumbar, sitting outside the D3O pad, where you can stash some food or other soft items that won’t stab you on impact. Bluegrass intentionally made the pockets small so folks don’t pack them with gear that might be harmful in a crash.
The orange D3O protection pad conforms to the shape of your spine, and it’s decidedly comfortable to wear on long adventures. The construction looks to feature a nearly equal amount of holes and solid material, making it far more breathable than solid back protector slabs. If you like to stretch your muscles mid-ride or lie down for a quiet cat-nap in the woods, it doubles as a cozy mattress for your spine. Bluegrass also makes a burlier version with shoulder protection, called the Seamless B&S D3O protector, that retails for €250. The undergarment material of the two is identical, and the shoulder padding might be a good addition for folks who find themselves regularly checking the tree spacing in turns.
The size small/medium Seamless Lite D3O I have been wearing fits my 175cm tall by 69kg frame just right. Like any tight base layer, it takes a little work to get the protector off once the fabric becomes sweaty. Be sure to grab it by the top of the protector and pull it over your head, or phone a friend.
I can’t say for certain that this back protector has saved me from any injuries yet, but I can’t say that it hasn’t either. The Seamless Lite D3O protector is available for international shipping to any country, apart from the US and Russia, for €180. MET/Bluegrass will start shipping in the US in the spring of 2022, so stay tuned for more news on that front.