The South African protection aficionados at Leatt divide their upper body protection between hardshell and softshell products. The softshell pieces are designed to fit under a jersey like a heavily padded shirt, and the hardshell vests fit over the top similar to motocross protection. Having tested heaps of softshell back savers, I decided to give the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle look a try.
The Leatt 3.5 Chest Protector offers more coverage than its name implies. The front plates on this single-size vest cover my entire ribcage and sternum, extending below the bones to safeguard some of those vital belly-based organs. The upper two-thirds of my spine is covered, though most modern back protectors extend slightly lower than this one. The rear plate is also wider than most back protectors, leaving less ribcage exposed to skin-puncturing sticks and handlebar ends.
|Price||€139 / $130 (available from JensonUSA, Wiggle, and others)|
|Colors||Black, white, royal blue|
|Sizing||One adjustable size|
|Certifications||Chest prEN1621-3 Level 1, Back EN1621-2 Level 1, FIM-Federation International Certified, FFM-French Federation Certified|
|Other features||Leatt neck brace compatible|
|Hip pack compatible|
The highly adjustable vest can be worn by riders with all sorts of different body shapes. Simply extend or shorten the shoulder straps to lower or raise the two main plates along your torso, and adjust the side straps to snug it around your unique girth. For reference, I am 5″8″ (173cm) tall, with a 30″ (76cm) inseam and I weigh 153lbs (69k). I typically wear a size small back protector and the 3.5 Chest Protector offers ample length and adjustability to work well for someone with a longer torso than mine. My partner, who is 5’2″ (158cm) also tried the vest and she said “it’s not even noticeable,” and the plates cover her ribcage adequately.
Prior to riding in a hardshell vest, I had expected the added chest coverage and bulk to be hotter than the padded shirt style protection I have worn. While the added coverage does block more wind than riding with a back protector alone, the raised plates offer a chilling amount of airflow. The fact that most of the hardshell plates don’t press directly against your jersey or baselayer means they breathe better than a softshell vest, and it’s easy to remove when you want to pedal back to the top.
The 3.5 Chest Protector does preclude you from using a backpack, but it is short enough that a larger hip pack fits fine. For lapped routes, short rides, shuttle runs, or chairlift assisted descending, this piece of gear can add some security while you get as rad as you like. If you’re looking for even more torso coverage, check out Leatt’s 4.5 and 5.5 Chest Protectors.
We would like to thank Leatt for sending the Chest Protector 3.5 along for review.