I've been checking everything out and wanted to pass on a wicked posting I found on another board. This dude really did his research and it's already paid off for me: probably one reason why the Teknic plate model's on sale is that it has no safety rating (even on Teknic's own site). By the way, the posting's 2 yrs old and a few more level 2 protectors have come out since but this really gives you the goods so you can make an informed decision.
I've condensed and updated it a bit but still make the original avail. from a link at the end. I hope this actually interests someone.
There are currently no standards or testing procedures necessary to call a piece of cardboard "the best protection system on the planet" in the United States. A few companies offer CE certified back protectors and specify compliance with the proper back protector standards. The standard establishes a unified testing procedure for products qualified for sale in the European Union. The result of this testing procedure determines whether manufacturers can market the protective equipment as "protectors" or simply "protective padding".
The CE BACK PROTECTOR standard is labeled EN1621-2. The test is performed with a 5kg “kerbstone” dropped from one meter to create the test impact energy of 50 Joules The standard contains two levels of force transmission performance. 18kN passes LEVEL 1 "basic" compliance and 9kN passes LEVEL 2 "high performance" compliance. So LEVEL 2 protectors allow 50% less force to reach the spine/ribs.
The CE LIMB/JOINT PROTECTOR standard is labeled EN1621-1. It allows joint/limb armor to transmit no more than 35kN of force for all levels. Both of the CE body armor standards(back or limb) use the same amount of energy as a starting point, 50 joules. However, limb/joint armor ratings are based on performance at 50 joules, 75 joules, or 100 joules, leading to 3 levels of performance within this standard. All 3 levels allow no more than 35 kN of force to transmit: LEVEL 1 (50 joules), LEVEL 2 "high performance" (75 joules), and LEVEL 3 "extreme performance" (100 joules).
All of the certified protectors are only good for a single-use due to the structure and/or crushable materials used to absorb impact, though a few offer better protection for multiple impacts during a crash.
Here's an excerpt from the link above explaining the current CE Back Protector Standards:
"There has been criticism of the standard from medical experts who consider the transmitted force levels too severe; citing decades of automotive research which indicates 4 kN is the maximum force the brittle bones which form the human ribcage can withstand before they fracture. Attempts to reduce the transmitted force requirement to 4 kN and to correspondingly reduce the 50 Joule impact energy requirement were strongly resisted by industry, who claimed consumers would be confused by different impact energy requirements between EN1621-1 and EN1621-2.
In truth, it was in the industry's commercial interests to test both types of protector at 50J, since they could then extol the efficacy of back protectors which, when struck with the same impact energy as limb protectors, transmitted only 9 or 18 kN compared to 35 kN. The consumer would be unaware that subtle differences in the impactor and anvil were responsible, and still less aware that 9 kN was still more than double the safe limit supported by medical experts. Furthermore, during the late 1990s, some companies had used the wholly inappropriate EN 1621-1 (limbs) to CE mark their back protectors. Commercial objectives were given priority over consumer safety.
So there are two levels that are considered passing; both of these levels fall within that 1621-2 back protector standard. However, while 4kN is the medically recommended level of transmitted force, it is NOT actually required by the current CE back protector standard, and most protectors cannot provide this level at the 50 Joule energy impact level. Keep in mind that when a protector is just labeled as CE Approved, and no mention is made of the level of performance, it probably implies Level 1 compliance.
Here's a list of all of the back protectors I have found, starting with the LEVEL 2 rated protectors, followed by some LEVEL 1 protectors, and finally by those that are NOT RATED and/or offer no performance data or verification of claims:
BKS is the only motorcycle clothing manufacturer that offers back protectors that meet the medically established 4kN energy transmission level with their Astroshock/Suproflex model protector.
T-Pro offers similar products, their website is full of good info and their products clearly stand-out as the highest-rated in crash protection. Both BKS and T-Pro protectors and body armor are effective for multiple impacts during a crash event, and are made with no hard plastics which should be much more comfortable and is potentially safer than products made with hard materials.
The most interesting piece of info from the T-Pro Body Armor site:
"Back Protection for Motorcyclists--Only a few motorcyclists receive a direct blow to the spine causing serious injury; more spine injuries are probably due to direct blows to the shoulders and hips. The products commonly known as motorcyclists back protectors, if correctly designed and constructed may alleviate some minor direct impacts on the back, but will not prevent skeletal or neurological injuries to the spine in motorcycle accidents."
T-Pro's Forcefield back protector is CE certified to the 1621-2 LEVEL 2 standards, making it one of the few that advertises meeting this higher level.
Johnson Leather, in the U.S., sells the T-Pro Forcefield products, as well as what looks to be the BKS "Astroshock" back protector inserts under their own name, and BKS now also sells a re-badged version of the T-pro Forcefield protector as well.
**Joe Rocket seems to be rebranding T-pro protectors as Speedmasters:
Dainese doesn't tout or even mention CE approval anywhere on their own website, but I did manage to find some info on the Dainese protectors from MotoLiberty's website. Dainese makes quite a few different models, not all advertise the same levels of protection, but most appear to be certified. They use an aluminum honeycomb structure, similar to the Knox protectors.
"The new Dainese folding back protector--Paraaschiena Ripegabile, is made with a hard plastic tortoise-shell type construction. It has an optimum shock absorption capacity which easily superceded the tough test at the highest level, EN1621-2 LEVEL 2." It also has the added convenience of being foldable for storage.
The Dainese Wave 2 protector is CE rated LEVEL 1.
The recent model BAP protectors appear to be CE 1621-2 approved, LEVEL 1.
The Back Space and Gilet Space models are also CE approved to the LEVEL 1 standard, passing with 15kN of transmitted force in tests.
Knox. All of the Knox protectors are approved to the current and proper 1621-2 standard (Level 1). They claim to surpass the basic requirements, but not higher level compliance. They also offer the largest coverage area of any of the protectors available with all of their models.
The Stowaway model is flexible enough to roll-up for convenient storage, and comes with its own storage bag and is still approved to the LEVEL 1 standard.
Alpinestars states that their Tech Protector and RC back pad inserts are EN1621-2 approved (LEVEL 1).
Spidi offers two families of back protector options, the Airback and Warriors.
The Airback protector is CE Level 1 approved according to the Italian Spidi website. The Warrior “mid” and “low” options are LEVEL 1 approved, but offer very little coverage area, focusing on the lumbar region with no shoulder blade coverage. Spidi touts the Airback protector as being more effective because of its shoulder blade coverage and the nature of most initial crash impacts hitting the shoulder blade region.
Spidi websites state that the regular and compact versions of the Warrior are compliant with the CE Directives for PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), which have nothing to do with the actual testing performance or standards for the equipment. The Directives are simply an ethics code and basis for testing procedures and standards operations. This is a very misleading statement regarding the effectiveness of these products. Have they been properly tested and certified to the EN1621-2 standard? It certainly doesn’t appear that way.
The Giali protector claims CE approval. No mention of level. It is a European model, so it is probably properly approved to the LEVEL 1 standard.
Clover, another European brand, has a couple of models specified to meet LEVEL 1 standards, no word of availability of Clover protectors in the U.S.
Kobe back protectors claim CE approval as well, but no mention of which standard or level.
Fieldsheer makes claims in their marketing copy for the X20 back protector that leave the specifics to the imagination by not directly referring to the standard that their protector has passed.
"The X20 back protector provides protection internally using a new "honey comb" plastic core, proved to exceed all European CE standards." I have received confirmation from an X20 owner that it is properly rated to the 1621-2 LEVEL 1 standard. Not the best, as they make it sound, but properly rated and certified nonetheless.
Helimot carries a German brand of protectors, Erbo. The models on Erbo’s own website are shrouded in a Cordura cover. I don’t know if they are the same models sold by Helimot, but Erbo states that those protectors are CE LEVEL 1 approved.
Helimot has an interesting theory behind their TLV protector, but makes no claims of protection (Its an American market product). I have heard stories of the owner of Helimot performing "real world" tests with a hammer for skeptics. Uh sorry, I'd rather have repeatable measurements than seat-of my-pants guesses at what crash forces are going to feel like. These dramatic exhibitions should be saved for differentiating the meaning of the data, rather than basing your presumptions of efficacy on them.
Knox makes reference to improper use of CE claims by other companies. They don't name names, but it appears to be in response to Bohn's non-certified CE labeling practice. Bohn uses a CE label without actually being certified. Bohn also does not specify which standard they are referring to in their marketing statements of "exceeding CE specs" or "built to European CE standards". An article on the British Motorcycle Federation website implies that unnamed companies are being sued for improperly using the CE mark and not complying with the proper specs for back protectors. I cannot find any actual information that directly refers to Bohn or the standards that Bohn allegedly meets or exceeds.
Bohn lists the Pro-Racer protectors as being "made to European CE standards", though they have NOT actually been certified. Is Bohn referring to the correct back protector standard when they make this claim? Bohn’s claim was not only made prior to the existence of the 1621-2 back protector standard, but they have still refused to submit for proper testing and certification, years later.
Bohn makes no certification, rating, or other protection claims with any of the Carbon/Kevlar models or the Pro-Racer Motard version, and offers no performance data or levels or verification of protection for those models either.
The Bohn X-Ploit chest and back harnesses claim to be "made to the Scandinavian Off-road Protection Standard." No word on whether these protectors are actually certified to that standard either. I don't know too much about the Swedish(Scandinavian) off-road standard, but it was instituted in 1993 and is probably not at the current level required by CE for street use items.
Bohn's website offers no specific information regarding which CE specs are being met and how it is being proven. I find this claim to be blatantly deceptive and deceitful. Such claims should be backed-up with formal proof. Any company that tries to tag-on to safety standards and markings without actually providing open evidence or paying for the right to market its products using the standard is not selling in good faith.
But they do offer-up some gems, like this quote from Eric Bostrom:
"After testing at the Jan 2000 Laguna Shakedown Eric reported: '...really comfortable, and made me feel safe on the bike' " Yes, that is the entire testimonial.
Impact Armor claims their protectors are ""Designed to exceed ALL European CE specifications for armor", but are NOT actually CE certified and do not provide any performance data either. The CE had not introduced the 1621-2 back protector standards at the time that statement about the "design" was originally published. There is no reference to the proper standard, and the lack of open proof leaves that statement worthless.
I had email correspondence with Michael Braxton, owner of Impact Armor. He seemed friendly, but unwilling to divulge any real information about how his Impact Armor protectors have performed in tests. In fact, I got the gist that they haven't been tested at all or at least in the current form. He focuses on theory and a “patented design“, but the design and theory need to be proven by repeatable testing of a final product to be worthwhile. In fact, in Mr. Braxton’s allusions to CE, the website states that “prototypes were submitted for testing to the Cambridge Institute in Britain”. Results of these “prototype” tests are not shown, and the assertion is qualified by a statement about a 6-year long “wearability program” as if they were the same issue. Also, the “patented design” is not in reference to a protective feature, but a convenience feature that allows disposal and replacement of damaged components after an impact-use. A patent doesn’t say anything about the design’s effectiveness. This all amounts to a lot of hype without actually saying anything substantial about the actual crash-worthiness of the product . I inferred that these theories were tested in the early '90s while working with T-Pro. I don't know the complete history of T-Pro and Impact Armor or Michael Braxton, but I am leery of his evasiveness and lip service to safety and standards in our correspondence, though his intentions did sound sincere at times. One statement he made bothered me:
According to Braxton, “Frankly, the cost, time and bureaucracy to obtain CE certification is just not worth the hassle... And if you did subject your self to the process, the quality of your product is treated no differently than the others.…”
Frankly, I think that the “quality of your product” would be revealed by performance testing. According to Paul Varnessy, head of PVA Technical File Services, “It actually costs less to test and certify a motorcycle suit than it does the average pair of safety shoes - as proven by the fact that the first companies to achieve EC type approval were the small, UK manufacturers of bespoke motorcyclists’ clothing.”
Teknic makes no specific claims of protective levels or performance results with their 4 or 7 link protectors, but they also sell the CE approved Knox back protectors.
Joe Rocket's website says very little about their GPX back protector. It is NOT shown to be CE certified. It is, however, made with the same material that BKS uses in their body armor, "Astrosorb", one of the highest-rated foams used in LIMB/JOINT armor, but make no reference to the thickness used or performance results, just that it is one-piece. Other companies have stated that Astrosorb alone will not meet the CE back protector standards.
The NJK, another American model that offers nothing about protection levels or certifications.
The Italian made UFO back protectors. Don't know about their availability in the U.S., or certification, but they are likely properly approved as a European product.
There are plenty more out there, the important thing is to know what to look for before you spend any more money thinking you have the safest possible piece of equipment. In the end you have to ask yourself just how much limited personal experience, limited arbitrary crash experience, limited knowledge of the real forces at work in any crash story, and the beliefs of others in what they have heard through the grapevine will get you the right answers. The problem with any of that information is that it is never complete or accurate, no matter how well-intentioned it may be.
edit: Velocitygear's protector bills itself as the lowest-cost level-2 back protector, transmitting only 4.49 KiloNewtons of force (out of 50). Their prices include USPS shipping worldwide. It also seems like they're the OEM for the newer Dainese Backspace 123.
Spidi Back Warrior: Level 2 with a 7.49KN transmission rate