While body armor has an “uncool” reputation, these days it’s seeing a resurgence thanks to improvements in comfort and technology that make it a lot more subtle. The days of looking like a football lineman have ended with polymer materials that allow for thin, flexible and breathable armor. I’ve always preferred the slimmest fitting armor available, and the 7idp flex meets that criteria without giving up safety in the name of fashion.
Since I recently took a hard slam earlier this year year, I figured it would be prudent to wear some upper body armor to protect my healing back and shoulder. Nothing tests the comfort, safety and breathability of armor like 10 back-to-back days of hot bike park laps for the bike park review tour!
The base material of the 7idp Flex Suit is a 4 way stretch nylon with flatlock stitching to decrease chaffing and improve comfort. 7idp prioritized breathability, incorporating airflow perforations in the armor with channels next to the skin. Four front angled pockets are integrated into the back of the shirt to carry the trail essentials. Riders can even tuck a small water bladder into the back pocket, eliminating the need for a pack.
The shoulder pads and back protector are viscoelastic, meaning they stay malleable under normal conditions but harden with impact. The pads are tested beyond CE EN 1621 level 2, which is a motorcycle armor standardized test that ensures no more than 9kN of force is transmitted through the pad. The chest section also has a polygon grid foam pad for sternum protection. The shoulder and back armor are removable for easy washing, or to custom tailor your level of protection.
I took the 7idp Flex Suit throughout the East Coast in early September, which gave me ample opportunity to test comfort in humidity and heat. While I did stay warmer with the armor on, it was noticeably cooler than a full compression suit. Thanks to 7idp’s thoughtful ventilation design, even a slight breeze or wind on the downhills was enough to cool me off. Since the armor is removable, it’s easy to balance the protection to comfort equation depending on the level of heat. For example, you can easily remove the shoulder pads to increase breathability on a longer trail ride and then add them back in for a day in the park. Having removable pads also aids in the inevitable cleaning process.
While the armor is soft and comfortable, the sternum piece does not breathe well and stayed very warmth throughout our testing period. That said, the few small falls I had were handled with ease by the shoulder pads and thankfully I never tested the back protection. The back protector offers good coverage without being so long you need to tuck it into your shorts.
The fit is just short of a full compression shirt, which allows the armor to move around naturally without getting hung up. I did not find the rear pockets very useful however. The design lacks a retention method at the bottom, so the pockets would move around with heavier items such as trail tools or Co2. Gels and bars were about the biggest thing I could comfortably carry in them.
If you are looking for a fitted upper armor solution that could replace your pack, the 7idp Flex Suit should be on your short list. The armor is comfortable and slim fitting, and we’d rate breathability around a 7/10. We would like to see a tighter fitting solution for the rear pockets, but it is a small issue in an otherwise well thought out product. It did a great job balancing comfort and breathability with protection, and the velocity sensitive pads work well to mitigate impact while maintaining flexibility during rides. Though many riders have avoided armor, there’s no excuse anymore with products like the Flex Suit to help you avoid a season ending injury without looking like a dork!
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