LEATT AIRFLEX CHEST PROTECTOR REVIEW
Review by Sourpatch | Photos by Dusten Ryen
Upper body protection is a must-have piece of kit, especially when it comes to shredding bike park or steep, chunky trails. We’ve tested a couple pieces over the years, ranging from soft-pad T-shirt style protection to over-padded long-sleeve hard shell protection, and everything in between. Nothing quite comes close to the comfort and performance of a moto-style hardshell chest protector in our eyes, but with that added protection come comfort and stealth-styling concesssions. Enter the Leatt Airflex Chest Protector, a piece that blends hard-shell level protection in a comfortable package, and though it has answered our protection prayers, it isn’t perfect.
Leatt’s Airflex Chest Protector is a lightweight, CE-certified impact body protector with light, beathable padding. Leatt’s Airflex Gel inserts can be found in the main hit zones located on the chest and back panels. The Airflex Chest Protector has a slim, ergonomic fit and has a 3D design for added comfort. When the weather outside is toasty, ventilation slots aid in maximum airflow through the Airflex protective material. This piece of protection equipment is French Motorcycle Federation certified and holds Level 1 CE certifications EN1621-3 (chest) and EN1621-2 (back). As with all Leatt’s torso protection products, the Airflex Chest Protector is neck brace compatible made possible by Leatt’s BraceOn fit system. This chest protector is available in three sizes – S/M, L/XL and XXL, with a retail price of $179.99.
As someone who is always looking for new torso protection to hopefully wear comfortably but not fully test, Leatt’s Airflex Chest Protector shot to the top of my “want” list upon its release. At 6’2”, 160lbs, I opted for the L/XL size, despite that being slightly out of Leatt’s recommended size based on height, as I’m on the skinny side for my height. The chest protector felt sturdy yet pliable in the hands, and I was excited to take it to the trails.
Donning the Airflex Chest Protector is similar to the rest, being draped over like its hard-shell brethren most commonly found in the moto world. The Airflex Chest Protector does require a little massaging to get into the right alignment to be able to secure the Velcro straps. Those straps offer a bit of adjustment, but were not enough to snug the chest protector fully to my body and prevent movement while riding. This wouldn’t be an issue for the more average body types, but my lanky frame put me out of the ideal size range.
During the review process, I wore the Airflex Chest Protector for multi-day press camp, days in the bike park, and on self-shuttle eBike rides that would warrant the use of such protection. During the 3-day press camp I came across the second negative, which is sort of still fit related for my skinny torso. During the second day, the tops of my shoulders felt a bit tender and raw. When I removed the protector that night I noticed my shoulders were red from the edges of the shoulder straps chafing on the back-to-back four-hour rides, no doubt a result of the movement of the protector relative to my torso. On Day 3 I switched from a sleeveless base-layer to a t-shirt base-layer, which prevented the chest protector from unwanted rubbing. However, having to go to a t-shirt base layer does detract from the positive airflow characteristics of the Airflex Chest Protector. Granted most people aren’t as skinny as I am and most probably won’t be wearing chest protection on back to back four-hour ride days, but we figured it was still worth noting.
Another thing worth noting on the comfort side of things, the fabrics Leatt used on the interior of the Airflex Chest Protector are not the most comfortable when used without a base layer, being quite rough against the skin. Some may not mind it, but I couldn’t make it work. Leatt’s Airflex foam insert in the back panel does mold fairly well with body heat resulting in additional comfort once things have settled in, though. While I have not had the displeasure of testing its impact protection…yet, I have no doubts that the Airflex Chest Protector will do its job and then some when the inevitable happens based on our crash tests in plenty of other Leatt protective products.
The Wolf’s Last Word
The addition of the Airflex Chest Protector rounds out Leatt’s “Soft” body protection category and it is a welcomed offering. There may be a few shortcomings with this chest protector, like the minimal amount of adjustability offered and some discomfort on consecutive multi-day rides, but those aren’t enough to place it low on my list. Instead, I’ll just wear a thin base-layer under the protector and throw a jersey overtop for all the rockier rides, as the lightweight build and protection offered is unmatched thus far. If you are a fan of the hard-shell moto style chest protectors but want something slimmer and more comfortable for MTB, this is the ticket.