Alpinestars are well known for their protection, yet like most companies with body armour, for Enduro it has taken a while to get to really usable products that don’t weight you down. Alpinestars dropped us their latest product the Comp, Pro Top, to see how it faired for Enduro use.
We tested the Compro on the Enduro Trails of Punta Ala to see how it scored against the rocky harder trails and if we felt safer riding.
Why back protection?
There is no doubt that riding now has become faster, so in some instances we are definitely risking more when the trail conditions get more technical and have trail side objects that could hurt us if we land on them crashing. Alpinestars have recognized that and made a back protection that seems to fit this category well, by the fact that it is lightweight, a good fit and flexible. In fact with the type of riding we do it’s almost a non question, “Should I wear back protection?”. Safety, for the speed we ride at in the conditions we do, it has to be yes, “Let’s wear it!”
Alpinestars, when they considered making something for Enduro use, had to focus on low profile and ergonomics and not just protection, as Enduro normally requires more movement on the bike, and Enduro riders in general want as light weight as possible. So a range of features were put together to achieve that.
The removable back protector is CE-certified, the shoulder protectors are lightweight and are removable. The soft chest and side padding is reinforced with 8mm impact foam to help absorb any un-wanted frontward strikes. Because it is short-sleeved the styling allows for use with elbow protectors if you want. We noted that the low profile design can be worn under a riding top. The back protector follows the natural curve of the back as stated by Alpinestars themselves, and was comfortable.
We found that putting it on and off was not super easy, but the fact the protector could be easily detached, this was great. Easy for washing and actually made it simpler to remove when tired and wanting to rip it off after a ride.
On the trail
We rode with the back protection over the period of a few months in the trails around Punta Ala and did actually fall off one time in an un-planned situation. First of all riding up the hill the lightweight and low profile design was comfortable and we didn’t get too hot at all. It fitted right under our riding top and did not make us look like the hulk. The fact it has short sleeves is a good thing as we take elbow pads with us up the trail and didn’t have to put them on until we got to the trail head for the ride down. In this case it seems that we have found a great form of protection as we often overheat and need to manage our temperature when riding, the fact we don’t feel cocooned straight-away is great, when riding uphill at the end of a day’s ride we did not feel we had sweated to death on the uphill, so at the end of racing it should still be comfortable, of course this also depends on the type of base layer you select.
Freedom of movement is key when riding technical trails, it allows us to pop the bike around obstacles better as we try to make our speed down the trail flow. If we are constricted it is harder. That was the great thing about the Comp Pro Top, it didn’t constrict us. In-fact we actually found our selves feeling more confident wearing it and supported, so in a mental capacity we felt we could go harder/faster within our limits. However on one occasion that party ended as we found ourselves over the bars and landing on our side on a rocky trail section. For what we understood compared to other times we have been in situations like this without protection, the abrasive impact was less. We didn’t have trail rash down our side, which normally hurts, maybe it was the way we landed, but on close inspection our riding top had signs of friction with the ground, but our skin not. Not really the way we want to test safety, but yes protection does help.
The impact foam that is part of the rear of this back protector is soft when under normal conditions but turns hard when it takes an impact. This meant when riding we didn’t feel like we had a ridged board on our back that stopped us bending. We didn’t actually test it for impact, but rest assured the feeling of support it gives you is definitive, so one can only assume that in a serious impact it works and will limit any injury up to a point.
The general fashion for Enduro riding is to wear as little protection as possible, for comfort and ease of movement. Race rules nowadays insist on back protection and honestly, if riding on tough trails, we came to the conclusion better with than without. With all the features that we found on the Comp Pro Top it didn’t really imped our riding. Yes we crashed once, it wasn’t major but the fact it reduced abrasive injuries was great. There is no doubt the flexible protector and soft padding that protects during impacts yet remains flexible under normal conditions makes the use of a back protector almost as necessary as the use of a helmet, anything like this, that doesn’t restrict our riding and in our case gave us more confidence when riding, is a good thing.
For racing it’s obvious, use it, the Alpinestars Comp Pro Top is comfortable on the way up and meets all the necessary safety standards when riding down the hill. We try to not to crash, but it happens and when it does it’s good to know we did what we could to avoid harsh consequences.
Ride Test Location: Punta Ala