Is Your Riding Gear Protecting You as Much as You Think?

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By Salmarie Wilson (Special to Touratech USA from SheADV)

I recently purchased a new Klim suit and fortunately, I know the different levels of protection when it comes to the armor. Now, I want to start by saying I’m not trying to throw Klim under the bus because Klim is good, high-quality gear and I’ve been wearing Klim for decades.  But, my job is to educate riders. Unfortunately, the women’s Klim gear, even though it is an expensive, high-quality suit, it comes with a lower level of protection in the armor department.  What does this mean?  Lower level of protection would be D30 Level 1 (L1) and the highest level of protection would be D30 Level 2 (L2).  With the L1 armor, you’re essentially getting half of the level of protection of the L2 armor.  High quality armor, like the L2, will offer as much as 70% reduction of energy on impact.  Instead of shattering a kneecap, maybe you only bruise it.

Since the L1 is half the thickness of the L2, that leads me to believe the L1 will only reduce the energy of impact half as much, which would be 35%.  That is not the level of protection that I’m looking for.  Do you want 35% or 70% protection? Your answer could be the difference between a hospital visit or not.  I ended up having to spend additional money to upgrade the armor.  Those who buy the men’s suits do not have to make that additional purchase as the men’s suits come with L2 armor.  Not only did I have to spend more money, but I also now have armor that is useless and will eventually make its way to the landfill because Klim doesn’t have a program of reusing the armor.  What I expected when I purchased the suit and upgraded the armor, is that I’d get the L2 armor in the first place, not the suit with the L1 and then the additional L2 armor.  When I called Klim to ask about getting the L1 armor back to them, they said, “we don’t do that.”

I asked, “What do I do with the L1 armor?”  They said, “You can keep it and have extra armor.”  I said, “I upgraded for a reason and the L1 armor is no good to me, so essentially it will be thrown away.”

This doesn’t seem like a good solution.  Now, of course, I’m not going to just throw it away because I really don’t want to add to the landfill any sooner than I have to.  So, I will find a purpose for it.



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Why does the women’s gear come with the L1 and the men’s don’t?  Well, I asked that question to a Klim rep while at the Touratech Dirt Daze in Haverhill, NH.  The rep told me what they found in the market research is women want the lighter gear.  L1 being lighter because it is half as thick and with that, it’s half the amount of material that protects you.  I asked if the women are being educated on what it means to have the lighter gear with half the level of protection and are they aware they are sacrificing safety?

Crickets…  Of course, without education, most would choose lighter over heavier, but at what cost?

Honestly, once the gear is on, you really don’t feel that difference significantly enough to choose the lighter gear and less protection.



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When you tell women the level of protection is half as much AND women are more susceptible to breaking bones than men because after the age of 29, women lose 1% of their bone density and when they hit menopause, it goes up to 2%, do you think they would still choose the lighter, less protective gear?  I don’t think so.  And if they did, then that would be an informed decision and completely up to them.  Instead, what I’m finding, because I have been on a mission to get answers, is that women don’t realize that they don’t have the protection that they thought they had because they bought a high, quality suit.  You know the saying, you don’t know what you don’t know.  Well, unless you dig in and research things or you take more training classes and learn more about the sport, you don’t know important details.  In this case, you don’t know that even though you spent good money on high-quality gear you think will protect you, that the gear really won’t as much as you think.  Then, one day, you end up finding out the hard way while sitting in the hospital bed waiting for x-rays.

Something else to know about your riding suit, like the Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) layer in your helmet; armor breaks down and degrades over time, so a good rule of thumb is to replace it every five years just like you would do with your helmet. Also, non-CE-certified stock armor is often made of inexpensive materials, like stiff foam and lacks ventilation holes and will not give you the level of protection that the CE rated armor will.  Whether your suit is Klim or some other brand, do some research and make sure you are getting the level of protection that is acceptable to you.

Buying quality gear can be challenging, especially for women in this sport.  Get educated, so you can make informed decisions that will help with your overall experience in this amazing sport.  With fall in the air, you will see me in my new Klim suit with the upgraded armor of L2.  I feel good about the level of protection now.



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