After booking on the recent Overland Explore South Africa tour, I realised I would need some new riding kit. For the dreary commute I use black leather and over-waterproofs; not really suitable for the climate I was heading for.
Taking cost and versatility into account, I opted for a separate body armour outfit, reasoning I would have a lot more choice for outerwear depending on just how hot the climate was. The trouble is, full-on Motocross type armour is, well just a bit too full-on. Although due to be leaving the tarmac for a good proportion of the trip, even with my limited off-road experience, I wasn’t anticipating coming away from my machine on a regular basis.
The Pro-shirt from Forcefield looks like a long sleeve T-shirt on steroids, with CE approved armour in the shoulders, on the elbows, the chest and, on the particular model I chose, also on the back. It made sense to go for the matching shorts as well – the Action short is made out of the same high wicking breathable material as the shirt. Armour is provided on the hips, thighs, buttocks and coccyx areas. That was the upper body and upper leg region sorted. That just left my knees feeling very vulnerable. Forcefield has this area covered as well: The limb tube knee protectors are basically a slip-on knee pad retained by the stretchy material and straps.
Even though I ordered online, the fit was pretty much spot on – there is a comprehensive sizing chart on the Forcefield website.
In South Africa it did feel a bit weird pulling on the gear each morning – but after 10 minutes I just didn’t think about it. I wore baggy cargo trousers over the shorts and my jacket fitted nicely over the shirt – even with the jacket’s armour still in.
The knee protectors with their Nitrex Evo® armour were especially excellent. I found that I didn’t need the extra straps to keep them in place (even with my skinny legs) and they were just so comfortable and the breathability meant no discomfort. Rightly or wrongly, I loved the feeling of invincibility the armour gave me. I was able to push on with confidence, happy that I was protected – as much as I could be.
I have to admit I did get a little hot under the collar at times, but the temperature did cross 40 degrees a few times and everyone else was suffering in their kit.
As the pro-shirt is that much more substantial than a normal base layer, the downside in extreme heat is that when you stop for a bite to eat at a café, you sit and simmer or are forced to undress in an unseemly manner! On the upside, there is a full-length zip up the front, the material (as with the shorts) is anti-bacterial and all of it is breathable, even the armour, with extra perforation at critical areas for more ventilation.
Another upside is the greeny-blue colour – perhaps Farrow and Ball would call it seagrass – which is really quite nice and a pleasant change from black.
When you do need to wash the shirt, all the armour is removable. Although each piece was marked as to where it went, getting it all back in (in the right place and the right way round) took over 10 mins. I’m sure after a few goes this will get easier and quicker.
All in, I am very impressed with the Forcefield armour. It performed how I had hoped it would; it was comfortable with a good fit and gave excellent mobility. It gave me more choice in what to wear to suit different terrain and temperatures and I really love that. All aspects of manufacture looked good and strangely, I wouldn’t have minded crashing in it, just to see – and that is saying something. After all, the armour contains ‘Repeat Performance Technology’!
The shirt is the Pro shirt (with back armour) code: FF3006 and is available in: X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large, retailing for the not insubstantial £189.95. Without back armour it’s £149.95
The shorts I chose are the Action short Pro Armour (Sizes available X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large) Product Code: FF30222 £84.99
The Limb tube knee protectors (FF3014) also come in a variety of sizes at £54.95
Click here for more info.