I have seen it mentioned as an option in the back of many jackets and it seems standard in the arms and elbows of many jackets as well. Can I just get a bit of clarity as to what exactly it is and what the CE rating means? Should I be looking for the back piece when ordering my riding jacket?
Thanks as usual
Here's the long and short of it all...
Back protectors are often included in the standard complement of armor and many jackets allow a back protector to be installed. Because of the more delicate nature of the spinal column, back protectors require that lower levels of force be transmitted. However, in the Cambridge Standard for Motorcyclists Clothing, Roderick Woods asserts that the majority of spinal injuries are caused by blows to the hip and shoulders. In the rare circumstance that a motorcyclist received a direct blow to the back the damage would be unmitigatable by armor.
Although Cambridge may not endorse back protectors, it is quite obvious that some protection is better than none at all, and there is a CE standard for back protectors: - European Standard EN 1621-2:2003. To summarize the basics: -
Motorcyclists’ back protectors are impact tested with a bar-shaped impactor designed to represent the hazards of impacts with edges such as curbstones. The back protector is mounted on a steel anvil which has a load cell underneath it to record the amount of force against time.
The impactor is dropped from a height that gives it an impact energy of 50 joules.
Level 1 protectors: The average peak force recorded below the anvil in the tests shall be below 18 kN, and no single value shall exceed 24 kN.
Level 2 protectors: The average peak force recorded below the anvil in the tests shall be below 9 kN, and no single value shall exceed 12 kN.
There is however, no mention of hyperextension/hyperflexion restraint (aka whiplash, but can include the whole spine), or of torsional restraint (torsional injuries can result from the afore-mentioned blows to hips or shoulders).
This is the area where designs featuring hard armour could potentially be better than the softer types.
One potential cause of injury that should be born in mind is the contents of any bag or rucksack worn by the rider.