Not too often do we see a product, anymore, hit the market that could be tagged as innovative. Many of the products we use in the motorcycling world are a result of an improvement on an existing product or a carry over from another industry. Synthetic oils, illumiglo gauges, and GPS receivers are just some of such products.
When it comes to rider protection, the premise hasn’t changed much over the years; though the materials have improved. The same basic concept still holds true, protect against abrasion and protect against impact. The early twentieth century heralded the motor age. It was at this time the use of leather in the pilot cockpit and in road racing began. Since then, leather has been the protection of choice for motorcyclists. Granted, leather provides fantastic resistance to “road rash” but does little for impact protection, on its own.
To save riders from bruising and broken bones, pads or armor are often added to gear. These materials vary widely from high-density foam to expensive Kevlar. The pads are often integrated in the gear and move with the gear. The problem being, the pads or armor may shift out of place, particularly if the gear is improperly sized. In addition, supplemental armor can be purchased for wear under your normal riding garb. Unfortunately it is often bulky and, more importantly, restricts movement.
There Must Be A Better Way: Crash Pads
The story of this company goes back almost 15 years ago, how Crash Pads came to the motorcycle world is a matter of evolution.
Founder Sheila Lehner-Brewer was learning to in-line skate in the summer of 1992 in Central Park, NY. Anyone who has learned, or tried to learn, how to in-line skate can appreciate the difficulty in trying to stay upright, particularly while attempting to stop! The traditional knee and elbow pads help protect those areas, but leave much of the rest of your body exposed; namely your hips and your derriere!
After falling, bruising and repeating this process over and over, Sheila knew there was a better way to do things. Hockey pants would have worked, but they weren’t made for in-line skating and really look a bit odd (even in Central Park) unless you’re actually playing hockey. So, Sheila decided to take matters into her own hands. By carefully cutting and crafting pads to fit over the bruises and sewing them on Lycra shorts, her idea was born.
While putting her new idea to the test, Sheila was constantly stopped by curious onlookers asking where they could obtain this invention. Thing was, not just skaters were asking about them, in fact other athletes were inquiring as well. Realizing the potential with this idea, Sheila rushed to patent the idea and copyright the name. She then employed her family into the operation, relocated to a small town in Oregon and Crash Pads were born.
Innovative and Evolutionary
So how did Crash Pads enter the motorcycle world, and what exactly makes them innovative?
The idea of sewing in padding, protection or armor is not new. How Crash Pads engineer their products, is. First, instead of making the protection part of the gear, the protection is a separate piece of gear. Again, not a new idea however the ergonomic engineering and design application is where this design is innovative.
The posture or shape of the body during activity, specific movements and areas of vulnerability vary tremendously between sports. Crash Pads take this into account and develop their products based upon these criteria. One of the most important areas of importance regarding the vision of new products concerns its ability to allow unrestricted movement. Engaging in your sport without fighting your protective gear is paramount at Crash Pads. Consequently, the gear conceived for snowboarding is not the same gear developed for mountain biking.
You can probably see, now, how Crash Pads evolved into more than just an in-line skating pad. Sure, hockey pants work but can they be better? Of course you can wear a pair of hockey pants while snowboarding, but were they designed for that? The market is endless, the possibilities limitless. It’s only natural Crash-Pads offer a product line to meet the needs of the motorcycle rider.
It doesn’t end there. All types of motorcycle riders have found Crash Pad products valuable. Police “motor” officers (motorcycle cops) are a popular consumer of Crash Pads. Sportbike riders are another emerging consumer. Once more, one size does not fit all. The old Kawasaki's and new BMW’s most law enforcement agencies employ a more upright riding position. As sportbike riders, we all know our time is spent hovering over the gas tank; same discipline, different gear.
Truth be told, customers of Crash Pads don’t always use the exact product for which it was intended. It is a matter of personal preference, after all. Sheila told TwoWheelForum she gets a lot of feedback from customers telling her they use a product not specifically designed for their sport. It’s sure getting complicated isn’t it?
The official product catalog probably states it best:
Although many of our products do cross over, each sport has specific needs
relating to the shape of the body, the area of the body vulnerable to a specific
type of fall and the type of movement being performed during the activity
So, how do you know what Crash Pad is right for you? The product catalog goes into detail regarding the specific styles and features, but here is a brief synopsis of the product offerings and their intended design use (note the generous use of “etc.”):
1200 Bike Pant: Bike, etc.
1300 Bike Short: Bike, etc.wa
6000 Upper Body Bike: Skate, Snow, Bike, etc.
2000 Mesh underwear: Skate, Snow, Bike, etc.
2600 Dry-Power Underwear: Skate, Snow, Bike, etc.
1600 Outerwear Underwear: Skate, Snow, Bike, etc.
2500 Pro-Pant with Tail Shield: Skate, Snow, Bike, etc.
2200 Thermal Long Underwear: Snow, Bike, etc.
2100 Mesh Long Underwear: Snow, Bike, etc.
6100 Upper Body (without Tail): Skate, Snow, Bike, etc.
1400 Gate Pant: Snow, etc.
2300 Hockey Short: Skate, etc.
1700 Goalkeeper: etc.
Made in the U.S.A
Perhaps one of most admirable facets, in the opinion of TWF, of Crash Pads is their company philosophy.
With so many products made overseas, it’s refreshing to see an American entrepreneur resist the convention wisdom to migrate manufacturing to cheap labor locales. Crash Pads started here, why not stay here? Consequently, the cycle time to new products and product changes is greatly decreased. This benefits all Crash-Pads consumers whether you understand Economics 101, or not.
Sheila tells it takes six to seven months to take a product from concept to reality. It could take that long shipping samples back and forth overseas alone if the manufacturing were located an ocean away. Keeping the manufacturing facilities in the U.S. gives Crash Pads the ability to take customer feedback and turn it into a better product much quicker than what might otherwise happen.
Customer feedback is HUGE at Crash Pads. After all, it’s the customer that knows what works and what doesn’t. Sheila tells TWF that its Crash Pads customers and endorsed athletes immersed in their sport that provide the invaluable feedback to improve existing products and create new ones. It’s this willingness to listen the customer and the ability to control production locally, which leads to a short product cycle.
Recently TwoWheelForum was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to test several items in the Crash Pad product line. Since, technically, any Crash Pad can be used for any purpose; we worked with the company to deciding what products might best suit the movements and protection needed for the sportbike rider.
The products we tested were the 1300, 1200, 6000, 2100 and 2500. For comparison purposes we pitted Crash Pad against Crash Pad. Two are shorts, two are pants and the 6000 is upper body protection.
Both the 1300 and 2500 are shorts, though official descriptions lists the 2500 as a “Pro-Pant”. The 2100 and 2500 are a full-length pant, waist to ankle. The 6000 was tested throughout the short/pant testing and used in conjunction with them. As in our past product testing, we were unable to locate a TWF staffer willing to crash their ride to test Crash Pads. [Perhaps we need to increase their insurance coverage?] So, to that end we can’t provide, arguably, the most important test: crash protection. Though, we’re confident Crash Pads would be willing to provide customer testimonials from those who have been unfortunately enough to need
their Crash Pads. Nevertheless, we spared no effort in testing comfort, durability and value.
1300 vs. 2500
1300 Retail: $85
These shorts are used by street riders and racers. There is no “tail” in these shorts to protect the tailbone. Also, there are no “butt” or cheek pads. This allows unobstructed seating on your bike. The crotch area has a chamois material designed to absorb moisture. One of the nicer features of this product is the drawstring; it ties to the rear. As sportbike riders, the hunched position we usually assume while riding leaves little room for a cinched waistband up front. By moving it the rear, you eliminate a bundle of string jabbing into your belly.
2500 Retail: $80
The 2500, according to Sheila at Crash Pads, is the best selling model. It’s proven popular with the motocross crowd where more time is spent standing than sitting (we’re thinking stunters). This is also a popular crossover pant and a good choice to test for sportbike riding since it puts the 1300, designed for one type of motorcycle riding, against the 2500 designed for another type of riding.
Comparison 1300 vs. 2500
If you’re looking for a little extra padding, where it counts the most, either of these shorts will do for you. Alone they only offer protection from the waist down to above the knee, but with other gear, would serve as an excellent complement to your riding pants. Or, if you wear jeans while street riding and you’re looking for some protection but don’t want to mess with a full-length pant, the 1300 or 2500 are for you.
Like all Crash Pads products, these two differ in their padding configurations. Depending on your riding type, one product may work better than another for you. For street riding we preferred the 2500, mostly due to the tailbone protection and larger coverage area. The pads on the 2500 are quite elaborate, with individual pads having several “breaks” or creases in each one. You can tell, just by looking at the 2500, how much time and effort went into ensuring the creases are in the right place. By that we mean, it will protect you but you won’t know it’s there until you need it.
The 1300 offers, what appears to be, a less exotic pad design where most of the protection on the sides. For extended periods of time the 1300 padding configuration may be more comfortable than the 2500 for this reason. One staffer noted this as being a bit more comfortable versus sitting on pads with the 2500, however test notes also stated, “At first the pads were a bit stiff”. However, the same tester later stated, “After wearing them for a while and getting them broken in, I noticed that they were a bit more flexible and even more comfortable with movement.”
The sweat pad on the 1300 seemed to garner various opinions. One of our test logs stated, “While riding and sitting up on the bike, they bunch up and at times giving a discomfort feeling.” Another staffer didn’t have a problem with it at all, in fact sang its praises in providing some additional padding in a “sensitive” area. The pad does serve a purpose, as to whether you find it a comfortable asset or nuisance appears to be a matter of opinion.
Almost a near split, the overall preference of our test group opted for the additional rear-end protection and tailbone protection of the 2500, despite it being designed for a more upright riding posture.
1200 vs. 2100
1200 Retail: $110
The 1200 is labeled as a “bike pant”. The 1200 integrates a moisture management anti-bacterial pad in the crotch area where the 2100 does not. We tend to believe the 1200 might be a better choice for the rider who likes to take their dirt bike out in the brush. The added shin protection would be invaluable.
2100 Retail: $85
The 2100 is also a pant, but the pad placement is considerably different. Most notably it integrates “sits” bones and tailbone protection. It deletes the calf and shin protection the 1200 offers. The 2100 does not have the moisture pad. According to Crash Pads, this product has proven popular with law enforcement “motor” officers who typically have nothing but a thick layer of hot and uncomfortable polyester between them and the pavement.
Comparison 1200 vs. 2100
Our staffers tended to lean toward the 2100. Both are non-restrictive as advertised, but the added rear-end protection is what we were most interested in. If a sportbike rider is going down, it’s going to be on the hips and rear end, probably not the shins. Also, if you’re wearing riding boots, you'll have to wrap your boots around the padding. For these reasons, the 2100 was our favorite.
Almost exclusively, we tested the 1200 and 2100 under jeans. It’s our belief most casual riders are looking for some protection while street riding, where wearing leathers or standard riding pants are too impractical. That’s not to say either of these products won’t work well under leathers, in fact Crash Pads tells TWF that many racers do use them. That notwithstanding, we opted for the jeans test.
Of all the Crash-Pads we tested, we had had the highest hopes for these; and they did live up to our expectations. No one at TWF had problems slipping on their favorite pair of jeans over the 1200 or 2100. Unless you wear Wranglers and a cowboy hat, you shouldn’t have a problem either. This is important because if either made the jeans tight, the non-restrictive qualities of the design are irrelevant.
The 2100 is a mesh fabric that breathes very well, though it’s a bit itchy at first on bare legs. Of course, jeans don’t breathe but at least the Crash-Pads aren’t like wearing thermal underwear. After sitting on your ride, the ½” and 5/8” high-density foam isn’t even noticeable. If you need to stop and get gas, or grab a bite to eat you don’t feel like you’re walking around in winter wear. If we could design a product that would give us protection from impact, abrasion and we would barely notice we were wearing it; the 2100 would be the product.
6000 Retail: $195
The 6000 is the upper body or torso protection product Crash Pads offers. It’s available in two styles, with and without the “tail” (tailbone protection). This is the most expensive item we tested, and we can certainly sympathize with those who only want to spend that amount on just a jacket, not supplementary protection. However consider the portability of the 6000. You can wear it under any existing gear and keep it as you buy new jackets over time; with that perspective the price is a bit more palatable.
If nothing else, when worn under your gear, the 6000 will make it look as if you’ve been spending a lot of time at the gym. There is a lot of padding in all the right places. We tried the 6000 under several styles of jackets: standard length leather, ¾ textile and a mesh jacket. Naturally, the added bulk under your jacket will restrict your movement somewhat, but this is no fault of the Crash Pads themselves. Most of us size our gear without accounting for anything under it. However, once in a riding position, it’s really not that noticeable.
The 6000 has nifty wrist loops that had us boggled at first; what were they for? Much like jacket liners have snaps to keep them in place, the 6000 has loops we wrapped around our wrists to prevent it from riding up our arms. We later found out these loops were intended to loop around the thumb; either way they work. These loops along with a large Velcro elastic “kidney” belt and a couple more Velcro straps on the forearm all work to keep the protection where it should be. The tail on our 6000 looked a bit strange sticking out of jeans, so most staffers just tucked it under the jeans.
If there’s one thing we’ve noticed testing upper body gear, it’s that the aggressive “hunched” stance on a sportbike has a predisposition to allow your gear to expose your lower back and choke you at the neck. Some manufactures (our Ku$hitani mesh comes to mind) integrate a belt loop in the lower rear of the jacket to keep the bottom down and not ride up your back. This can be particularly uncomfortable with a leather jacket choking you at the neck.
Consequently, we found the 6000 exposed to the same problem. It could have fallen victim to our other gear as we did note this phenomenon was less noticeable with the Ku$hitani mesh jacket we wore over the 6000. We would have liked to see a belt loop of some sort to keep this from happening, in fact all gear manufacturers please take note!
This minor issue should not detract from the otherwise transparent use of the 6000. By transparent we mean its non-restrictive design fulfills its promise; you can barely tell it’s there. This is impressive, considering over 50% of the product is covered with protective padding. The padding is minimal on the front, which means there is little to “bunch” up while hovering over the fuel tank.
Perhaps best of all, the 6000 wasn’t hot. The “moisture management” fabric, as Crash Pads refers to it, works very well. The effectiveness of our mesh jacket testing, with the 6000 underneath, resulted in only a minimal rise in temperature. For the added protection is gives the rider, we’ll gladly take this small trade off.
Care and Maintenance
Since we shared our Crash Pads, you’d better believe we ran through them washer before handing them over to the next tester. We threw them in, one at a time, on a delicate cycle in cold water and they came out just fine. Make sure you secure the Velcro before tossing them into the washer, or you may experience some premature wear; don’t ask us how we found out. Caring for them is easy, and it’s refreshing to know the crotch pad found in several of the products boasts and anti-bacterial property (particularly if you share them).
There are a lot of products on the market to protect the motorcycle rider. What you wear is a combination of the safety trade-offs you’re willing to accept, the cost of the gear, and how comfortable it is. Mind you, these characteristics are not always mutually exclusive. The cost of gear, typically, goes up with the margin of safety the gear offers. Limited by budgetary constraints, a lot of us opt for lesser-known brands or for gear with less protection.
What we found innovative about Crash Pads was not, just, their comfort or attention to detail. Rather, the ability to take any one of their products and make a jacket you can afford, something more akin to a jacket you wished you could afford. That is, added protection. The best part, being, the protection is portable to your next jacket. This is the value the products provide.
We feel Crash Pads fill a niche we’ve been interested in for some time, protection for the street rider. No one wants to suit up in full leathers for the ride into work, but donning a pair of Crash Pads under jeans is something most of us would be willing to do. And, it you do want some extra protection at the track, they will work just as well doing hot laps at your favorite venue.
For the versatility, design, comfort and application of the Crash Pads, we give our tested models thumbs up.
Visit Crash Pads online: http://www.crash-pads.com
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