So I’ve mentioned before that I’m a bit accident-prone. I’ve had plenty of scrapes from boarding but there was two really heavy hits. The first was just getting launched off my longboard (not the esk8) after something got jammed under one of my front wheels - landed on my leading hand and broke my scaphoid. I’ve had a few minor scrapes since then, keeping it in an ongoing state of crumbly swollenness.
The second was from my esk8. I got flipped backwards during some hard carving - landed on my shoulder then cracked my head hard backwards. No harm done beyond grazing and bruising thankfully but Triple Eight’s Gotham probably saved my life there. I saw Session Error’s video and thought, “yup, exactly like that”.
Then I had a near miss on a really short routine ride a few weeks back. I was cruising pretty slowly past some parked cars when some arsehole decided to open his car door on me. At that point I realised that een ongeluk zit in een klein hoekje.
So I wanted to share with you the research I’ve been doing into protective gear lately, maybe get your feedback and keep you posted on how these bits and pieces hold up over the course of time. (Can I also suggest that this subject could be a category of its own?)
First up, my guiding principles:
Gotta cover all of the usual danger areas: spine, tailbone, knees, elbows, wrist and hands.
That last bit is especially important for me considering the crumbly, swollen scaphoid.
And as much as I would love to rock a Ruroc, I have a feeling I’ll be needing regular replacements and the Gotham has already proved itself a worthy helmet.
I’d rather not look like I’m wearing protective gear.
Kortom, this sort of look is ongeschikt:
Pretend that money is no object
I figure that since I’m happy to shell out €1500 on a 40 km/h skateboard, maybe I shouldn’t feel like being too economical when it comes to protective gear. Plus, I can keep telling myself that all the gear can double-up for snowboarding protection as well.
Besides keeping it low-profile, the thing I struggled with the most was finding decent hand/wrist protection that also accommodates holding a remote.
When I got the Bamboo GT, I got myself a pair of the Flatland3D eSkate gloves. Let me tell you all now from bitter experience, these gloves are useless to all intents and purposes and absolutely not worth the €64(!) They’re f ck ng expensive and once you get past the marketing, I can’t see any good reason for it. Here’s what they look like after a few minor scrapes:
Two things to note:
- The material is not slijtvast in the slightest. These things fall apart if you look at them aggressively.
- Despite this “Knox Patented SPS (Scaphoid Protection System)”, they provide precious little by way of scaphoid protection.
(For those who don’t know, the scaphoid is a little bone in your hand located right below the plastic slider on the right-hand side of the picture. Pretty much exactly where that scuff-mark is.)
The general consensus on the various esk8 forums is all for the Loaded Freeride v7. All the pucks are removable so you can have yourself a remote-friendly hand and a slide-ready hand and they’re made out of abrasion-proof Cordura and Kevlar so they’ll definitely stand up to some grief. Now, I haven’t actually handled a pair to speak here with any authority here but I don’t get the feeling that that wrist support is really up to much and the Poron padding, while enough for some, probably isn’t going to give me and my scaphoid the protection it needs. They look a bit fat and hot and - most unsettling of all - you can’t use your touchscreen while you have them on.
Another honourable mention was for the Ennui City Brace, recommended by a guy with a scaphoid injury. The obvious gap there being that there is no finger protection - just like the Flatland3D glove, in fact!
At this point, I want to talk about materials. Pretty much all skateboarding protection gear uses either hard plastic and/or foam rubber of some description and neither are especially good. Hard plastic is… well, hard, and while it’s good for sliding and strong, protecting against sharp, jagged rocks or whatever, it’s inflexible, uncomfortable, hot and it doesn’t reduce impact force. It just passes it on. Foam rubber does do something to reduce the impact force but you need a lot of it do really make any difference. This is where non-Newtonian polymers come in (and why my search broadened to look at motocross, roller-hockey/derby and mountain biking).
The big name/brand in this market is D3O but there are certain other materials like SAS-TEC that apparently have similar properties. You’ll find plenty of videos on Youtube of people wearing D3O getting hit with hammers and frying pans and what-not but this one summarises it nicely. I tried a D3O elbow pad today. I repeatedly hit my elbow against a wall progessively harder and harder and can testify that it is pretty incredible stuff. The criticisms I’ve read are that it can become quite hot. There are also claims of it degrading with age. Don’t we all.
So I’ve decided on a suitably heavy-duty solution to hands and wrists. A veritable double-whammy…
Demon Flexmeter wrist guard (Double-sided) - €64
It’s got D3O right where I need it, a removable slider on the palm for remote-friendliness and otherwise maximum protection. Reports and reviews are pretty much all favourable mentioning that they’re pretty comfortable considering the size of them. It doesn’t exactly adhere to Principle #2, but I’m not taking any chances on this one.
That leaves the fingers…
Leatt Glove DBX 4.0 Lite - €53
These guys make some pretty awesome looking gear! These particular beauties are super-thin (important since they’ll be under the wrist guard), breathable and provide the necessary finger protection. Finger knuckles are protected by non-Newtonian foam and the palm-side material is grippy on the remote but not on the asphalt. Reviews from mountain bikers are overwhelmingly positive quoting their durability, comfort and protection. Most important of all, they are touch-screen compatible
The only down-side to these babies is that I can’t find them in stock anywhere in Europe
Richa Titan hoodie - €140
Zip-up biker hoodie with D3O back, elbow and shoulder protection.
I was actually pretty set on this idea until I tried it on today. It definitely passed the ‘smack my elbow into a wall’ test but it’s a pretty heavy piece of kit that’s designed to keep bikers warm~ish at speed. I think I’d zweet me een ongeluk in this badboy. The other thing was that the D3O pads are in a liner that I found didn’t necessarily hold the pad in the right place. There’s every chance of missing the pad entirely if you take a fall. Shame. I thought it could be the perfect candidate.
This lumberjack shirt was ruled out for the same reasons. The pictures make them look pretty slick but in reality they’re big heavy bastards.
Xion Jacket Freeride - €299
Under-jacket providing low-profile D3O protection on spine, lower back, shoulders and elbows. Xion’s stuff is reputedly the best there is for fit and comfort. I’m curious about the abrasion-resistance on the elbows since I’ll probably be wearing a t-shirt during the summer. Wish they did a cut-off option just under the elbows (…and ideally a cut-off option on that price tag ).
I tried to get in touch with Xion with a few questions last week and to ideally arrange a visit (they’re based in Amsterdam) since they don’t seem to have any resellers. No answer yet. Maybe it’s holiday time.
Demon Flexforce X V2 Jacket - €189
Under-jacket providing D3O padding on the shoulders, spine, and elbows plus SAS-TEC padding on the ribs and forearms. A much more attractive price-point but probably no abrasion-protection whatsoever on the elbows.
I’m reserving judgement on this until I hear back from Xion but I think that the Demon probably provides the best value for money here. What do you folks think? Are there other options I should consider?
- Biker jeans such as the Richa Epic - (€140- €199)
I was pretty impressed with these. They are completely covert. They’re slijtvast so both the jeans and your skin should still be looking good after a few bumps and scrapes. They provide D3O protection in the knees and hips but strangely none of them seem to provide any padding around the tailbone or butt-cheeks. Not happy with that.
Xion Bermuda Freeride - €249
Under-crackers providing low-profile D3O protection on tailbone, waist, hips and knees… and thighs.
This is a bit overkill for most I’d say but it’s definitely a one-stop solution. If you want to wear shorts, the knee-pads in the Bermuda’s probably wouldn’t stand up to any aggressive scrapes, and that’s not a risk worth taking at that price so the…
Xion Freeride shorts - €119
…might be the better option. These give you hip, tailbone and under-arse D3O protection for a far more reasonable price. Downside being that, without a flap or a zip, you can’t easily whip out the ouwe jongen when nature (or the lady) calls.
- Demon has just released their FlexForce X2 short with D3O on the tailbone and onder-billen plus extra foam padding around the hips and legs for $99/€85. I haven’t seen it for sale in EU yet but they’re looking pretty good. Demon shorts have been criticised for being a bit bulky with all that foam padding, which might be fine for snowboarding but maybe less so for (e)sk8ing.
For the sake of €35, I think that the Xion Freeride short will be the better option than the Demon. Again, waiting for some feedback from Xion before pulling the trigger on that and I’d love any input or feedback you folks have to offer here.
Which will mean I will then need knee pads…
Scott Soldier 2 - €80
These D3O knee pads have consistently good reviews for their lightweight durability, fit and impact protection.
POC Joint VPD 2.0 - €85
These better the Scotts on abrasion-resistance from their kevlar weave and the absolute best in impact protection. POC have their own proprietary non-Newtonian polymer in place of the D3O. This test shows just how good the impact protection is vs. other materials including D3O and SAS-TEC. The POCs actually transmit less impact force than the Scott Grenades - the model up from the Soldiers. They look pretty lo-key - no significant bulk or heavy branding. Bought them yesterday from Amazon. Looking forward to repeatedly smacking my knee against a wall and seeing how the wall holds up!
So the final score for comprehensive - and some might say, excessive - low-profile protection comes to around €500 (excl. helmet). Again, a lot of this gear will double-up for snowboarding and you’ll be guaranteed to win every bar-fight you get into on Friday night. I think that most will get some savings by going for the Loaded glove instead of my all-out hand/wrist protection but overall, I’m not sure this is such a high price to pay for the extra confidence and peace of mind.
Let me know what you think and please definitely share any experience you’ve got on the subject!