There is no question that wearing some sort of upper body protection while riding an ATV is a good idea. When we are doing our hard-core testing, we never leave ours behind. One question you might have, however is; are they all the same?
For the most part, each clothing manufacture offers a product that proudly displays that company’s logo. These injection molded plastic products are very similar and do offer good protection. No matter what, any properly fitting chest protector is better than no protection at all.
There is one such company from the great white north, Canada offering another option in upper body protection. The company is called Tekrider and their protection device goes by the name of a Tek Vest.
We got our hands on their ($300) Rally Sport model and, to say the least, we were curious to try the unique product out. Tekrider also has a lower cost Off Road Sport model ($200-$230), a child’s size ($129-$170), and individual shoulder pads ($60) as well as undergarment riding shorts ($140). A normal, plastic protector runs under $100.
What makes this unit so pricey is its features. First of all, the protection is provided by its 100 percent closed cell foam construction. The foam is covered by nylon on the inside and a polyester mesh on the outside. A semi-stiff plastic back brace and part of the polyester mesh is a bright orange color. A black tint dominates the rest of the product.
At a glance, it looks like a construction vest or even a marine life jacket. The closed cell foam actually offers some flotation, but not enough to make the vest a legal flotation device.
Additional features include four slim pockets up front and a convenient detachable key ring. On the back side, a snap closer pocket is situated to carry a hydration bladder. You could fit up to a 100ml water bag in it. There is also a drink tube holder over the left shoulder that should keep you from hunting for your refreshment. The bladder is not included.
The first thing we did before testing the Rally Sport vest was cut off the upper arm pads. We usually remove them on plastic chest protectors as well. On the Tek Vest, we couldn’t get them to fit under or over our jacket sleeves comfortably. They were also uncomfortable just riding over a jersey, just like with a standard protector. The lower priced Off-Road Sport model doesn’t incorporate the arm pads nor does it include the pockets or drink bladder holder. For the kids, the arm pads are included but no pockets or drink access either.
One of the best features we found on the Tek Vest is that it’s about the most comfortable piece of body armor we have ever used. The soft foam and nylon contour to the rider’s body very well. Unlike with a standard protector, this not only offers front protection and back support, it wraps around and protects the side of your rib cage as well. When wearing the vest you almost feel like your sporting a bulletproof vest.
On the trails, the Tek Vest offers comfort along with its added protection. The pockets are very convenient for caring small cameras, cash or even extra gloves. Protection from roosting rocks tree branches, and unexpected spills is on par with traditional protectors, and the garment doesn’t scratch like plastic models do. The Tek Vest can be cleaned by just tossing it in the washing machine with your dirty riding gear.
In addition to its price, the other downside to this product is that you become very hot wearing it. Since it was originally designed for snowmobile riders, we figured it would offer some protection from cold wind. However, it is downright hot to wear this thing if the temperature is above freezing.
We had several people try it out and they had the same reaction. Our testing was done in the winter with snow on the ground. On several occasions, we had to ride with the front zipper open to draw in some cold air. There’s no way we could wear it doing laps on a track without losing a few pounds of sweat in the process.
Although we loved the added side protection, fluids holder, pockets and comfortable soft framework of the Tek Vest, it could use some major venting. For extreme winter riding it is a viable product. While that small category may limit their market for sales, it won’t do as much harm as the high price. Contact (705) 488-2929 or visit www.tekvest.com