The Pro Sub 4 is one of the leading motorcycle back protectors on the market and the first to transmit less than 4 kN of force in the EN 1621-2:2003 standard testing scheme.
All of the latest Forcefield protection is now available, and we chose the Forcefield Pro Shirt and the Sport Lite 2 back protector for this review. Let’s take a look…
The Armor Habit
Quite a bit of technical information about back protectors has been published in the previous webBikeWorld reviews.
So I won’t repeat it here.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to wearing protection or “armor”.
First of all, if it isn’t comfortable, chances are you’re not going to wear it, so the “best” armor in the world is useless if it isn’t comfortable.
By the way, this is no different than it is for helmets, gloves, jackets, pants, boots…
That definition of comfort also includes the ease with which the rider can get into (and climb out of) the armor.
If the process of actually wearing the protective gear is a hassle, chances are it will remain on the hangar when it should be on your back.
That’s usually the one advantage of armor and padding that is built in to a jacket or pants — it’s always there, ready to go as soon as you put on the jacket.
The problem is that much of the armor or padding that comes with a jacket or pants is of questionable quality, sometimes added just so they can check off a feature box and say it’s in there.
We’ve seen too many jackets that claim “CE approved” armor is included, and it turns out the “armor” is rubber junk molded in some Fourth World garage (complete with a fake CE stamp).
Also, many jackets just don’t fit properly — or motorcycle riders buy clothing too big — so the armor and padding can move out of its protective position just when you need it the most.
Take a look at just about any motorcyclist you see — or any of the photographs in the advertisements for motorcycle clothing. Chances are, the clothing will be at least one size too big.
There’s one popular brand whose print advertisements repeatedly show riders with clothing at least two sizes too big for the wearer. It looks ridiculous to me and I sure hope that the subliminal message that the fit is OK isn’t getting through to readers.
Taking the time to wear an extra layer of protective gear adds time and effort to your riding preparation — and it’s not something most riders are willing to do — especially if you’re just riding to the store or to work.
But for sport riding, track days and general street work, sliding into a pair of armored pants and shirt doesn’t add much to the prep time (Note: The Pro Shirt is worn alone or over a T-shirt only).
And besides the security that comes with knowing the armor is correctly positioned and will (hopefully) stay that way, there is a certain sense of freedom in doing so and then wearing a jacket with the built-in armor removed.
The clothing seems to float over your body, which makes long-distance touring more comfortable in my opinion and can also help improve ventilation.
The Forcefield Pro Shirt
The Forcefield Pro Shirt is an update of the original Forcefield Action shirt (review) reviewed on webBikeWorld back in 2006. Six years is a long time and the Pro Shirt now uses the latest version of what Forcefield calls its “Nitrex Evo” protection technology.
Like all Forcefield Body Armour products, the Pro Shirt is CE approved.
This one has Level 1 protection in the shoulders and elbows, with additional Level 1 protectors for the chest. The built-in back protector is a Level 2 device; translation: that’s good.
The 2003 standard for EN1621-2 back protectors uses an impact energy of 50 joules to test the protector. The transmitted force has to be between 9 and 18 kN for Level 1. For Level 2 (back protectors), the transmitted force must be less than 9 kN.
The latest version of what is now called itrex Evo padding feels more supple and more comfortable than the stuff used in the 2006 Forcefield products we reviewed. The Pro Shirt is very comfortable — very comfortable indeed.
We were and are surprised at how comfortable it is — slip it on and the armor is form-fitting. In fact, I’d say it feels more comfortable than the built-in armor in most jackets.
The material used in the Forcefield back protector absorbs energy differently than other types; see the video below for a brief illustration of how the impact is absorbed.
I think this is a combination of the stretchy polyester “skin” that constitutes the body of the Pro Shirt, plus the form-fitting armor sections.
All I can say is, if all armor was this comfortable, a lot more riders would be wearing it! It makes me want to get a pair of the matching Forcefield Pro Pants to wear also.
The Pro Shirt is more comfortable to wear than the Forcefield Sport Lite 2 back protector (review)or other back protectors I’ve tried, which all have a waist belt that can feel a bit strange (especially if your stomach has a bit of middle-age stretch).
My feeling is that the Pro Shirt is a more “user friendly” way to wear protection and it’s more comfortable than wearing a separate back protector.
Forcefield makes an array of protective gear with different levels of protection based on your preference and use factors.
The Pro Shirt includes the removable Forcefield EC Level 2 back protector, while the rest of the protection meets Level 1 standards.
That includes built-in and removable shoulder and elbow armor and a pair of kidney-shaped chest protectors.
The Pro Shirt differs from the Action Shirt we reviewed in 2006 with the built-in back protector and chest protection in the Pro Shirt. The Action shirt has elbow and shoulder armor only.
Forcefield armor or padding has been specially developed by the company over many years. When it’s gently squeezed, the material has some give but it “hardens” when impacted.
Forcefield sent us some rubber balls to illustrate the differences; the black ball is made from the material used in the Forcefield protectors, while the orange balls represent a competitor’s product.
The black ball absorbs the shock and doesn’t bounce, while the orange ball doesn’t absorb much of the shock and reflects it back to the rider.
wBW Video: Forcefield vs. Competitor Armor Impact and Rebound
Sizing and Fit
The Pro Shirt is available in sizes ranging from XS to XL. The stretchy fabric gives the shirt some leeway with regards to fit; for example, the size large Pro Shirt fits the model in the photos, and he usually takes and XL.
But the shirt also fits me and I normally take a size large.
I think anyone with a 43″ to 45″ chest or so should be able to fit in the size large Pro Shirt. The sleeves are about 35″ and the stretch fabric helps adjust the size here also.
The sleeve cuffs are extra long and have built-in thumb holes, which help to keep the sleeves in place when you’re putting on a jacket. I don’t think the thumb holes are really necessary because the smooth fabric easily slides into a motorcycle jacket sleeve, but they’re included in case you need them.
A single zipper with nylon teeth and a metal runner secure the Pro Shirt in the front.
The sleeves seem designed to fit “average” sized biceps and forearms.
I have no problems squeezing my decidedly average-sized arms into the sleeves, but pumped-up riders may find the sleeves a bit tight. The fabric will stretch, but only so much.
Forcefield should make a “Big Boy” size with different proportions, although that might require more testing to meet EC standards?
The Forcefield Pro Shirt is comfortable and easy to wear. It includes just about all of the armor or protection a street rider could hope for and it keeps it properly located on your body for comfort and safety.
When the armor is removed from a motorcycle jacket and the Pro Shirt is worn underneath instead, the jacket feels more comfortable and seems to slide more easily over the Pro Shirt fabric, which gives a different feeling that is more comfortable.
Also, the jacket vents sometimes work more efficiently with the armor removed, an added bonus.
There is a downside: having to put on the Pro Shirt adds some time and effort to your ride preparation procedures, but the shirt slips on so easily that it’s worth the slight extra effort.
Also, riders with large biceps and/or forearms may find the fit a bit tight, so you might want to try one on first.