The Inquest into the tragic death of Canadian rider Jordan McDonald last year at Nunney, which is reported upon in detail HERE, is very disturbing. He was wearing a body protector which did not meet BE’s required standard, Level 3, so he did not have the protection which might perhaps have saved him from the terrible injuries which made his resuscitation impossible.
The vest he was wearing would have been fine under Canadian rules, so he probably had absolutely no idea it wasn’t up to B.E. standards. 🙁 🙁 🙁
Unfortunately he is not the only rider to wear a substandard body protector, albeit unknowingly in his case. A fitter from a very well known manufacturer told me that he has seen top riders immediately cut a layer out of their new body protector, to make it more streamlined and lighter. Obviously this seriously compromises the protection it gives, and seems crazy… the weight saved would be absolutely negligible, and that extra layer of foam could be the difference between life and death.
Most body protectors which have sustained an impact (i.e. been fallen off in!) will have the foam in the areas of impact compromised. The foam compresses (which is not necessarily visible to the eye) and will not be as protective in future. It is a no-brainer to replace a hat after a significant impact, it should be the same with a body protector.
PVC-nitrile foam (which is what most body protectors are made of) also degrades over time. Plus, it degrades in heat, so shouldn’t be left in a car in summer, for example, or ever dried on a radiator.
There are body protectors on the market (such as the Kan and the Dainese) which are made of other types of foam, which do not degrade over time or stay compressed after an impact, so the rules for those are different.
Both of these makes have been developed from motorcycle rider protection.
Bike riders can come off at immense speeds, five or six times as fast as a horse rider would be travelling, so they need exceptional levels of protection. Plus, it’s a huge market so the budget is there to develop cutting edge materials into comfortable, super-protective kit for riders. I find it very comforting to wear something with that kind of technology in it!
HERE are BETA’s recommendations on body protectors. One of the most important is that they recommend bps be replaced every 3-5 years (again, this doesn’t apply to Kans or Dainese, which should make their higher price far more palatable!)
I wonder how many riders actually replace their body protector that frequently?
Please, check your body protector. Have a good think. How old is it? Has it undergone a significant impact? This is, shockingly, the second fairly recent rider fatality where the rider was wearing a substandard body protector.
Also, putting an airjacket over the top of a substandard body protector is definitely not the answer. Someone did that and she did not survive.
This is vital stuff. There are fantastic, very protective pieces of equipment out there, which really could save your life if the worse came to the worse. Please, consider them. Go and try some on, move around in them, pretend you’re riding XC, see how they feel, and update yours if it’s time. It could be the most important thing you ever do.