We just received an interesting question about interchangeable armored padding from our pal Captain Clownshoes a few days ago. Here’s his question:
"When shopping for gear, is armor interchangeable? What I mean is: let's say I'm buying something by Speed + Strength, as an example, but I want D3O or Forcefield CE armor. Can I just buy the armor separately and swap it for the factory S&S armor? Thank you for all the excellent info on your site!"
For the most part, Captain, the answer is yes. The key here is the particular size of the pockets that hold the existing armor in your gear. For example, if the S+S jacket has elbow pads or a back protector that is integrated into the jacket, then you will not be able to swap it out easily. But in most cases, gear manufacturers sew pockets into the lining of the riding gear, so it is very easy to pull out the thin, foam pads and replace them with body armor upgrades.
You mention the D3O products, which are used in Klim and Icon (among others), as well as the popular pads from Forcefield, but there are also upgrades available from Alpinestars and a few others. As a result of the misguided consumer demand for lighter, cheaper stuff that looks good – emphasis on cheaper – many manufacturers sacrifice function over form. So you will often need to invest in some high-tech armor and pads to get the right amount of protection from your gear.
If you are looking to upgrade your kit then, by all means, grab the improved armor and swap it out as soon as possible. Basically, if your gear has removable armor then you should be able to swap it out.
A few years back I picked up a nice Alpinestars Durban two-piece ADV suit. It came with a thin back pad and what looks like some type of foam padding in the knees, elbow and shoulder area. Less than a year later, Alpinestars started to offer the Bio Armor and Nucleon replacement pads. The new pads slipped into the existing pockets in less than five minutes and voila, the gear was significantly better.
Not all armor is created equal, so here is a look at the D3O pads. What is D3O technology and why should you want to swap your cheap foam pads for it? In a nutshell, the D3O armor is soft and flexible yet it becomes hard upon impact. (D3O is some of our favorite armor here at RideApart because it works and is relatively low-profile compared to some other armor, such as Knox –Ed) But this technology comes at a price and many manufacturers are not able to bring gear to market with these components in place. Here's a great video that shows the merits of D3O pads and armor.