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The best mountain bike spine protector

Mountain bike back protector

Your spine not only gives you support, but it also protects the column of nerves, which connect your brain to the rest of your body. These nerves enable you to function. If you are engaged in any activity that threatens your back, you need a spine protector.

Mountain biking is one of those activities. The path is often treacherous, and you are traveling at speeds that significantly reduce your ability to be cautious. The terrain is filled with hazards ranging from stumps and logs to roots and sharp rocks. This article will take an in-depth look at all the aspects of using a spine protector.

Why and when to wear a spine protector

Why wearing a spine protector is important

Many mountain bike riders wouldn't even consider getting on their bike without essentials such as a helmet, eye protection, gloves, elbow pads, knee pads, high socks and more. Spine protectors are often overlooked.

A spine protector protects the wearer in two particular ways. First, if you take a tumble, the device is designed to absorb and disperse the impact to reduce injury severity. Secondly, it serves as a shield to help protect you from sharp objects, such as sticks and jagged rocks that would otherwise scratch or pierce your skin.

When to wear a spine protector

You should consider adding spine protection to your protective gear whenever you are riding downhill or on hazardous terrain. The faster you are traveling, the more significant any impact will be. Additionally, the risk of permanent injury is increased by hazards such as rocks, tree stumps, logs or anything else that would impact a smaller area of your body.

How do I know if a spine protector is any good?

The best (and only) way to know what your spine protector is capable of is to check and see if it has been tested for performance and rated. The current standard for spine protection is EN-1621-2. The Conformitè Europëenne has designated two distinct levels of performance for spine protective armor, so you know exactly how much protection your device will provide.

A spine protector is tested by dropping an anvil of a specific shape and weight from a designated height to see how it performs. The average peak force transmitted through the spine protector must stay below a certain threshold to verify its performance. There are two levels recognized by the CE: Level 1 and Level 2. For those interested in specifics, for Level 1, that force is 18 kilonewtons; for Level 2, that force is halved.

Unfortunately, although the U.S. uses the CE as guidelines, it hasn't officially adopted the standards, so not all products being sold are CE Mark certified. This doesn't necessarily mean a product is inferior; it just means the company chose not to apply for certification since it isn't mandatory. To ensure the spine protector you are buying is safe, you will need to do additional research if it doesn't have a CE marking. 

How a spine protector should fit

A spine protector should extend from the base of your neck to your tailbone, covering your C4 to your L5 vertebrae. However, when choosing your spine protector, make sure the top doesn't interfere with your helmet, and the bottom allows you to sit comfortably. 

Different types of spine protectors

There are two main types of spine protectors: soft protectors and hard protectors.

Soft protectors: A soft spine protector is often made out of layered polymer foam that can adjust more quickly to a rider's movements. The rider's heat helps the polymer conform to the body. When there is an impact, the foam absorbs that impact. 

After impact, a polymer will eventually regain its original shape. A soft spine protector that is made out of polystyrene, however, must be replaced after impact. Instead of expanding to absorb the impact, this material stiffens, making it better for harsher impacts.

Hard protectors: If you prefer a less elastic plastic, such as polypropylene or polycarbonate, these materials will not absorb impact as well as soft protectors. On the plus side, these materials effectively protect the rider from sharp, jagged or pointed objects such as sticks and stones.

Best spine protectors for mountain biking

POC Mountain Biking Armor

This product is manufactured using visco-elastic polymer-dough, which conforms to your body when worn, but stiffens under impact. The armor features the greatest protection down your spine but can also help guard your kidneys and shoulder blades. 

Where to  buy: Sold by Amazon and Backcountry


POC Back Protector

This model features a minimal design but is still certified to EN 1621-2 Level 2 standards. The versatile, lightweight spine armor straps on to your back and doesn't inhibit your range of motion. The shoulder and waist straps are adjustable so that you can customize the fit.

Where to  buy: Sold by Amazon and Backcountry

PELLOR Anti-Fall Vest

If you prefer something that is designed to protect both your chest and your spine, this impact-resistant polyethylene vest will be more to your liking. This is a budget offering, and the company does not specify if it meets EN-1621-2 standards.

Where to  buy: Sold by Amazon

POC Spine Protector Backpack

For individuals looking for a little more than a spine protector, this backpack features a tool pocket, a phone pocket and a three-liter hydration pocket. It is water- and dirt-resistant, and it is designed to be exposed to the elements. The spine protection is certified to EN 1621-2 Level 2 standards.

Where to  buy: Sold by Amazon and Backcountry


Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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