The best motorcycle spine protector

Motorcycles & Powersports

Dianese produced the first back protector in 1979, but they didn’t catch on with many riders until racer Freddie Spencer crashed while wearing one at the World Championship at Kyalami, South Africa, and surprised spectators when he was able to walk away from the crash.

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Keeping your back safe on a motorcycle

In addition to a helmet, back armor is one of the most critical pieces of safety gear for motorcyclists. While many riding jackets come with arm and shoulder inserts, they don’t include the back protector, and you’ll have to purchase one separately.

Saving you time from researching yourself, we’ve compiled some of the best spine protectors for motorcycling. All of the recommendations come from well-respected brands in the motorcycling industry and meet stringent safety certification guidelines.  

Types of motorcycle spine protectors

Back protector inserts

Back protector inserts are designed to go in the large pocket in the back of your riding jacket. Most jackets come with a piece of foam already in that pocket, but it should be noted that this is usually a placeholder, and it doesn’t offer much, if any, protection. Instead, you need to buy the insert separately. Generally, you should choose a back protector size that correlates with the size of your jacket.

Strap-on back protectors

As the name implies, strap-on back protectors have a harness and can be worn independently of a motorcycle riding jacket. However, some people may choose to wear a strap-on protector in conjunction with their jacket and an insert for additional protection. This can be done with the strap-on protector over or under the jacket as per your preference. 

Motorcycle back protector safety ratings

When buying a back protector for motorcycling, you should only consider armor that is CE certified or approved. This certification comes in two levels, with each offering a different level of protection. 

CE Level 1: To achieve the CE Level 1 certification, a spine protector must transmit an average of 18 kilonewtons or less during testing and no more than 24 kilonewtons in a single value.

CE Level 2: To achieve the CE level 2 certification, a spine protector must transmit an average of 9 kilonewtons or less during testing and no more than 12 kilonewtons in a single value.

The fewer kilonewtons transmitted to the wearer, the better. Ideally, everyone would choose a level 2-certified protector, as it will keep them safer. However, they are thicker, heavier and more expensive, so some opt for Level 1 protectors despite the lower safety rating. 

The best spine protector for motorcycling

Best spine protector inserts

Dianese Pro-Armor

Dianese Pro-Armor

The Pro-Armor G1 manages to provide a high level of safety, with a CE Level 2 rating, coupled with excellent airflow thanks to its heavily perforated construction. It conforms comfortably to the shape of the wearer’s back and fits easily in most jackets.

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First Mfg Back Armor Protection Pad

First Mfg Back Armor Protection Pad

Offering excellent value, the CE-2 Back Armor comes for a budget-friendly price but doesn’t sacrifice protection. It provides good coverage of the posterior rib cage, has a low profile and is said to sustain repeated impacts without loss of performance.

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Dainese Manis D1

Dainese Manis D1

The articulating Manis is Dianese’s most flexible hard-shell protector. It comprises three layers: an injection-molded polypropylene exterior, a soft moisture-wicking inner material and crash-absorbent nitrile sandwiched between them.

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Alpinestars Nucleon KR-1i

Alpinestars Nucleon KR-1i

With a thin plastic shell running down the center, the KR-1i sacrifices very slightly on flexibility. Still, it adds an extra layer of protection that brings it down to a 6-kilonewton rating, making it a smart choice for anyone hyper-focused on safety.

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Alpinestars Nucleon KR-CELLi

Alpinestars Nucleon KR-CELLi

The KR-CELLi features a triple-segmented construction to offer the right balance of force dispersion and flexibility for most people. It conforms nicely to the wearer, allowing you to sit comfortably in a variety of riding positions.

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Universal CE2 Motorcycle Back Protector

Universal CE2 Motorcycle Back Protector

The C2 Back Protector comes with a unique design which is optimized for airflow and keeps you cool. This makes it a perfect fit for not just riding but also sports. Unfortunately, the unusual shape of this one means that it won’t fit in all jackets.

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Dainese Wave D1

Dainese Wave D1

One of the company’s most popular, versatile and affordable models, the Wave D1 is the go-to choice for many and fits in nearly every riding jacket imaginable. Unfortunately, it can be a bit stiff, as it doesn’t move laterally, and it only carries a CE Level 1 rating.

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Surlim Back Protector

Surlim Back Protector

If you are on a tight budget, this Surlim protector is a decent choice. It is soft and breathable, so most will find it comfortable, and while it isn’t the most protective, it’s significantly better than not wearing any armor.

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Scorpion EXO SAS-TEC

Scorpion EXO SAS-TEC

The EXO SAS-TEC offers full Level 2 protection across the spine and shoulder blades, making it superior to many others in the safety department. However, the ventilation could be better, so it isn’t ideal for riders who live in hot climates.

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Best strap-on spine protectors

ForceField Pro Sub 4

ForceField Pro Sub 4

Pro Sub 4 isn’t just a meaningless name for this protector. It refers to how it performed during CE testing. Transferring an average of just 4 kilonewtons or less , the ForceField Pro is one of the most protective options on the market.

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Dainese Pro Armor

Dainese Pro Armor

A heavily perforated design makes the Pro Armor ideal for warm-climate riding, while the segmented construction allows it to conform to the rider, not to hinder movement. It also has a thin profile yet still carries a CE Level 2 rating.

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Alpinestars Nucleon KR-3

Alpinestars Nucleon KR-3

A top-of-the-line option ideal for track use and offroad riding, the KR-3 covers the length of the spine with a hard-shell lattice and features removable rib protectors. The wide straps are effective for holding it securely in place, and they have a bit of extra padding at the connection point for added comfort.

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Alpinestars Nucleon KR-2

Alpinestars Nucleon KR-2

A good choice for adventure touring, the KR-2 is thin and lightweight enough that most riders will barely notice they are wearing it. The main drawback is that it isn’t temperature stable, so it drops from a CE Level 2 to a CE Level 1 rating in cold weather.

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Joe Rocket Speedmaster 2.0

Joe Rocket Speedmaster 2.0

If you have to choose a budget brand when buying your riding gear, Joe Rocket makes some of the best, and the Speedmaster 2.0 proves that. It is CE Level 2 approved, reasonably ventilated and costs a fraction of the price of most others.

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

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