It was 99 degrees here yesterday. In weather like that there’s not a lot you can do to be truly comfortable on the ride – hot is hot is hot, and even the best-ventilated safety gear is going to feel stifling, especially when stopped. I’m not riding in this heat,* but anything in the 80s is okay as long as I get some airflow. My new back armor helps with that.

Knox armor is an industry standard in protective gear. That stuff is lifesaving, no doubt about it. It’s also rigid, unventilated, and pretty darned uncomfortable.

When I got my Corazzo Speedway jacket, a cheap eBay find, it came with a full set of Knox armor: elbows, shoulders and back. It was also just a smidge tighter than I liked. With the back protector removed, it fit just fine – but as a beginner I wasn’t anxious to have zero back protection, so I hit RevZilla for a substitute. A little overwhelmed with the selection, I used their excellent live chat feature to explain to one of their Gear Geeks what I wanted: light, flexible, and small enough for a petite girl in a size XS jacket.

The Geek recommended the Icon D3O Viper 2 Back Protector, and since it was priced at a very palatable $30, I went ahead and ordered. I did, after all, only spend $36 on the jacket. When it arrived, I was kind of shocked at exactly how flexible it was. The material was soft and forgiving and had some ventilation holes built in – but would it really protect as well as the sturdy Knox? Well, it’s CE Level 2 and I prefer to trust the rating rather than crash test it myself, so…

Although this is a one-size fits all protector, it fit fine in the pocket of my women’s XS Corazzo. The Geek had said it’s all right to trim these with sharp scissors if needed for a better fit, but it wasn’t necessary after all. With the new armor in place, my jacket fit a lot better and I was so much more comfortable than with the Knox armor. I’ve noticed the difference in the ventilation with the Icon armor as well. It’s pretty much a given that your back is going to get warm in this weather when you’re wearing… well, pretty much anything, let alone an armored riding jacket. But at least when you get moving, this armor allows a little airflow, where the foam Knox armor doesn’t.

The Speedway is my backup jacket now that I’ve finally found a Corazzo 5.0 in my size and in a color I wanted, and the first thing I did when the new jacket arrived was switch out the back protector. I suppose if I ever went racing or something (yeah, right) I might go back to the Knox armor, but you really can’t beat the improvement in comfort and airflow for a price like this. There’s also a CE Level 1 version that’s even a little lighter, and a “women’s” size of this same one I have… though to be honest I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any smaller because this fits just fine as it is.

I like it so much I added the matching elbow and shoulder protectors ($20 each set!) to my cart for my next RevZilla order so I can lighten the new jacket even more without compromising safety.

The high today is a much more palatable 85 F, but this is just the beginning of summer. Maybe I’ll grab one of these to slap on the instrument cluster… I do have the 12v power outlet now, after all.

Dual Dash Fan,, $27


* Not because it’s hot, because Lucrezia is still in the shop waiting on a replacement for a gasket that cracked under all the pressure from the overworked cooling system (I think). Of course, it’s the one very special gasket you must get directly from Piaggio and not from any supplier in this hemisphere, right? Of course it is.