ArmaUrto Impact Pro Base Layer review
Does road cycling need motorcycle-standard impact resistance?
ArmaUrto Impact Pro Base Layer is pretty unique in offering impact and abrasion resistance for road riders. Although it might feel a little bulky when initially put on, I found I hardly noticed it when riding. Its large and visible profile does make it quite obvious it is being worn and this indiscrete nature does make me feel a little reserved about using it.
Built in abrasion and impact resistance
The inserts are quite bulky
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Given the speeds it’s possible to reach on a bike, it is quite incredible that the only form of protection most of us wear is a helmet.
>>>Read more: Cycling and safety
Part of this is down to availability, it’s a lot more difficult to create protective clothing for a cyclist than the rider of the motor-powered vehicle and as a consequence there aren’t many options to choose from. Breathability, freedom of movement and lightness are quite difficult qualities to blend with impact and abrasion protection.
But there are some brands that are taking up the mantel. ArmaUrto is a British based company and which was founded after its founder, Chris Battin, suffered broken bones and various abrasions in a cycling accident. The Impact Pro Base Layer is designed to protect the upper body, but there are complimentary shorts too.
Impact Pro Base Layer: Construction
Total protection would be impractically restrictive, so the protective inserts are placed only on the areas where most impacts and injuries occur, so on the shoulders and elbows.
These pads are 4mm thick and meet the standard for an EN1621 rating, which is the system used for assessing the protection of motorcycle clothing. As part of this, up to 80% of impact energy is said to be dissipated by the pads.
Unusually for a base layer, this one comes with ¾ sleeves. The extra length is required so it extends past the elbow and provides protection to this highly vulnerable area. But in order to make the application of this base layer as broad as possible, ArmaUrto has minimised material where it can, to make the base layer as breathable as possible.
The fabric used is definitely a testament to that, being a very thin open mesh employed so as to maximise breathability. The result is quite a juxtaposition when you hold it in your hand between the freely flowing fabric and the firm feel of the pads.
With the fabric being so fine and light, when first pulling on the base layer, it does take a second to then adjust the pads to get them to line up in the right places. But once everything is in place, they do at least stay there. A tighter fitting jersey certainly helps with this, but even with baggier options, I never had any trouble with them moving about.
First impressions wise, it did feel a little bulky, with my shoulders being broadened significantly and the elbow pads feeling a little cumbersome and splaying outwards when flexing my arms. But really, don’t be put off by the first impressions – especially if you’re trying it on for size the first time.
Because, when riding, it was really was surprising just how little I noticed the pads. This is perhaps fairly initiative with the elbow pads, as you’re rarely going to flex your arms more than 90° in any situation when riding. But even with the shoulder pads, once out on the road and the trails, they never really distracted me from the ride.
I’ve been riding with this base layer through the winter and the ¾ sleeves are a little bit of a frustration when pulling a long sleeve jersey over the top. It’s very hard to grab the cuffs of the base layer the way I would with a full length one to stop the sleeves riding up. But on the other hand, I can definitely see myself appreciating the minimal material in the summer, though once short sleeves come around new issues would present themselves.
The open mesh does allow for a very good amount of airflow. When on the bike and in the zone, the Impact Pro Base Layer does perform really well.
It’s when off the bike and riding with others that I notice the pads most. Unlike the shorts – which are quite discrete – it is very obvious that this base layer is being worn and it does stand out. This item might lend itself more to a commute, when stops with friends are less likely, and a losser jacket over the top may obscure the pads.
There is very little to compare this to, as there isn’t really much like it on the market for road cycling. Protective base layers are quite common in downhill mountain biking, but these are generally far too bulky and hot for road cycling.
On the more lightweight end of this spectrum is the Alpinestars Paragon Lite Protection Long Sleeve Jacket at £170, but this is still significantly heavier built than the Impact Pro Base Layer and misses the mark for road cycling.
DSM Protective Materials has been working in collaboration with Craft and Team Sunweb to integrate Dyneema fibres into abrasion resistant jerseys, but it is difficult to find ones that are currently available to consumers. This technology also won’t provide the impact resistance present in the ArmaUrto Impact Pro Base Layer
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After winning the 2019 National Single-Speed Cross-Country Mountain Biking Championships and claiming the plushie unicorn (true story), Stefan swapped the flat-bars for drop-bars and has never looked back.
Since then, he’s earnt his 2ⁿᵈ cat racing licence in his first season racing as a third, completed the South Downs Double in under 20 hours and Everested in under 12.
But his favourite rides are multiday bikepacking trips, with all the huge amount of cycling tech and long days spent exploring new roads and trails - as well as histories and cultures. Most recently, he’s spent two weeks riding from Budapest into the mountains of Slovakia.
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