An excellent protection vest from the motorcycle clothing giant.
Alpinestars’s Paragon Plus is one of the best MTB body armour vests on the market. It’s also £30 cheaper than POC’s VPD, but the basic design is almost identical, whereby a layered back protector threads inside a rear pocket on a micro-mesh sleeveless vest. Alpinestars’s back panel looks roughly the same thickness as the VPD too, but the weight difference between the pair of over 200g is down to the density of the padding, rather than just POC’s vest having a removable extra waist belt.
The stretchy Paragon has a nice snug fit and this vest has extra cargo capacity with three separate pockets to carry gear when riding, as well as the option to stuff a hydration bladder piggybacked in the sleeve where the removable back protection panel lives. The pockets on the flank are also padded, adding protection for a phone for example, and help stop items from digging-in in the event of any crash.
There’s a fabric loop to route a water hose over the shoulder if you do use a bladder (which can be really useful on alpine riding trips), but it only threads over on the left-hand side, which might bug some folk who prefer it on their right shoulder.
Alpinestars’s vest is well cut with a close fit and no awkward zip placement or sharp edges, but I felt the material is slightly ‘shinier’ and harder, and doesn’t feel quite as soft against skin as POC’s cushy fabric.
The back panel itself is Level 1 (bicycle) certified and also shares a very similar design philosophy to the POC with a three-layer sandwich where each inner layer is a little narrower, so the thickest part of the padding follows the spine down the middle. However, when taking out the back panel for washing, it’s not clear which way it goes back in – maybe it doesn’t matter? It’s also very easy to accidentally bend the tip of the padding over when stuffing it back in the vest.
Alpinestars’s vest is a great price and very comfortable, but the spine protector isn’t quite as secure and planted as some rivals. It can also ride up a bit at the back – this happened on a sub-zero day, which let freezing air blow across the small of the back.