One of the best vest-style body protectors we've tested
Designed for trail and enduro riding, this iXS Flow vest is arguably the most comfortable and invisible piece of protection that we’ve tested that comes with the higher protection rating. It’s unarguably some of the best body armour we’ve tested.
Constructed from thin, lightweight fabric with an internal pocket accommodating a slide-in back panel, it’s close in concept to the EVOC Protector Vest and Ion Scrub Amp Protection Vest products here but slightly more expensive than either.
The Flow’s padding covers a broad portion of the back and uses the brand’s own impact hardening material called ‘X-Matter’, which is both flexible and very effective at moulding to the spine’s shape by becoming almost squidgy once heated up by the body.
The iXS back panel is also articulated with bendy ridges (a bit like armadillo armour) to effectively trace body movements and twisting, and it’s apparently as tough as one too, being EU Level 2 rated, which means it can handle the kind of crashes you might suffer at motorbike, rather than push bike, speeds. The foam padding feels really thick and robust, but the excellent fit meant that it didn’t hang loose, so the whole package sat close to the body and remained slimline and unobtrusive underneath our riding kit.
The spine pad itself is also a practical shape that’s long enough to cover all vertebrae, with more width across the upper portion to protect shoulder blades and ribs, and a skinnier tail where riders’ bodies twist more lower down the back.
In a nod to practicality, there are twin stash pockets on either side of the back panel with room for riding essentials like gels, snacks or small tools, without impacting on comfort or function. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend carrying anything hard or sharp as it could dig into your kidneys in a crash, but if you’re after low-profile sleeveless back protection with the highest impact rating, this is a great option.
This Flow vest isn’t as light as some, but never feels bulky, heavy or inhibiting while pedalling, presumably aided by how well it stays close to the spine. Combine this with a body-hugging fit and soft fabrics with sorted cooling and moisture management, and it’s very easy to forget you’re wearing it most of the time. A further boost to this comfort is a finer mesh fabric panel above the backboard that does a good job dumping extra body heat out of the top.