Saturday, January 25, 2014

Alpinestars Bionic 2 vs Thor Impact Rig Protection Jackets / Compression Suits.

I've been wearing a Thor Impact Rig SE for a while and decided it was time for a change.  The Impact Rig has been great, but I wanted to try something else, preferably something just as light and with higher CE ratings. A couple jackets I tried were really warm and/or heavy (like the Leatt) and so I rejected them. The Dianese Light Wave jacket also looked very nice, but the back protector features an aluminum honeycomb that crushes during an impact and isn't reusable. Very cool for the street, but not so good in the dirt where I crash regularly.

For reference, I'm 140 lbs and 5'5". I wear a 36 short jacket.

Thor Impact Rig SE
size S/M
This jacket has served me well.
Some notes:
I weighed it: 52 oz. The jacket fit me very well and I like that the shoulders felt slim and close. I always wore thin synthetic sports shirt under the Impact Rig and if it was cold I wore a turtleneck underneath. I wore my jersey over the Rig but it was impossible to tuck my jersey into my pants as the Impact Rig would get in the way. I had no trouble wearing a hydration backpack on top of everything. When I first bought it I had been aware from reviews that the zippers holding the kidney belt on would come undone, and sure enough it was a problem. I just sewed them permanently closed. I also found that the kidney belt would sometimes creep up over my rib cage. I liked the off center zipper because it allowed a full chest plate. The back protector is removable, but I've never removed it.
I've owned the Thor long enough that I've had to figure out how to clean it. The solution I found was that I just hosed it off and then hung it to dry. That seemed to work adequately.
The Thor web site claims the Impact Rig SE is CE "approved" but provides no specs. Frankly, the padding is thin. It worked fine in my tumbles, but I really wanted to upgrade to something more protective.

Alpinestars Bionic 2 Protection Jacket
size S
I was shocked when I weighed the Bionic 2 that it was also 52 oz, no heavier than the Thor Impact Rig. The shoulder and elbow protection is CE certified. And the removable back protector has level 2 CE certification. The main zipper divides the chest plate in the center... I was a bit unhappy with this and it leaves the center of your chest unpadded. When I first tried on the size "small" Bionic 2 it felt very snug, almost too tight, but I soon decided it was just the right size for me. (If you are larger than me go for the "medium").  Compared to the Thor, the shoulders feel bigger but disappeared as soon as I started riding. The fabric between the protective pieces is an open mesh which promises to be cool and breezy.
I've now ridden with the Bionic 2 a couple times for several hundred dirt miles. I wear it as I did the Thor, over a synthetic sport t-shirt or turtleneck and under my jersey. The back protector ends up going over the rear belt line of my pants and the Jersey is untucked. No problem wearing a hydration backpack.  I've taken a couple falls and one hard blow to a shoulder and I've been very pleased with the protection. It does appear to be superior padding compared to the Thor. While the shoulders feel bit bulkier, they disappear when riding. I spent two full days riding and hanging out wearing the Bionic 2 last weekend while at a riding school and had no comfort problems. Frankly, I didn't even think of it, which is perfect. I didn't even take it off for lunch, although it was obviously a bit more awkward in a chair.

I think both of these jackets worked fine for me. The zippers on the Thor's kidney belt need to be sewed up so they don't come loose. In my opinion, the Alpinestars Bionic 2 seems to offer better impact protection, except in the center of the chest where the zipper is. Neither jacket offers much protection for your your lower sides, except for the fabric of the kidney belt. The Bionic 2 might be a bit cooler in hot weather due to the open mesh fabric.

Thor from the front.

Alpinestars from the front. Note the split center and that the shoulders seem a bit wider.

Thor back:

Alpinestars protector seems to go further down the back:

PS: Living in warm San Diego I've seen street riders wearing these instead of a real jacket... that is a big mistake! These provide some impact protection but don't help with abrasion. I suspect in street fall the protection would be torn off or holed within a few feet of sliding so get a leather jacket to wear over it on the street!


  1. Nice great this article and good protector jackets when i have start the racing so i have wear leather suit and with under the full protection jacket for their body protection. These provide some impact protection but don't help with abrasion. I suspect in street fall the protection would be torn off or holed within a few feet of sliding so get a leather jacket to wear over it on the street!

  2. Great comparison! I appreciate your thorough review of both jackets. As a fellow rider, I understand the importance of safety gear. The Alpinestars Bionic 2 seems like a solid choice with better impact protection. Thanks for sharing your experiences and insights! Ride safe