PRODUCT: Forcefield’s Airo vest is just that, an off-road riding vest that incorporates CE-approved back and chest protectors (protective panels) into a zip-front sleeveless garment that has been designed to make the rider feel as though they are not wearing armor. The removable back and chest armor is made from a mixture of NitrexEvo and M15 that combines high levels of impact shock absorption with low-profile, flexible, breathable and Repeat Performance Technology (RPT) to ensure continued and consistent protection even after multiple impacts. The back protector is secured in place when being worn with an adjustable waist belt that allows you to fine-tune the position for a tighter fit (or remove completely if so desired). It is constructed from the Coolmax Extreme fabric, which effectively moves perspiration away from the body and through the vest, where it can evaporate quickly. It has a zip front with two hand pockets.
POSITIVE: Several on our staff are big vest wearers when going off-road. It’s a great way to keep your core warm, and for some of us it offers pockets in which to put…stuff. Fog cloths, reading glasses (some of us need them to work on our bikes on the trail) and phones all find their way into easy-access vest pockets. But when you add a chest protector and a water system to the mix, pretty soon you feel like the Michelin Man. The Forcefield Airo vest incorporates protective panels in the chest and entire length of your back so you don’t have to wear a full chest and back protector when off-roading.
When our XL version came (we actually prefer a larger XXL), the fit was bicycle-like snug. The armor panels weren’t really noticed, and the inside belt (almost like a kidney belt) was a nice feature that kept the unit in touch with your upper torso. Once we started riding, even with a Leatt water system, the fit and feel was only marginally thicker than a regular Moose or Fly riding vest. The zipper was nice, but the cut was a bit long, with the back protective panel most definitely riding over the back of your pants.
NEGATIVE: Two out of three testers complained about getting hot (the weather was in the mid-60s), thinking that they’d like additional airflow. Tom Webb didn’t snivel here, though, he did want larger pockets up front and maybe an additional one on top. One tester (older and a definite shoulder pad wearer) would have liked to have shoulder pads. The Airo does not have any shoulder protection. And priced at $274, it’s a serious investment for a guy who is absolutely consumed with protection and ease of mobility.
BOTTOM LINE: Webb loves the Airo vest. He’s not overly affected by heat, so that aspect doesn’t bother him, and he likes the road-racer-like, CE-approved polymer and Nitrile rubber protection panels. It’s washable (once you take out the panels), it does actually breathe thanks to the Coolmax material, and, other than the small pockets, its a very workmanlike protective garment. Yes, it’s a little warm, but not having to don shoulder pads every time you hit the trail in vest weather makes the Forcefield Airo vest a keeper.