...and it looks good anyway.
Knox are a British company who specialise in making armour and armoured clothing. That makes them very different from most other companies in the bike kit market, who are generally clothing manufacturers who include some armour in their products. And as a result, their protective kit is, well, perhaps a little more purposeful than some of the other stuff on the market. Knox are a company whose design philosophy might well be "Function over Form."
The Track Vest is their latest offering in upper body protection, and it combines their highy rated Aegis back protector with a mesh and lycra zip-up vest. You can also add a chest protector, which secures to a fat strip of velcro and gets held in by zip when it's all done up. You can have it in any colour you like as long as it's a slightly shiny two-tone grey, but as it's a vest and therefore intended to be worn under your other gear, that doesn't really matter. Looking over the vest, the stitching appears to be of good quality and without any raised bits to irritate, the zips are all top-end YKK stuff that shouldn't let you down and the overall design has been properly thought out. It goes without saying that, as proper protective kit, the Track Vest carries all the appropriate CE certification, which should mean that as well as looking reasonable it'll actually protect you as well.
Putting the vest on is dead easy. You just slip it on like a jacket and do up the zip. Then pull the side straps forward and velcro them as tight as you want. I know, it's a pretty simple garment to wear, but I guess I wanted to point out how easy it is, even compared to conventional back protectors. And when it comes to putting the next layer over it, things get better still. Wearing a usual back protector, I find putting one-piece leathers on to be an utter pain in the backside as I always end up with the back protector getting dragged into the wrong place. Not with this I don't - the vest is tight enough that everything stays where it should be and, as a result, leathers become easy to wear. Or at least to put on.
In use, the vest soon disappears into the background - really exactly what you want something like this to do. After all, when was the last time you actually noticed you were wearing something comfortable? At first you feel as though you're going to overheat really fast, but surprisingly the warmth that rapidly builds up never goes past being on the toasty side of pleasant, and as soon as you're moving then again you just don't notice anything. When things do heat up, the back protector unzips and you can pop the rest in the washing machine with impunity. And that's handy. That still counts when the optional chest protector is fitted. Yes, when you've got your leathers on you look somewhat as though you've done the Charles Atlas Mr Universe programme (you may need to look that up) but really that's a better look than many of us manage in our leathers the rest of the time...
While I'm dedicated, I didn't actually crash-test this kit. But for technical reasons I've had this, and been using it, for a year before being able to get the review up, and I still didn't find anything to criticise, while at the same time finding plenty to praise.
I've just done two days of pretty full-on riding on the track at Jerez. It was warm and quite fast, so I was certainly up to temperature myself as well as moving about a lot on the bike. I would honestly say that it was the hardest and most intensive test I could have done on the vest, and it performed faultlessly, remaining comfortable all the time. It didn't ride up and interfere with the back of my neck, as often happens, and I was able to put on and remove my leathers whenever I needed without a problem. I went from being happy with it to being genuinely impressed, which doesn't happen that often.
The Knox Track Vest is available in sizes from small to XXL, and you should be aware that it comes up on the snug side, especially if you add the optional chest protector. It's a bloody good piece of protective kit, it's made here in the UK and it might just save your life. Oh, and it's comfortable to wear all day.
At £149.99, plus another £19.99 for the chest protector, it sits at the upper end of the price range for body armour. But I'll tell you something. It deserves to. This is a seriously well designed and well made back protector, and I'd have no hesitation at all in recommending it.
The best place to get hold of Knox kit is on their webside - www.planet-knox.com - where you can get a sizing guide as well.