By David Alden
I’m always a bit apprehensive when it comes to testing safety gear. I mean, to test shoes you ride and walk around a lot, to test shifters and derailleurs you ride and shift a lot and so on. So am I supposed to crash to write a full and complete review on this stuff? When the box full of 661 safety gear arrived, that’s all I could ponder. But, when I laid all of the gear out, I figured that if I did go down, I was going to be pretty well covered. From the top, the gear includes the Full Bravo full-face helmet, the Straight Jacket chest protector, MTB knee&shin pads and DJ elbow pads. Pretty good coverage indeed. Over the course of testing this gear, I did three styles of riding. The first was downhill oriented freeride mountain bike rides, the second was a couple of days on my BMX bike at the local dirt jumps and the third was a few sessions at the new skate park that just opened in my hometown, also on my BMX bike.
Before I break it all down for you, I want to let you know that I’ve been riding BMX bikes for over 20 years, some of that professional freestyle. Add to that my time riding slalom and a little bit of DH, and that’s a lot of time spent encased in safety gear. With that in mind, here are my impressions on the 661 gear.
This is a one size fits all adult chest protector made out of a light weight Biofoam. Of all of the gear that I tested, I was most skeptical of this. It wasn’t a full coverage, hard shell chest protector like I’ve used in the past; this one was foam. I strapped it on and proceeded to punch myself in the chest several times (high-tech testing here…). Surprisingly, I had to hit myself pretty hard to feel it.
In the real world, I tried wearing this both over and under my shirt, and decided that I was a little cooler with it over my shirt. (When wearing it under my shirt I felt like I looked like I was trying to hide something anyway.) I say it was a “little” cooler because either way, it was warm. The wide open sides do help to keep you cool though.
This also has additional removable shoulder pads, by way of four snaps. I left mine in the whole time. They were small enough as to never be in the way, so I figured that even though I couldn’t imagine crashing on the tops of my shoulders, that I might as well keep them in there.
And speaking of crashing, lucky for you, while riding I slipped a pedal on a landing and I hit my chest on my bars. I didn’t hit hard, and I probably would have been okay, but with the Straight Jacket I barely felt a thing. This isn’t the full-bore chest protection that some other companies offer, but at $69.95, this isn’t as expensive either. It is on and off in a snap, fairly adjustable and pretty comfortable. Very large riders should try one on before ordering one though, just to be safe.
Contact: 661 (a division of the Valencia Sports Group—the same folks that bring you AXO gear), 28307 Industry Drive, Valencia, California, 91355; 661.257.2756; www.vsportgroup.com.