RXR R-Pro Airbag Protector - Less Broken bones ?

RXR Protect was one company I missed when endlessly looking for the ultimate armour combination. Selling directly and focusing much of their promotional efforts on the MX world, they just didn't ever come up in comparisons or the multitude of online storefronts.

Meanwhile, searching - like falling off, hasn't stopped - so I've recently discovered them.

So who are RXR Protect?

RXR Protect are a relatively young (10 years) French company who make protection devices. Evolving from one man's dream to make more effective body protection, their chest protectors all revolve around their ASA system (Air Shock Absorber). To quote them :

"The ASA concept comes from a simple idea: How do we obtain the best protection? Protection is all about the absorption of a force exerted by an impact. The best way to increase the absorption of an element is to increase the deformation it can handle. Which element can handle the highest deformation? AIR" .

The ASA system is basically a polyurethane air bladder segmented into lots of individual pockets connected by tiny airways:

ASA Bullet Back Air Bladder

"Bullet" ASA Back protection Air Bladders

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R-Pro Elite ASA 3.0 chest and back Air Bladders

The newly released ASA 3.0 system was developed and manufactured in France. Their new facilities and the new design means they've begun to expand out from just chest and back protection into other body parts.

ASA in concept is a bit like a traditional airbag, except it's constantly inflated and it's design means it's significantly smaller and less bulky. It also doesn't need resetting or recharging after each use. It's possibly easier to think of it as supercharged bubble wrap ! Fortunately, it's considerably tougher than bubble wrap.

What's the ASA system used for ?

Primarily so far it's been used in chest and back protection. For MX and mountain bike protection, equitation protection and ballistic protection when used in conjunction with ballistic armour.

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An RX-01 designed to be worn under ballistic armour to reduce injury.

ASA 2.0 relied on a Schrader valve to inflate or adjust pressure in the bladder, there's also a pressure relief valve so it can't be over inflated:

RXR Inflation maintenance valve

ASA 2.0 maintenance valve

The development of ASA 3.0 eliminates the valve as the bladders are inflated during manufacture and sealed. This has the advantage of a much lower profile and a product which can be formed and used for elbows, knees, shoulders and possibly helmets. One negative side is that the 3.0 bladders should be re-conditioned after 24 months. You can order a re-conditioning kit for €59. I believe you can also send the bladders back for re-conditioning (presumably confirming the inflation pressure which is around 20psi). I have reached out to RXR but not heard back so will update the article when I know more.

For Mountain Biking?

There are hundreds of different options out there for upper body protection. Every option is a compromise in one way or another between the coverage and level of protection with comfort, weight, flexibility and heat.

RXR Protect offer four chest/back protectors suitable for mountain biking. They all make use of the ASA system combined with thermoformed EVA Foam chassis and a plastic outer armour to spread impact shock loadings.

RXR Protect Bullet

Bullet
RXR Protect Cyb-R

Cyb-R

The Bullet and the Cyb-R are both intended to be worn over a jersey. They both offer high levels of protection both in terms of the level of protection and the area covered. The Cyb-R is slightly slimmer than the bullet and in theory has more ventilation but ultimately it's more of a style choice. Both have PVC based bladders which inflate to 10psi.


RXR Protect R-Pro

R-Pro (ASA 2.0)
RXR Protect R-Pro Elite

R-Pro Elite (ASA 3.0)

The other two chest/back protectors are the R-Pro and the R-Pro Elite, the only difference being that the Elite has the new ASA 3.0 system with no protruding valves.

The R-Pro was designed so it could be worn under a jersey. The airbags are slimmer and the overall amount of protection offered is slightly less than the Bullet and the Cyb-R. However, the newer ASA bladders use a high resistance polymer instead of PVC, so the bladders are filled to 20psi instead of 10psi.

If you do want to be semi-stealthy and wear the top under a shirt, the valves don't help. They're not huge, but they do stick out. I live in constant fear that someone may mistake me for a mobile wine box and want to gorge themselves on me like a vampire.

One interesting thing RXR Protect offer is a whole range of customisation which is factory fitted when you order your chest protector.

RXR Cyb-R Colours
RXR Cyb-R More colours
RXR R-Pro Colours
RXR R-Pro More Colours

To be used in conjunction with any of the body protectors, RXR Protect also offer a shoulder/elbow protector called the Predator. If you order this at the same time it's €50, which I thought was pretty reasonable, especially compared to anything else out there you can buy or even the €99 if you buy it separately.

RXR Predator Front
RXR Predator Elbows
RXR Predator Protection

I really like the Predator ! I've tried a lot of base layers with armoured shoulders and elbows and they've all either been lacking in the degree of protection those parts offer, they don't hold the pads in the correct place or the material used to make the top has always been too warm when you're using it in conjunction with other tops.

The Predator, being a bra top(?!) Means that only enough of your body is covered to support the protection. On top of that the material used offers great breathability, the arm pits are cut out for full ventilation and if you decide it's just too hot that day, the elbows and lower arms are removable by using a zip. There's no thumb hole in the arms to hold the arm in place, but I've found it's always stayed where I've wanted it.

The armour pads are PU and by Enchess International - whom I've never heard of but they seem nicely made, not heavy (133g for a shoulder) and feel like they'd offer better protection on most falls than a D3O pad (91g). They give more area coverage than a D3O shoulder too and I prefer a shoulder pad which wraps around the shoulder a bit more :

D3O and Predator Protection.jpg

D30 and Predator Shoulder Protection
Predator Under Arm Ventilation.jpg

Predator Under Arm Ventilation

The pads form up nicely around the body after a couple of minutes. Initially my elbows were sitting a bit high, but once I'd tugged them down a couple of times they settled into place and stayed there.

Newtonian armour is great in theory, but from my various experiences, personally I prefer something which seems to dissipate and absorb impact energy and also has a degree of intrinsic resistance and strength. I have several D3O armour setups and have tried various alternatives like A-XOC's but I much prefer something which actually has some natural rigidity and strength to it.

They also offer a harness (€25) so you can separate the chest and the back and run the back solely as a back protector.

For me, one of the great things with the RXR system is it's modularity. Depending what you're doing and how and where you ride, you could wear just the shoulders, the shoulders and elbows. The shoulders elbows and just a back. Shoulders, elbows and the chest and back. Just the chest and back or even just the back on it's own.

OK enough small talk, what's it like?

My first problem was which one to get. At the time the Elite wasn't available, so that maybe made things easier - or possibly harder. I don't really like sticking out things because I don't enjoy the idea of snagging a branch. If the Elite was available, I'd probably have just gone for that. Though I was slightly torn as I like more, rather than less, protection and was concerned the R-Pro might be like duct taping bubble wrap and a cereal box to my body.

In the end, I went for the R-Pro as it still looked reasonably substantial and paired it with a Predator - which I was pretty excited about!

Ordering was easy - you put your height and weight in and it suggests sizing. Delivery was really quick and it even came in a pretty box and was far more carefully and thoughtfully packaged than any armour I've previously purchased AND it fits ! It also comes with a pump & spare bolts, though the bladders are pre-inflated.

Initial inspection was very positive. I've become quite specific on what I expect to see when I order body armour and most of the time it evokes a feeling of disappointment that it bares little resemblance to the pictures or descriptions which have influenced your decision to buy it.

To give an idea of how it looks :

RXR R-Pro Chest Protector

R-Pro chest protector with side clips in.
RXR Chest Protector Inside

R-Pro chest protector inside

RXR Pro back with flaps 1.jpg

R-Pro back protector with additional side protection attached.

You can run it with or without the additional side protection. I prefer to have it so I've only run it with the side protection in place. Initially, just on the velcro tabs, but once I was happy with it, attached with the extra fixings.

RXR Flaps 2.jpg

It shares the strap bolts
RXR Flaps 3.jpg

Remove the strap and insert
RXR Flaps 4.jpg

Bolt the strap back on

Comfort and Fit:

Basically, great. Easy to put on, the straps are reasonably easy to adjust and don't slip once set. The clips are simple, easy to use and just work.

The predator is the same, easy to put on and get it settled. If you're wet from sweat or rain, it's harder to take off like anything compression fit - psychologically, it's possibly harder than normal as you can just grab the body and pull it off - you need to grab an arm and slide it down.

The chest protector is well vented around the edges, but has limited/no airflow around the central regions. The ridges help, but they're not the same as direct air. I've tried it direct to skin which is comfortable, but felt too hot on climbs at 25c/humid. Wearing it with something wicking underneath or over the jersey both seemed better. Wearing it in the rain on a 20c day, it was great. You can't just add more holes though the central area as you'd puncture the air bladders, but there is scope to add some extra vents around the edges for next summer.

The all important air bladders are pre-inflated to a theoretical 20psi. I checked mine and my pressure relief valves open slightly higher, 25psi rear and 23psi front. So far, I haven't noticed any pressure loss.

Weight wise, a predator weighed in at 696g. Not hugely light, but not that heavy and you really didn't know you had it on. It even forms so well to the body that you can barely see you're wearing it.

The RXR R-Pro came in at 1084g with the side protection, 973g without. For comparison a Troy Lee TLD5955, which is tough and light, is 1121g with it's plastic shoulders attached.

My TLD7855 with upgrades is 870g, so for the level of protection, it's impressively light with the Air armour.

Protection:

This is where the RXR excels. As I said earlier, body protection is all about compromises. I think the RXR R-Pro offers more real world protection than anything I've tried before. An original Fox Titan probably gives more area of coverage, but it's bulky, hot and doesn't actually distribute or absorb impact energy anything like the RXR does. It's certainly warmer than something like a TLD7855, but pretty much anything else is, but the level of protection offered to the chest and back is orders of magnitude higher.

Unusually, I've only fallen off once whilst wearing it. The good news is that it was a hard fall on rocks. The better news is that I was uninjured. One shoulder was tight for three days afterwards, but considering the fall I was quite happy with that as a result.

In terms of real world protection, not just numbers from a lab, the R-Pro ticks all the boxes. I'm pretty sure if I'd been wearing it on various falls where I've broken ribs and collar bones I might actually have escaped without the breaks. I'm quite tempted to order a Cyb-R just to see what the extra protection is like.

Modifications:

I generally end up modifying most of my armour. This mod was actually suggested on the RXR website. Cutting two blocks out of the side protection panels and feeding the strap through for "comfort". It basically stops the side panels moving around, though in fairness I hadn't had any issues, I was just curious.

RXR Protection Comfort Modification


I plan to experiment with a few more holes around the chest air bladder. I can't help but think that just slightly more direct air flow nearer the centre will make it more comfortable on hot days. There are already several pre-formed vent holes in the foam, but there aren't corresponding holes in the bladder.

RXR R-Pro Chest Air Bladder

R-Pro with covers removed
RXR Chest Air Bladder removed

R-Pro with Bladder removed

It's good to know that everything you'd ever need to keep your Protector in use is available from RXR Protect :


Negatives

I don't really have any yet other than it could be cooler.

As the main way to purchase one of these, the website can be a bit fussy to find your way around (though it seems to be improving with information on a regular basis so presumably they have someone new or a new directive). Though several pages annoyingly play loud music when you open them, so either be on your own or mute your sound !
Cons
Can be warm in the chest on hotter days.
Pros
Very good protection.
Great pricing if you buy the Predator at the same time.
Easy to clean.
Full range of spare parts available.
Summary
A well thought out and dependable piece of upper body protection. Combined with the Predator it gives good coverage without inhibiting movement whilst giving you flexibility on how much you want to protect depending on the circumstances. Feels like they could do more with regard to air circulation in the central areas of the chest and the back.
About author
Zimmerframe
Self confessed Muppet and EMTB lover, based in France. Crash tests a lot.

Comments

Mate I bought one of these years ago for moto use , I still get ribbed about it now !
 
Mine was the best protection possible but was just so hot , I could wear it in summer for practice but not in a race . I found the protection was best when only half filled with air so it could flow around the bladder .
I couldn’t see myself using one for mtb use , maybe uplift days on my own 😂😂
Mine was the 1st version of this ;
 

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Mine was the best protection possible but was just so hot
WOW ! it looks like protection was their sole objective at the beginning, without much thought to comfort and practicality. It almost looks like a traditional air vest, but pre-inflated ! On the bright side, it looks like if you used it somewhere like Madeira and cycled off a sea top cliff, it would probably save you from drowning !
 
Created a thread with an airflow modification :

 
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