Product name: Troy Lee Designs 7855 Armoured Shirt
Price paid: €150
Score (out of 10): 8
Amazingly the TLD7855 has been around now for 9 years !!
When I was looking for something to replace my Fox Titan which would be lighter, less restrictive, cooler and offered protection to a larger area of the upper body (I'd had a few off's which had left me severely bruised everywhere which wasn't armoured), it took me a while to convince myself to give this a go.
With all the newer reactive armours (viscoelastic) , lattice armours, honeycomb armours, memory foam armours - I imagined this would be dated, uncomfortable and ineffective.
Well, it's not !
When the box arrived I was convinced they'd shipped an empty box, it's that light.
I was then convinced they'd shipped me the children's version (they do a childs version) - it just looks like it's too small to fit on an adult body - or something vaguely resembling one anyway.
It fits on like a pullover/sweatshirt. Due to it's stretchability and the number of semi rigid armour pads dotted all over, the first couple of times you put it on you feel a bit like Houdini challenged to escape into a tiny action man straight jacket. Once you've done it a few times it becomes second nature and is pretty easy to slide into and wiggle the body section down your torso. No Zip means there's nothing to rub or catch and no Zip to break over time.
The elbow pads have an additional elasticated X brace which seems to do an excellent job of holding these in place and I've had no problems with them sliding out of the way despite numerous tests.
The armpits are cut out, so there's good ventilation around that area. Personally, I wear it with a very light decathlon running top underneath. Whilst the fabric doesn't feel like it should chafe, I find it does eventually cheese grater your nipples off - I think this is actually the holes in the armour rather than the fabric causing it. The other advantage to a very light base layer is that it makes it far easier to slip it off afterwards. I normally ride hard and get pretty sweaty whatever I'm wearing, if you wear it straight on your skin it requires a lot more contortion to remove it afterwards.
In terms of armour coverage, it's amazing. I don't think there's anything else which offers the same proportion of coverage. This is the rear :
On the front, all the panels you see are armoured, except the light grey areas which are open cell foam to let more air in. At the rear, the back sections, side and arm sections you can see are all armoured. So pretty much your whole upper body is protected.
For this product range of protection jacket/vest, there seem to be two types of armour used on different products.
Most (all I've seen) TLD 7855's are labelled as 7855HW - the HW is for Hot weather. The 7855's all seem to use the Shock Doctor twin density foam pads. These are a vented, tough but flexible foam, laminated with a smaller thinner much harder ventilated foam pad.
They've obviously put a lot of thought into it, as it's considerably more effective than you would imagine.
It also breaths really well. If you're out on a cold breezy day you can feel the cold whip though the vest.
You'd imagine those small holes wouldn't move much air, but by using "Tornado Vortex air control technology, the heat difference between your body and the outside air creates hundreds of miniature fast moving air tornado's sucking hundreds of cubic meters of cold air against your body every minute" - ok, I made that up, but it's the kind of bullcr4p I've got used to reading on everyone's made up armour descriptions. - In reality, it just seems to work.
Someone at TLD's bullsh1t department couldn't resist, as they did something similar for the other armour used on some of the vest versions (TLD 3900) of this product range (you can see it's not vented with the holes and appears to be much thinner) :
The pitch ....
Vent-trak moves air through flexible channels over skin surface to cool the athlete
Hex mesh disperses impact with a dimensional mesh construction that allows air to flow freely
I think my bullsh1t is better than their bullsh1t.
So back to the TLD7855.
I've been using this for about 9 months, it's been through more crashes than your average rider would have in several lifetimes. Until my latest big off, I've been injury free !
The Positives :
Cool (keeping in mind you're wearing a whole extra layer covered in foam).
None restrictive - you don't know you have it on.
Can be worn without a shirt over the top, this is normally how I use it unless it's cold - the elbows have a hard wear surface which has survived fine so far.
Most armour panels can be removed if you feel some are excessive to your needs. It also means you can change them or upgrade them with different types of armour if you wish to (another thread will be about this).
Selective panels can be removed if you use a neck brace.
Easy to wash. I normally throw it in on a cold wash with shoes and everything else and not had any problems. The shoulder panels sometimes pop out in the wash and need putting back in.
The Negatives :
Whilst it gives amazing all over body coverage. One short fall is the exclusion of removable armoured panels on the back three lower sections. As someone who fractured their pelvis last year in that area - I like armour there. A lot of people won't, so it would have been nice to have it, but still have the option to remove it. As mentioned there will be another thread about modifying/upgrading the TLD7855.
Also, it does lack high level protection to the Chest/Spine/Shoulders. This is fine for most off's, but my most recent one I crashed at speed chest first into a double tree stump, bounced and flipped into a tree and log pile, ricocheted off that and slid to a stop down trail and passed out from pain and unable to breath. The main injury from this was a couple of broken ribs from the tree stumps. In fairness to the 7855, if I'd not had it on I really wouldn't even begin to think what my injury's would have been. However, it does highlight the weakness of not having high level chest/shoulder/back armour for certain crashes.
In conclusion :
An amazing and comfortable protective shirt which gives effective protection to a huge amount of your upper body.
For anyone with concerns about hurting themselves in general offs I can't recommend this enough.
For anyone who's doing a lot of downhill, you probably want something with more effective solid armour chest/back/shoulder protection.
Size wise, it seems to fit true to size, BUT ! It is stretchy, so if you're not sure/on the edge, you'll probably get away with sizing down when it comes to stretching around shoulders/chest/upper arms.
Since my latest off I bought about a dozen different armour suits and vests as alternatives to replace/upgrade this. Incredibly, at the moment, I'm sticking with this as nothing else offers the same proportion of protection and nothing else is as cool, as comfortable or fits as well as the 7855.
I'll be reviewing some of the alternatives, but most sadly aren't even worth the time to write about them.
Other Products to consider in this style/range :
The TLD 3800 vest :
Similar system, but only protecting the upper part of the front of the torso and the upper sides/ribs. Seems to have no back armour or stomach armour.
The TLD 3900 VEST - 100 higher than the 3800 !!
Pretty much as the 3800 but with SOME back armour and reduced side protection compared to the 7855 and 7850.
Confusingly, lots of places show the TLD 3900 looking like it has a different plasticised exterior and thicker armour. This isn't what you get, this is some weird computer rendered image which exists purely to upset and confuse customers who buy it and think it's a bullet proof vest or life jacket.
Finally, the TLD7850.
The same as the 7855, but without the elbows. Also called the 7855SS (Short Sleeved).