Since I’m the resident “off-road” guy at Keefer Inc. it's only appropriate that I am also an avid chest protector wearer. Ever since I was a little guy I’ve worn chest protectors. Everything from the crop top looking JT of the 80’s, to the knight in shining armor bulky Thor of the 90’s. I’ve worn them all so I know what I like and don’t like. My current chest protector was showing signs of age, so Keefer mentioned that he had tried the Alpinestars A-1 roost guard and he was impressed. I looked more into the Alpinestars product line and came across the A-4. When it comes to chest protectors I’m a bit picky in terms of fit, comfort, and compatibility with over/under jersey wearing, as well as being able to use a hydration pack.
In terms of fit, the strapping system was pretty straight forward. There is a wide Velcro strap on each side that comes from the back and wraps around your side, giving you a nice hugging sensation. Once those are strapped there is an elastic strap on each side that clips onto the front of the chest pro and keeps everything in place. Something I wasn’t a huge fan of was the long back plate on the A-4. It felt excessively long and went down too far near my rear end. When worn over the jersey this wasn’t a huge deal (although in my opinion it still looks too long), but when worn under the jersey, the end of the chest pro was below my pant line, which caused a weird bunching when riding. When it comes to comfort (over the jersey) the A-4 is extremely comfortable and not bothersome. The A-4 feels like you’re being hugged in a good way and not too restrictive to my riding technique. There are no pressure points or uncomfortable areas when I’m moving around on the bike, which is important to me. The A-4 does not come with upper arm protectors and for me that’s just fine because I find them cumbersome. I end up always removing them on chest protectors anyway that come with them. One thing I think the A-4 could benefit from is a little bit of plastic protection on the shoulders. There are thin foam pads over the shoulders, which in most cases is fine, but I think a little added protection in that area would be a plus. That being said, when wearing a hydration pack, sometimes plastic shoulder protection can cause your hydration pack straps to bunch up and become uncomfortable, that’s not the case with the A-4. When wearing a hydration pack it feels very comfortable and feels like it’s part of the chest protector because the straps can lay flat over the foam shoulder pads.
After logging many miles with the A-4 both on the track as well as on the trail, I’m very happy with the overall performance and it has now become my go to chest protector. Although it’s advertised as an over or under the jersey protector, for me it’s much better when worn over the jersey. If you’re a diehard under the jersey guy, Alpinestars makes the A-1 which is more minimal (and Keefer’s favorite under protector). If you feel like you want added protection they make the A-10 which is a full chest protector. On top of that they also make a full line of other armor protection as well. Another perk to buying Alpinestars protection is that it doesn’t matter if you mix it with other gear brands because they are one of the few companies that are given a pardon when being worn with other gear brands. This means you don’t have to be worried about having “clashing gear” out on the trail (if you care about that kind of thing). At $179.95 it may not be the cheapest, but if you’re in the market for a new chest protector, give Alpinestars a look. They most likely have something that will fit your needs no matter how much protection your riding style requires. -Michael Allen