WHAT IS IT? The RXR Strongflex works like a typical chest protector, but with the added advantage of built-in airbags.
WHAT’S IT COST? $289.99, $54.99 (sticker kit).
WHAT STANDS OUT? Here’s a list of things that stand out with RXR’s Strongflex ASA body armor.
(1) Construction. The heart of the RXR Strongflex chest protector is the labyrinth air bladders in the front and back panels. The complex shape of the bladders is designed to maximize the cushioning effect of the air moving from one chamber to the next. The air bladders are separated from the rider’s body by a vacuum-molded foam liner (like those on most chest protectors). New to the latest generation of RXR protectors is the Strongflex outer cover. Instead of using hard plastic, as with most chest protectors, the Strongflex uses a “soft-touch” rubber cover that mimics the shape of hard plastic, but is made of Styrene Butadiene Rubber (SBR). It is strong enough to ward off roost, rocks and hard hits, but is flexible enough to allow the air bladders to be activated at the exact spot of the impact. Since it is “stronger” than the previous nylon cover yet “flexible,” RXR calls it Strongflex. RXR offers decal kits to spiff up the basic black, white or orange SBR covers.
(2) Pump. The Strongflex comes with its own digital air pump that fits on the front and rear Schrader valves. It only takes a few pumps to inflate the air bladders, and they work best when inflated to a low pressure. You don’t need them to be basketball-firm, since they will get firmer when they are compressed in a crash. You can use a bicycle pump, but not an air compressor. Be careful not to overinflate them, because the bladders won’t work as well and could pop. Most MXA test riders inflated the front less than the back and set the air level so that the pressure of one poking finger could just reach the skin.
(3) Protection. In MXA‘s opinion, this is the most protective chest protector made. Unlike a hard-shell protector, which only offers a few millimeters of foam padding between a rock and a soft place, the RXR Strongflex has a cushion of air. A concerned wife, mother, girlfriend, granny or father could rest easy if their loved one wore an RXR Strongflex. There is no doubt that the airbags absorb more impact than plastic. As an added plus, when the trapped air is compressed, it ramps up its resistance, which makes the RXR Strongflex active, as opposed to passive protection. When it comes to hitting the ground, nothing absorbs energy better than an airbag (300 million cars can’t be wrong).
(4) Adjustment. It easily accepts neck braces, thanks to shoulder straps that allow the front and rear sections to be moved up and down. There are adjustable side straps for closure around the body.
(5) Air valves. On the plus side, we like the Schrader valves?the previous RXR used basketball needle-style inflaters. On the negative side, we don’t know why RXR put the Schrader valve so high on the front of the chest protector. Although we never felt it when riding, we would occasionally bump our helmets into it when looking around on the starting line. Plus, the valve itself sticks up very high (higher than the SBR valve cover).
WHAT’S THE SQUAWK? MXA test riders had two complaints: (1) Heat. It has vents, but it runs hotter than a looser-fitting, hard-shell protector. (2) Consumer resistance. Every MXA test rider believed wholeheartedly in the ASA concept, but they were reluctant to race in it. They claimed that it made them look fat?especially the fat ones.
From a protection point of view, the RXR Strongflex deserves five stars. It works better than any chest protector on the market today?it just doesn’t look better.