When I received a Trailknit Pro Armor Tee from Dainese earlier this summer, I couldn’t wait to take it to the bike park. However, this piece is actually aimed at enduro riders so I took it out on my local trails as well. The Tee left me feeling well protected in the park (and a bit warmer on the windy lifts), but I was impressed to find it was quite comfortable on the trails, and managed body heat much better than I expected.
I tested a size medium shirt, which fit me well at 5’9” and 145lbs. The body and sleeve lengths were both ideal, and the shoulder and back pads were positioned correctly on my frame. The Trailknit Pro Armor Tee is a snug-fitting garment that features compression areas and breathable micromesh panels. As a base layer, I’d anticipate riders will throw a jersey over top of this shirt. My looser-fitting jerseys easily slipped over (and partly concealed) the back protector pad.
The Tee’s body is made from an anti-pilling, abrasion and tear resistant Dryarn fabric. The fabric is not only durable, but is also bacteriostatic, hypoallergenic and resists odor buildup. Dainese kept most of the shirt completely seamless; There are just two seams where the sleeves connect and two more that attach the back pad’s pocket, but they never caused me any discomfort while riding.
As for the Tee’s protection, I was pleased to see Dainese’s clever Pro Armor construction in the shoulder pads. The pads are just a few mm’s thick, and are lightweight and well ventilated thanks to their heavily cut-out design.
The back protector is about an inch thick, but has Flexagon hexagonal cut-outs to help it bend around your back while you ride. I found the shoulder and back pads easy enough to remove and replace, and the tight fitting shirt kept them in position while I rode.
My first test ride was in the Whistler Bike Park on an overcast, breezy day of about 57°. The Tee kept me a bit warmer than usual as I rode the lifts, which was nice, but it also warms you up a few extra degrees while riding. The skintight fit keeps air from flowing around your core, so by the end of each run I’d be sweating a bit. That said, the shirt should remain comfortable for park laps until it gets really hot outside.
Two or three times I noticed the sleeves creeping into my armpits and gave them a little tug, but I realised this only happened while I was standing in the lift line – with your hands on your handlebars your arms are opened up enough that armpit bunching never became an issue while riding.
I experienced no discomfort from the shoulder or back pads. The back pad flexed well enough that I never felt any resistance or stiffness from it while riding, but despite its airy mesh surface it does produce a hot spot that I’d say is comparable to a good hydration pack.
Since this base layer is actually meant for enduro riding, I took it to the trails. On one sunny Sunday I wore the Pro Armor Tee with all it’s padding in place for a 2.5hr loop, cooled down with some post-ride refreshments at the local brewery, then pedaled about four miles home. I must say, the shirt exceeded my expectations.
The shoulder and back pads all remained in place, the sleeves didn’t bunch up in my armpits at all, and most importantly it wasn’t as hot as I expected. I was a sunny 63° that day, and while the shirt is warmer than any jersey I remained comfortable. It’s definitely not ideal for 85+ degree rides, but I think you could wear the Pro-Armor Tee in higher temps than I did.
I later realized how well the Tee manages moisture; after a ride, I only noticed how sweaty my lower back had become when I saw the wet patch left by my hip pack. During the ride the Dryarn fabric kept my skin from feeling wet or clammy. So far, the shirt has resisted odor buildup quite effectively too.
I am a hydration pack guy, but I assumed wearing one on top of the back protector would be a little uncomfortable. I was happy to find that a hip pack worked just fine, sitting far enough below the Pro Armor Tee’s back protector that they didn’t interfere with each other.
The back protector’s Flexagon cutouts won’t perfectly contour the pad to your back, but at no point throughout climbing, traversing and descending did I find the protector limiting my motion. I’m also happy to report that the large pad feels fairly lightweight on your back.
If you’re looking for some extra crash protection, Dainese’s Trailknit Pro Armor Tee has your spine and shoulders covered in a comfortable way. The Tee sells for $189.99 USD, and comes in Black only. Men’s sizes range from XS-XL.