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The ArmaUrto Impact Pro Base Layer Elite offers protection to your elbows and shoulders in the event of a crash. The ARMA padding is claimed to absorb 80 per cent of impacts as well as reducing road rash and hence reducing time off the bike. I found it comfortable to wear, not hampering my performance, and ideal for icy rides, commutes and some crit racing. The 3/4-length sleeves mean it's best suited to wearing under long-sleeved outer garments, and it's easy to forget you're wearing it when the temperature is below the mid teens.
Hitting the deck is one of the major drawbacks of cycling and whether you're a seasoned racer, weekend warrior or commute by bike, it all hurts the same and can lead to significant time off riding. Over the years we've seen several brands try to minimise the potential impact of these crashes with clothing such as team DSM's Dyneema-infused jersey or Castelli's Free Protect bib shorts with double layered panels over the hips. The issue with most of these protective garments is that rip-proof fabric is usually thicker and less breathable than your standard clobber, hence why we don't ride about in them all the time.
ArmaUrto says its Impact Pro baselayer is designed for use in a variety of conditions, and thanks to using the 'finest fast-wicking Italian fabrics' will still be capable of regulating body temperature effectively. There are even some videos of Cameron Jeffers (Ribble Weldtite rider) wearing one on the turbo, and as road.cc's possibly most prolific crasher, the ball fell in my court to see whether this was legitimately bearable or whether he just got paid a lot of money.
In hot conditions, the baselayer does indeed perform well, with the fast-wicking material drying fast, resulting in a more comfortable and cooler ride as the evaporative effect cools the skin. You're very unlikely to actually wear this on the turbo, so I've been using it under a winter jacket through most of the winter and under a Gabba on milder days, where it's also performed well.
The 3/4 sleeves mean that, for me at least, I'll only be pairing it with long-sleeved jerseys or jackets, giving it an upper limit of about 12 or 13°C when worn with a lightweight jersey. At these temperatures the padding was easy to forget about, but it wouldn't be my first choice for hot summer climbing because of the shoulder and elbow pads limiting breathability in these areas.
Those pads are made from a material that feels like a flexible plastic, and are about 4mm thick. They're not water absorbent so they don't get heavier when you sweat, but on a windy day it is noticeable that they block it.
As they're flexible, they conform well to the shape of the shoulders and elbows; under a jacket they're undetectable from riding buddies, and even when wearing them under a skintight jersey it doesn't look like you've walked straight out of the 1980s.
I found them perfectly comfortable for riding both in an aggressive position on my road bike with arms bent, or when riding more upright on mountain bikes and commuters.
ArmaUrto says that despite the thinness of the padding, the 'ARMA' is capable of absorbing and safely dissipating up to 80 per cent of impact energy. The pads are cleverly shaped to cover all the knobbly bits of bone on the shoulders and elbows, and although miraculously I've managed to keep it rubber side down for the last six weeks, I'm hoping that when I next fall off I'm wearing this baselayer.
Without deliberately falling off, it's rather hard to assess the effectiveness of the padding. I did try dropping a tennis ball onto it and it bounced about quarter as high as when dropped from the same height onto the ground. Scientific, eh?
What we do know is that it will drastically reduce road rash, and conforms to the EN1621-1 standard. If, like me, you don't know what that means, then here you go: EN1621-1 is a European motorcycle standard for protective clothing and ARMA has successful passed the joint protection tests carried out by SATRA. What this means is that you can be assured the baselayer will significantly decrease the chances of breaking a shoulder or elbow.
That's impressive from something that weighs just 233g, about the same as a typical set of elbow pads.
The baselayer fits well with a slightly stretchy fabric, the neck isn't so high that it sticks out the top of a typical jersey, and I found that the size medium put the pads in the right places, as the size guide said it would. The baselayer is also machine washable so no special maintenance is required.
You may have also read our recent article summing up the wind tunnel results of the ArmaUrto. Spoiler alert: it won't slow you down and might even make you a little bit quicker. The UCI is unlikely to look too kindly on padded baselayers if they do indeed offer a performance benefit, even if it does protect its riders, but this doesn't affect the vast majority of us and we can happily ride around with our shoulders and elbows protected with no significant hindrance in aerodynamics.
At £109, the protection the Impact Pro offers doesn't come cheap, although there is the quite similar non-elite version for £10 less. But body armour never seems to be cheap – a quick glance through off.road.cc's recent reviews shows that you're looking at paying upwards of £60 for a pair of pads; add £30-£40 for a typical baselayer and you soon arrive at the £100ish mark.
Only you can decide what protection from crashes is worth to you, but something else to consider is that the ARMA can withstand multiple impacts in the same place, unlike PU or EPS foams, so it's not a one hit wonder.
Overall, I'm impressed with the Impact Pro. As someone who often has a get down, I'd certainly be happy wearing this for any icy and off-road rides where the chances of crashing are higher, for commutes for added peace of mind, and winter crit races where I'd be wearing long sleeves over the top.
Aside from the ARMA, the baselayer itself is perfectly functional, wicking sweat well. The 3/4-length sleeves mean you'll probably want to wear it under something with long sleeves, which does restrict it to slightly chillier weather, but the padding is unrestrictive and easy to forget.
The price is high, typically double that of a similar base without the padding, but it's one that I'd personally pay a few times over to avoid another broken bone and missing skin.
Light and comfortable base with body armour that performs well and could prevent time off the bike
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road.cc test report
Make and model: ArmaUrto Impact Pro Base Layer Elite
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
ArmaUrto says: "Incorporating our lightweight, flexible and machine washable ARMA active polymer padding at both the elbow and shoulder, the Impact Pro Base Layer offers a highly technical 3/4 length sleeve, fast-wicking protective cycling base layer, suitable for a variety of weather conditions." The protection is impressive considering the low weight, it's comfortable to wear and is ideal for commuters, mountain bikers, crit racers and any other form of riding when the risk of crashing is high.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
ARMA: Is a revolutionary new energy absorbing material, designed to alter the way we think about protecting the human body from impact and injury. Gone are the days of bulky, uncomfortable, often heavy, body worn protection. This new generation material may be incorporated directly into a garment to shield against impacts and abrasions.
BS 1621-1 approved impact and coverage protection.
Easy Clean: ARMA is fully machine washable at 30°C with no loss of impact performance properties.
Shock Freeze System: ARMA absorbs and dissipates energy greatly; reducing 80% of impact forces transmitted to the body.
Ultra Slim Padding: Even at a thickness of only 4 mm ARMA protects the body on hard impacts.
Self Regenerative: Unlike PU or EPS foams, ARMA can take multiple impacts onto the same point without being destroyed.
Air Circulation System: ARMA is based on an open re-entrant structure, allowing natural ventilation and airflow around the body.
Temperature Stable: ARMA shows no impact performance losses at high (+40°C) and low (-20°C) temperatures.
Pads are in the right places and cover the bony bits that they should, slightly stretchy material means it conforms to the body well and doesn't wrinkle under layers. Nice shaped neck and body length, but 3/4 sleeves took some getting used to.
The thorough size guide helps a lot and is accurate.
Very good for body armour, but still a heavy baselayer.
Not bad at all; doesn't restrict movement, comfortable in aggressive and relaxed cycling positions.
It's very hard to put a value on crash protection, if it means you don't miss training/work or any other event because you haven't broken a bone then surely its priceless. If you don't crash then it's a very expensive baselayer.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Easy peasy, machine wash at 30.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well; it's comfortable, wicks sweat away well, keeps you cool and doesn't restrict movement.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
I like the peace of mind.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It's not a dislike of this one, but I'd really like a short sleeve version. That wouldn't protect your elbows, but a shoulder-only version could be useful for crit racing when in a short sleeve jersey/skinsuit.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's quite spendy but there aren't many similar products out there. A typical baselayer of this style (without the padding) would set you back about £40 so it's a fair chunk more expensive than that. Body armour can be expensive though – for example, a set of elbow pads typically costs £50 or so, which helps justify the price. Padded baselayers, as commonly used for mountain biking, are expensive – the Leatt Shoulder tee, for example, cost £70 but don't include the elbow pads.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's very good: it performed very well, it's comfortable to wear, can be used for a wide mix of riding, and the padding appears very functional. It can be machined washed, it wicks sweat well and doesn't look awkward or obvious. The only downsides are the price and the fact that it could look a bit odd when paired with short sleeves.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized venge pro 2019 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,