Custom Motorcycle Hip Armor from D3O

Last updated on June 16th, 2018

So sometime ago, I upgraded some Kevlar jeans to give them maximum protection in a casual looking package. Among the upgrades was a custom tailbone protector. Though I looked around for a commercial option first, apparently no one sold standalone, CE rated tailbone protectors. I decided the cheapest and easiest way to get one would be to cut up a cheap  D3O CE Level 1 Back Protector and use that. With the material I had left over, I made some custom motorcycle hip armor for some other riding jeans I hadThis is that. Surprisingly, the result was so good that these days I’d rather do it again than buy the commercial solutions. To see how I did it, keep reading.

How did this start? Well, before making my own, of course I looked around. But I just wasn’t satisfied with the options. And it’s not that I haven’t tried them. As far as hip armor goes I’ve tried the Icon D3O Evo X Hip Armor, the Forcefield 4-Layer Replacement Hip Armor and Alpinestars Nucleon Hip Protectors Among others. This is still the armor I’ve found most pleasant for the smallest amount of money. It only rivals Forcefield NET Upgrade Armor. However, that costs more and can be hard to find.

So here we go, let’s begin!

Difficulty: Easy
Tool Requirements: Low
Time: 1h  30min
Cost: 25-30$

Synopsis

Problem

I wanted cheap, comfortable replacement hip armor inserts. However, I was unsatisfied with the commercially available solutions.

Solution

I butchered a CE Rated Back Protector pad and made my own. Surprisingly, the result was fantastic. This is my third time doing the project, so I decided to document it.

What you’ll need

For this project, you'll need a few things.

For this project, all you’re going to need is a D3O back protector. Either one or the other. Yup, that’s it.

The CE Level 2 Back Protector is a little bit thicker, 17mm, than the CE Level 1 version (11mm). If you want to look a bit more casual, or your pants are tightish as is, get the Level 1. On the other hand, if you have the space or want more protection, go with level 2.

Info on D3O motorcycle armor

If you want some info on D3O, click here:

Tools

  • Bench Grinder – You’ll use it to shape the foam. The coarse wheel is the one you’ll want to use.
  • Metal Ruler – Try to err on the sturdy side. You’ll use it as a guide to cut the foam, or for measurements.
  • X-acto Knife – To cut the foam. Just make sure the blade is about an inch long. And use a new blade.
  • Permanent Marker – For marking the foam to make sure the shaping is uniform.

That said, let’s begin! For real this time.

Decide which back protector pad to cannibalize

You can choose either CE Level 1 or 2 from D3O motorcycle armor. CE level 1 is 11mm thick, whereas CE Level 2 is 17mm thick. Both are extremely flexible, breathable and comfortable, but obviously Lvl 2 is a bit bulkier. If you can, go with Lvl 2. If not, Lvl 1 is vastly superior to those cheap foam pads with no rating most manufacturer include.

Attached you’ll find pictures comparing the thickness of both.

*Disclaimer

Any allusions to CE ratings refer to the undamaged, unmodified original piece of equipment as the manufacturer intended. No claims are made regarding the protection provided by the armor modified in this way.

Custom Motorcycle Hip Armor Protectors DIY – Steps

Step 1 – Lay out the armor and mark them

Ideally, the pants you intend to use this hip armor with came with a (useless) foam pad you can use as a template to cut out the DIY armor. Nonetheless, if they didn’t, simply cut the custom motorcycle hip armor as large as possible. Then test them in the hip armor pocket, cutting them successively until it fits to your satisfaction.

Step 2 – Cut!

Start cutting. Use the metal ruler as a guide and cut along it. Ideally you want to use as much force as you are willing to. Mostly in order to make the cut in a single pass, if possible.

Likewise, make sure to use a new blade. The D3O isn’t too easy to cut, though mostly due to its thickness.

Furthermore, keep any large-enough leftover pieces. You can use two to make another set of custom motorcycle hip armor for casual riding pants. Similarly, you can even use it as a tailbone protector for some custom hardcore riding pants.

Step 3 – Test fit

Test your custom motorcycle hip armor armor in your riding pant's pocket.
Test your custom motorcycle hip armor in your riding pant’s pocket.

Rather than test your luck, test the pad in the hip armor pockets of your riding pants. Consequently, trim if necessary.

Remember, while you can always remove more material later, you can’t ever add it.

Step 4 – Mark the chamfer

You will want to chamfer the edges so it doesn’t print beneath your clothing, as well as so it’s more comfortable. Mark a line 1″ (25mm) from the cut edges.

Also, mark the radiuses of the corners you will want to round. Thankfully, we’re one step closer to the finished custom motorcycle hip armor pads!

Step 5 – Start forming the pad!

This part is pretty easy. Unsurprisingly, the coarse wheel on the grinder works wonderfully. Furthermore, don’t force the pad against the wheel. Simply let the material flex against it with the elasticity of the material providing the effort to grind it. That way the curves will blend and you will barely be able to see the grinding marks.

Undoubtedly, I really, really recommend you do this outside. Cus’ dust.

Step 6 – Cleanup

Wash off your custom motorcycle hip armor under a faucet.

Once you’re satisfied with the shape of your custom motorcycle hip armor, blow off your grinder with a compressor, and wash off the pads. Of course, for the hip armor pads washing them in the sink is the easiest option.

Step 7 – Cut out the ventilation holes

Open up the plugged ventilation holes in the D3O armor, like the one that should be here.
Open up the plugged ventilation holes in the D3O armor, like the one that should be here.

For better or worse, the only thing I hate about these pads is that the ventilation holes always come plugged. Thankfully, it’s easy to use a sharp hobby knife to cut them out.

All Done!

Also, mark them Left and Right (at your preference) if you want. Besides that, you’re all done! Hopefully you’ll never have to use them. But if you do, I’m sure you’ll appreciate these pads over the cheap foam pads most manufacturers include (if any).

Finally, if you finished this project, share a pic and prove it!

Anyway, thanks for reading my DIY! Check out what other projects I’ve been up to — here are some others you might like:

Got any tips, suggestions or questions? Leave a comment below.