Leatt 3DF AirFit Lite Body Tee review by Blistergear:
Leatt 3DF AirFit Lite Body Tee - Size Tested: Large / Extra Large
Intended Use: Breathable Upper Body Protection
Test Location: Whitefish, MT
Test Duration: About 5 rides
Reviewer: 5’9” 155 lbs
Intro: The 3DF AirFit Lite Tee is a fairly serious piece of protection. While it’s not as burly as Leatt’s fully sleeved AirFit Body Protector, it nevertheless offers quite a bit of padding. As the name implies though, it does so while maintaining ventilation as a priority.
There’s no shortage of pressure suits on the market, most of which are essentially cut up pieces of trash can lids sewed to fishnet stockings. I have, over the years, donned such accoutrements and occasionally put them to good use — I’ve taken quite a few crashes where those sort of pads have saved my bacon.
But as I’ve gotten older and fussier, I drifted away from wearing full body pads as often. Maybe that’s because I’ve gotten a bit better at not falling off my bike (or at least doing so more gracefully), but a lot of it is because those pads tend to be miserably hot and uncomfortable. The cost / benefit ratio of wearing those pads, for me, isn’t worth it.
So, with all that in mind, I strapped on the Airflex Lite to see how it felt. And fared.
Fit: I wear a size Medium in pretty much everything, and I’m on the skinny side of things. But despite that, my measurements put me into the L/XL size AirFit Lite (although the L/XL is their “middle” size). at 5’9”, 155lbs and with a not particularly girthy chest (around 39”), I probably could have comfortably sized down to the S/M, but I didn’t feel like the L/XL was too big on me.
The length seemed about right on my 5’9” frame — It was long enough to offer good coverage without being so long that it restricted bending at the waist at all. In terms of girth, the fabric is pretty stretchy, so I’d say this would fit a fairly broad range of people.
The only thing that I found a little too loose was the shoulder region – the shoulder pads seemed like they could shift around a little more than would be ideal.
Design & Construction: The AirFit Lite Tee is essentially a T-shirt. It’s also available in vest and fully sleeved versions, which, as expected, lose or gain a bit of padding along the arms.
The main fabric of the AirFit Lite is MoistureCool wicking fabric, which is the kind of material you’d find on a lightweight jersey. There’s a bit of mesh at the bottom edge of the tee, but it’s not so much mesh that you’ll look slutty.
The shirt closes with a zipper that’s offset to the left side. The offset zipper seems a bit wonky at first, but it allows for an uninterrupted chest pad, which is a good thing. While the offset of the zipper ultimately isn’t a problem, it is the one area where I find fault with the construction of the AirFit Lite Tee. The zipper, like literally every other zipper on every other pressure suit I’ve ever worn, rubs against my collarbone while riding and is really irritating. It leads me to wear a shirt underneath the pads, which solves the rubbing issue, but makes things really hot. Leatt did build in a little flap of fabric to try to protect the zipper and solve this issue, but the flap isn’t big enough to fully fix the problem.
In addition to the zipper, there’s also a strap that goes around the chest and helps snug everything down and keep things in place. That closure works well – no issues there.
The majority of the padding throughout the Tee is 3DF, which is a foam material that is normally relatively flexible but hardens on impact. The main chest and back protection comes in the form of layered sheets of 3DF. The sheets have varying thicknesses, and they’re cut and contoured to fit the body well. The sheets are relatively stiff, and they’re perforated to improve ventilation. Overall, both the front and back protectors end up being around 8 mm thick.
The shoulder pads, while still 3DF, are of a different composition. They’re more like the “traditional” visco elastic foam, which is to say they’re fairly soft and pliable (until they take an impact). Like the other pads, the shoulders are also perforated for breathability.
In a nice touch, all of the 3DF pads in the AirFit Lite are removeable. The only pads that aren’t removable are some non-3DF foam pads along the sides. Those pads aren’t as burly as the 3DF pads, and they seem more designed to ward of minor scrapes rather than serious impacts.
Certifications: Like pretty much all of Leatt’s protective gear, the AirFit Lite gets a CE certification. In fact, the AirFit Tee gets a slew of certifications: Chest EN1621-3 Level 1, Back EN1621-2 Level 1, Shoulder EN1621-1, and FFM-French Federation Certified.
The important take away here is that the AirFit Lite Tee provides level 1 protection for the chest and back. European Standards (the “EN” tests) have two levels of back and chest protection tests, both of which were designed in the context of motorcycle safety gear. The tests essentially involve dropping metal weights on the pads and seeing how much force they dissipate. A Level 1 pad like the AirFit Lite Tee will dissipate half as much force as a Level 2 pad like Leatt’s more substantial AirFit Body Protector.
Neck Brace Compatibility: Neck braces don’t always play well with pressure suits, but I’d have been surprised if the AirFit Lite wasn’t compatible with Leatt’s signature product. And lo and behold, the AirFit Lite Tee isn’t just compatible, it actually integrates pretty cleanly with a neck brace.
First and foremost, the pads along the spine are actually two separate pads — a large “main” pad, and a smaller pad for the upper spine that can be removed if you’re riding with a brace. Secondly, the front pad is situated low enough that it doesn’t interfere with the brace.
The AirFit Lite also has some features to help keep your brace situated. There’s velcro in the upper spine area, and there are elastic tabs on the shoulders that hook onto the brake, alleviating the need for any other straps on the brace.
I tried the Tee with my older DBX neck brace — it was comfortable, and the elastic tabs on the shoulders did a decent job of keeping the brace from bouncing around. The only downside was that, since my DBX brace is older, the velcro on the back panel didn’t line up correctly (newer Leatt braces are shaped differently on the back support).
I also tried the AirFit Lite with an Alpinestars Bionic Neck Brace, and while the integrated attachment points on the Tee didn’t work with it, the brace still fit comfortably.
The Ride: My time spent in the 3DF AirFit Lite Tee occurred during late fall in Montana, which means it was fairly cool out. Despite that, I did still manage to work up a decent sweat while wearing the Tee. Of pressure suits that offer a similar level of padding, I’d say the AirFit Lite is probably the most breathable I’ve worn. That said, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s still pretty warm.
In other respects, my only real gripe is the above-mentioned irritating zipper. The 3DF material constricts movement a bit, but it’s still more pliable and flexible than the hard plastic turtle suits that I’ve used in the past. In terms of mobility, the AirFit Lite Tee gets top marks.
I didn’t take any involuntary crashes in the Tee, but in the name of testing, I did smack myself around a bit. Even though the AirFit Lite is “only” has Level 1 rated protection, my impression is that it would have to be a pretty damn violent crash before that padding would get overwhelmed. For the average over-the-bars type fuck-up, I fully expect that the AirFit Lite will keep you in relatively good shape.
Bottom Line: As I stated at the outset, I’m often disinclined to wear a pressure suit since I find them to be hot and uncomfortable. The Leatt 3DF AirFit Lite Tee is less hot and more comfortable—though I am going to need to do something about that zipper. So while I still don’t see myself strapping the Tee on for every ride, I’m certainly more inclined to suit up when I’m in the mood to go do something stupid.
If you’re the type of person that does stupid things on bikes with some regularity, then by all means, take a look at the AirFit Lite Tee—it’s cheaper than a doctor. And for those that have already come to terms with wearing one of those ninja turtle pressure suits, the AirFit Lite is an attractive alternative. It breathes a bit better, it’s neck brace compatible, and the removable pads mean you can actually wash it.