Tested: SixSixOne 2007 Pro Pressure Suit

WHAT: SixSixOne 2007 Pro Pressure Suit; WHERE: 888.520.4888, www.sixsixone.com; HOW MUCH?: $229.95

It's no secret all the young punks in the bike park don't wear upper body armor. And sure, they may be dumb for doing so, but one thing remains certain: when the sun's cooking and your'e riding hard, a T-shirt sans sweaty, bulky, manky pads sure looks appealing. Look a little closer, though, at said young bucks exposed flesh, and there's usually a veritable meat department of scarrage. Just imagine the bacon strips of exposed flesh on their shoulders and backs.

As someone who loves his bike park time, who likes "feeling" cool, but isn't into constant skin peal from the inevitable bike park wipeout, I've been conundrumed somewhat. The last few years of wearing full upper body armor includes an uncomfortable history of being hot, and consequently, bothered. I feel like I should just throw on my hockey pads some have been so big. And riding ain't no hockey game. You want to feel nimble, cool, fast.

Enter SixSixOne's 2007 Pro Pressure Suit, which I tested extensively this past summer. With a number of scorching hot days in Whistler, standing in liftlines after Dirt Merchant to A-Line just blew my mind…again, with, of course, a couple of minor "dismounts", along the way to airborne glory, I can safely say, the Pro Pressure suit received its due duty. Consensus? The young bucks are dumb. It ain't no T-shirt, but it’s as light and cool as any upper body armor suit I've worn.

The suit is compact, light and remarkably breathable. It uses vented anatomic chest plate covers, injection-molded soft plastic shoulder cups, a number of straps to adjust and tighten or loosen the feel of the suit, including a multi-strap kidney belt which keeps the suit from riding up your torso. Thumb loops keep the arm protection in place—a key feature for untimely unloads onto the forearms. A fairly durable "open weave" mesh ties the whole suit together in a light, breathable package.

Other features of the suit include a removable spine pad. I never used the suit without the spine protector, and imagine it's designed for lighter applications. In the Whistler Bike Park, though, where insane rider traffic leaves the trail hard as concrete with embedded skin-ripping rocks throughout, I want all the cushion I can get. And while I didn't stack too many times on the upper body, when I did, the suit was there for me.

The Pro Pressure's lightweight nature sacrifices a little on the impact force it supports. Soft plastic elbow and shoulder pads are good at thwarting skin loss, but they're on the minimalist side when it comes to impact. Where it counts, however, like on the spine, SixSixOne lays down the beef in a long, hard plastic interlocking system that provides both excellent movement and protection.

All in all, SixSixOne has combined the virtues of keeping things light and cool, with enough protection to give expert downhillers enough peace of mind to charge it full throttle. –Mitchell Scott

Jason Schippers, the product manager for 661, says the more affordable Pressure Suit (not to be confused with the Pro Pressure Suit, above) has been totally revamped for 2008

Enlisting the help of Nick Bayliss in the redesign (who along with Steve Peat founded Royal Racing, which 661 owns along with Sunline components), the new Pressure Suit has more stretch in key places and a revised look to boot. "The fit and feel are better, and we've also added CE backs," Schippers says, referring to the stricter—some say overly strict—impact standard set by the European Union.

"With CE, the holes for the venting can only be so big," Schippers says. "The test requires that a certain sized punch can't be able to fit through, so we had to change everything around, but what came out of it is a more protective suit." 2008 Pro Pressure Suits and Pressure Suits are available now.