Max Dubler’s DIY: How to Make Your Own Spine Protector Vest
Ever since I hit a tree at a high rate of speed last year, I’ve been wearing a spine protector when I skate downhill. Safe, but dorky looking.
The added protection is rad, but the shoulder/waist strap design of the POC spine protector I have also isn’t very comfortable, so I decided to build a spine protector into a leather vest and keep my style as fresh as my gear.
On to the Vest. First, I looked for a suitably protective and low-profile spine protector piece, which I found on the d3o website. Tracking that down for sale on its own was a little bit of a challenge, but you can find it on Amazon here.
Second, I needed a vest and didn’t want to pay a lot for it. A decent quality new leather jacket is going to run you at least $300, so vintage is definitely the way to go here. I hit up eBay and bought a vintage leather motorcycle jacket for $50 plus shipping. Score. Fit is important here, so you’re going to want something with numbered chest sizes instead of S/M/L/XL sizing. I went with Open Road brand, because I know they’re of decent quality and come with a zip-out thermal lining.
Finally, I got my sewing supplies together: black thread, a leather thimble, a Speedy Stitcher sewing awl, black waxed nylon thread for the awl, a seam ripper, some hand needles, and a hefty pair of scissors. (I also used a Janome sewing machine, but you can do this all by hand.)
Side note: While you can do everything with hand sewing needles, the sewing awl is the key tool for not hating your life while you do this project. It makes sewing through multiple layers of leather surprisingly easy and fast. Read the directions and you will be stoked.
Take out the thermal lining and set it aside for later.
The first task is taking the sleeves off the jacket with the seam ripper. Zip out the liner so it doesn’t get in your way. Doing a good job here takes a few minutes, and cleanly removing the sleeve of the liner is a pain in the ass.
With the sleeves off, I used my sewing awl to reattach the epaulets a little further in on the shoulder. This looks a lot cleaner than leaving them attached to the armhole seam.
With the epaulets attached and looking good, I finished the armholes by folding the leather over the raw edge of the lining and sewing around the whole thing with the awl.
OK, now your vest is finished and looking good, so it’s time to build the spine protector into the removable liner.
This tag was sewn all the way through the liner and got in the way of where the d3o was supposed to go, so I busted out my seam ripper and took it off.
I used my seam ripper to open up the hem of the liner and insert the d3o for a test fit. You only need to remove about 8″ of stitching down there.
Got the d3o in the right spot and traced my sewing line around it with a white paint marker, leaving about half an inch all the way around to accommodate the thickness of the foam.
I took the pad out, sewed most of the way around my white line with the machine, then reinserted the pad for a test fit. Looks good.
Sewed the spine protector in place, finished the hem, and zipped the liner back into the jacket.
Finished vest looking good. You can’t even tell it’s a piece of protective gear. Stoked.
The belt is stylish but kind of a pain to fasten every time you take a run, so I took it off mine.