The phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” couldn’t be any more true of our sport. When you’ve got a good product, there’s no need to change it. In fact, it’s extremely rare in our sport that a product comes out that receives almost no complaints and is accepted by all. With riders of all shapes and sizes, each with their own style, and their own needs based on a massive amount of variables, it is almost impossible to create something that can work for nearly everyone. Every so often, that one product comes along, whether it’s a legendary bike, a must have part, or revolutionary gear.
Thor’s Sentinel chest protector is that product. At the time the Sentinel was released, it caught the industry’s attention and received tons of praise. The minimalistic design, lightweight fit, and overall comfort was unlike anything out at the time. Gone were the large shoulder pads, arm guards, and hard plastic deflectors. Not only did the Sentinel get it right the first time, the rest of the industry copied the ultra-successful roost deflector. It’s DNA can now be found in nearly every roost deflector on the market. While they may have made some improvements, the Sentinel was still arguably the all around best.
Based on that, when Thor released their Sentinel XP this year, my reaction was not excitement initially. Making changes to something that isn’t in need of change has proven to lead to disappointment. With such the huge success of the original, the bar was set very high for the XP and it’s release was a make or break for the Sentinel line. However, when my original met it’s fate after three years, curiosity got the best of me and after some research, a new Sentinel XP was on my doorstep in no time.
The XP immediately has noticeable changes, seen in the styling, shoulders, and neck area. There are removable pieces found on the front and back of the XP, allowing more room for neck braces. In particular, the removable back panel even leaves room for the thinner Leatt and Alpinestars braces. With both removed, my Atlas fits excellently. It can be argued that while the Sentinel was praised for neck brace compatibility, it still was a challenge with some braces. However, this tight fit had been accepted for as long as neck braces and chest protectors have been worn together. Those who choose to wear both will be extremely pleased with the comfort and compatibility of the XP. That bulky, sometimes awkward, and tight feeling doesn’t exist when wearing the Sentinel XP. That in itself is incredible.
Speaking of comfort, when first worn, it feels so comfortable you won’t want to take it off. The original Sentinel was by no means uncomfortable, but it did still have the rough-around-the-edges feel of a roost deflector and the padding was thin. Not only that, but it had a tendency to fit a bit smaller and tighter. In comparison, the XP is lightweight, well padded, and feels nonexistent. The shoulders no longer feature hard plastic panels, and this is a big improvement. Roughly four inches of protection across the top of the shoulder is almost unnecessary and only after wearing the XP do you realize that the difference it makes. Thor even made the shoulders adjustable in both the front and back, so you can customize the fit to your liking.
Upon further inspection, the XP features some minor improvements that add up to make all of the difference. There are elastic straps on each shoulder that can be used to secure a neck brace. Once again, paired with an Atlas neck brace, these straps make both the neck brace and chest protector work better. One of the only complaints about the previous model would have to be the somewhat flimsy buckles. The new XP has solved this problem and they work flawlessly. It offers great ventilation, protection, and comes in a variety of colors. For those who desire the chest plate only, Thor sells a back strap separately.
Initially the XP did not excite me in the slightest. The original Sentinel seemed flawless, but everything that there is to love about it has been carried over and improved upon by the Sentinel XP, and in hindsight there were in fact some improvements to be made. This chest protector far exceeded my expectations. At this point, it might be safe to say that this is the best on the market as of right now. Some of the features it offers are sure to once again require Thor’s competitors to play catch up, and the build quality is high, something to expect from Thor. At $99.99, it’s competitively priced, and for those who aren’t convinced, they have not yet discontinued the original. For more information you can visit Thor’s website to check out all the cool new features the Sentinel XP has to offer.