Motorcycle Clothing – Fashion or Protection?

When we go looking for new kit there are so many decisions to make, textile or leather, colour, design, brand, comfort,  fit and of course price. With all this to think about it can be easy to forget what the other purpose of that kit is which is to protect from injury.

Motorcycle clothing can be split into three basic types.

  1. Non-Protective. Outer clothing constitutes a barrier to the elements; wind, rain and cold.  Any claims of protection from this type of clothing breaches UK law and PPE regulations.
  2. Non-Protective with CE approved impact protection.  The outer garment still protects against the elements but in addition is fitted with protectors usually in the knee, hip, elbow and back.  These will all bear the CE mark.
  3. Protective. Trousers & jackets, one and two piece leathers, gloves and boots where the manufacturer claims that they offer ‘protection’.  These must have been tested according to the required standard and bear the relevant marking.

How do you know which is which?

Initially we are lead by the manufacturers’ claims.  If they say the garment offers protection it must provide the rider with adequate armour, impact or abrasion resistant properties.  However it is possible that consumers can still be misled.

For example; limb and back protectors are fitted to protect those parts of the body, yet we see manufacturers fitting foam panels into garments which will not offer much protection.  But providing the manufacturer doesn’t claim they will, they are trading within the law.

Know your stuff

Any approved garment must be labelled, CE labels must;

  • Display the CE logo
  • Should be printed in the language of the country where the product is marketed
  • Display the name and ID number of the testing  institute
  • The relevant EN number which is appropriate to the type of protection.

Where CE limb protectors are fitted inside a non-protective garment some manufacturers may infer that the whole garment is CE approved by sewing the CE label that refers to the limb protectors into the garments lining. By checking the EN number you will know which parts of the garment have been tested.

What’s an EN number?

An EN number is a reference number applied to each individual standard. The specific numbers applied to motorcycle clothing are;

EN 1621-1 Protection against mechanical impact on motorcyclists. This test is used to assess the protective qualities of armour worn on limb joints and to ensure it reduces the amount of energy transmitted to the joint following an impact.  It also includes tests at different temperatures and after storage in humid conditions.

EN 1621-2 Back & lumbar protectors.  Whilst it is tested in a similar way to limb protectors the testing anvil and striker are different to simulate the way a back protector works.

EN 13595-1 Garment, its’ materials and construction covering various tests.

  • Impact abrasion – Tested by dropping a material sample onto an abrasive belt moving at approx. 18mph. This test ends when the sample is holed.
  • Seam burst strength – The sample is stretched in all directions and the pressure required to burst the sample is recorded.
  • Impact cut A striker fitted with a sharp blade is dropped with a defined energy onto a sample of material and the maximum penetration of the blade through the material is measured.

EN13634 Foot Protection.  This test involves materials, torsional resistance, impact, penetration and burst strength. There are 2 levels of protection: Level 1 must resist abrasion for 5 seconds, for Level 2 this must last for 12 seconds.

EN 13594 Gloves.  These are tested for resistance against abrasion and impact.  It can also include a test for the likelihood of the glove being pulled or thrown from the hand during a crash.

EN 14021 Stone shields for off road motorcycles.  These are tested to ensure protection against minor impacts from stones thrown up when riding.  The shield is also tested for its design, dimensions, impact performance and ergonomics.

I’m not suggesting all unapproved gear will not protect you but CE approved protection does offer you a guarantee about the level of protection offered and with the above information you can make an informed choice.