Wearing the right protective kit is just as important to your safety as servicing/maintaining your motorcycle and being skilled at riding it.
Wearing the right protective equipment can help any motorcycle, scooter or moped rider cope with changing temperatures and, most significantly, reduce the consequences of a collision or ‘unscheduled dismount’. Nonetheless the benefits offered by protective garments are still widely underestimated, especially by scooter and moped riders and commuters. Attitudes and perceptions regarding protective kit still need to change if improvements in road safety are to be achieved.
In this section we aim to provide some simple guidelines to help increase the number of motorcyclists using appropriate protective clothing and equipment.
Why you should always wear personal protective equipment
Fashion and ‘look’ are important factors influencing the purchase of motorcycling apparel. However, there are also important safety aspects to consider.
Motorcycle riders do not enjoy the same levels of protection afforded to car drivers, who are surrounded by a protective steel cage with seatbelts, airbags and climate control.
The comparative sense of freedom on a motorcycle, while part of the attraction, unfortunately has its drawbacks especially in terms of protection in the event of any kind of collision, but also when riding in extremely hot or cold weather, when it’s raining, when hit by insects or by debris flung up by other vehicles. It is for these types of situations, and possible encounters between the rider and the road surface, that protective equipment should be used at all times.
Comfortable clothing suited for each individual riding style is essential, and should:
• Offer protection in the event of a collision
• Keep riders comfortable in hot or cold or wet weather
• Help to make riders visible to other road users
Many scooter riders do not realise that travelling at lower speeds does not mean they are not at risk of serious injury. There is no difference in coming off a scooter at 25mph or a larger motorcycle at the same speed. Scooter riders have exactly the same chances of suffering injuries such as broken limbs and extensive skin abrasions requiring skin grafts – or worse. It is easy to find suitable protective clothing matching personal style and tastes.
What follows is some general information and guidance on the protective equipment that is available.
A safety helmet is the single most important piece of protective kit. According to the World Health Organisation, helmets reduce the incidence of fatal head injuries by 50%.
Helmets help protect the head in many ways. The outer shell resists penetration and abrasion. The fundamentally important liner inside the shell absorbs the shock by slowly collapsing and spreading the load under impact. The soft cloth liner next to the head keeps riders comfortable and the helmet fitting snugly.
Always secure the helmet using the chin strap – this is essential to ensure the helmet does not come off in a crash. Fastening the chin strap is a legal requirement.
It is ESSENTIAL that you choose a helmet that fits correctly. It must fit snugly and securely. If it moves around on the head it won’t offer the best protection. Your helmet dealer will assist you in selecting the best size helmet for you. Never buy a helmet just because of the brand or reputation, fit must come first.
Helmets sold in the UK must satisfy testing standards and comply with either British Standard 6658:1985 or ECE Regulation 22.05. Look for a label inside the helmet or on the shell. In addition look out for the independent SHARP rating assessment for your helmet. This gives a 1-5 star safety rating to help inform your purchasing.
NEVER buy or use a second hand helmet. The external appearance of the shell can disguise damage to the internal protective material, in which case it will not offer sufficient protection in a crash.
Also ensure that the helmet’s visor is clean and free of marks and smudges which could affect your vision, especially in strong sunlight. Misting can be reduced or eliminated through venting and anti-misting inserts/treatments. Never use a dark visor at night or in poor weather conditions.
• The helmet must bear a clearly visible label indicating BS or ECE type approval
• Make sure it covers your forehead and brow
• Fit is essential – ensure it doesn’t move, slip over your eyes or put pressure on the forehead
• Peripheral vision should not be obstructed
• The helmet mustn’t cause pressure or impede vision to riders who wear glasses
• Most importantly, it must be comfortable and be correctly fastened
Never ride without specialist motorcycling gloves. The first thing you do in a crash is instinctively put out your hands for protection. Skin can be removed from the hands in less than a second, so protection is essential.
Motorcycle gloves are available in many styles, weights and thicknesses. Lightweight gloves with no padding and possibly some ventilation are more comfortable during the summer, while heavier, lined and/or insulated gloves are available for additional protection from winter cold.
Motorcycle gloves need to protect riders’ hands and wrists without reducing their ability to operate the machine. Full-fingered gloves protect hands from blisters, wind, sun and cold and will help prevent cuts, bruises and abrasions. Make sure the gloves have good straps/fixings around the wrist. If the gloves can be easily pulled off without undoing a fixing, they will come off just as easily in a crash.
• Use quality gloves specifically designed for motorcycling to ensure full control over the machine
• Make sure your hands and wrists are covered entirely
• Gloves should fit snugly
• Waterproof gloves help ensure hands don’t get dangerously cold
Motorcycle boots protect feet, toes and ankles without affecting the rider’s manoeuvring ability. Trainers may be quick and easy but even a minor fall has the potential for serious injury to feet, toes and ankles. Riders should consider whether they need to spend more on waterproof boots or look for additional features such as toe and ankle protectors (replaceable when worn out).
• The entire foot, ankle and lower shin should be covered
• Waterproof boots will help ensure your feet don’t get uncomfortably, and dangerously, cold
• Boots with plastic or metal guards offer more protection in case of accidents.
Riders should always wear appropriate clothing to protect them from impact and abrasion injuries in the unfortunate event of a collision.
Leather jackets and trousers (or suits) offer excellent protection to riders in the event of a crash. Good quality leather garments are available nowadays in very fashionable looks and colours, with excellent safety and protective features (usually with in-built body armour providing additional protection for the shoulders, elbows and knees).
Leather garments should fit well and feel comfortable without being tight/restricting movement and should ideally be at least 1.2mm thick. They should be loose enough to allow comfort, but tight enough to hold body armour/other protective equipment in place.
• Leathers should be loose enough for comfort, tight enough to hold armour/protection in place
• Leathers will help rider comfort in prevailing conditions
• Wrist fastenings to stop sleeves riding up
• CE approved protection is a must
• Some bright/contrasting colours/hi viz panels will aid visibility to other road users
If you prefer not to wear leathers, there is a range of textile/synthetic garments available, which can be extremely water resistant and provide warmth through thermal linings. Textiles need to have built-in body armour, which substantially improves impact and abrasion protection.
Wearing regular denim jeans while riding a motorcycle or scooter is never a good idea. However, there are specialist denim jeans available on the market which are reinforced in key areas with Kevlar (the same material used in bullet proof vests), which provides far more abrasion resistance than regular denim.
Body armour or impact protectors are designed for use in clothing to provide protection against injuries caused by impacts with the ground or road surface in motorcycle accidents. The armour helps prevent and reduce in the severity of contusions, fractures, muscle stripping and joint damage.
Body armour may be purchased separately or can be included as original equipment forming part of a garment. The best armour will be CE marked as a proof of compliance with EU standards.