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Paul Varnsverry announced as joint recipient of the Peter Vulcan Award for best research paper "Motorcycle Protective clothing: Are Stars Better Than Standards?" at the Australasian Road Safety Research, Policing and Education conference.

US National Transportation Safety Board Public Forum on Motorcycle Safety. Washington DC, September 12/13, 2006.  Paul Varnsverry will be appearing as a guest panellist.



PVA File Services Limited often works on standards.  PVA developed the first British Standard for PPE used in violent situations (BS 7971). To jump to information on a standard, please use the drop down below:

BS 7971 - "Protective clothing and equipment for use in violent situations and in training"

BSI technical subcommittee PH/3/12 - "Protective clothing and equipment for use in violent situations and in training, including ballistic and stab protection" - has completed work on a total of eleven standards which are now at various stages of completion. Ten have now been published and an eleventh - specifying foot and ankle protectors -  is close to publication.

The eleven mandated standards are as follows:

BS 7971-2001 "Protective clothing and equipment for use in violent situations and in training"

Part 1 (BS 7971-1): "General requirements"
Part 2 (BS 7971-2): "Guidance on risk assessment and on the selection, use, cleaning and maintenance of protective clothing and equipment"
Part 3 (BS 7971-3): "Personal defence shields - Requirements and test methods"
Part 4 (BS 7971-4): "Limb protectors - Requirements and test methods"
Part 5 (BS 7971-5): "Footwear - Requirements and test methods"
Part 6 (BS 7971-6): "Gloves for protection against mechanical, thermal and chemical risks - Requirements and test methods"
Part 7 (BS 7971-7): ""Slash-resistant gloves - Requirements and test methods Part 8 (BS 7971-8): "Blunt trauma body, shoulder, abdomen and genital protectors - Requirements and test methods"
Part 9 (DD 7971-9): "Training suits and equipment - Requirements and test methods"
Part 10 (BS 7971-10): "Coveralls - Requirements and test methods"
Part 11 (BS 7971-11): "Foot and ankle protectors - Requirements and test methods"

Additional parts may be issued in due course. Those with an interest in these standards are advised to contact BSI for further information (see contact details below).

The subcommittee - which is charged with the responsibility for preparing standards for protective equipment used by police, prison officers, security guards and others at risk of violent assault in the course of their employment - has made amazing progress since its first meeting in September 1998.

The proposal for the PH/3/12 work programme arose following the publication of the "Police (Health and Safety) Act 1997", which brings Police officers within the scope of the UK "Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974", and interacting legislation, for the very first time. Protective equipment worn by the police in the course of their duties is generally not manufactured in conformity with the requirements of official standards, and the police and military are specifically exempted from the need to comply with EU Directives covering personal protective equipment.

The "Police (Health and Safety) Act 1997" and the "Police (Health and Safety) Regulations 1999" radically change this situation, however, and there are now strong legal indications that PPE for the United Kingdom's Police service must now comply with the requirements of the Personal Protective Equipment Directive bear CE marking. With successive Defence Ministers also issuing policy statements confirming that the UK military will comply with all prevailing Health and Safety legislation, the armed forces also appear compelled to use suitably-accredited PPE products wherever these are required.

The significance of the PH/3/12 work programme and BS 7971 is not confined to the United Kingdom alone, however. Since the inaugural meeting, the participation of and input from International Liaison Members the Australian Centre for Policing Research, the Canadian Police Research Centre and the US Office of Law Enforcement Standards has ensured that these standards have global relevance. Recently, all three organisations have reaffirmed their intention to adopt BS 7971 as Police Standards in their own countries. Interest in the standards has also come from Police Authorities in other countries.

In the UK, however, the Home Office Scientific Development Branch (formerly Police Scientific Development Branch) has recently announced that it is to develop its own Police Standards for many of the products already covered by the BS 7971 suite of standards.

It might be questioned why HOSDB feels the need to revisit the ground already covered by BSI PH/3/12 - particularly since HOSDB technical staff attended PH/3/12 meetings and represented the organisation, ACPO Public Order subcommittee and the police service generally - but the scope of the HOSDB standards is yet to be revealed; although meetings between HOSDB and BSI PH/3/12 members reassuringly suggest the former's work will be focused more toward the ergonomic aspects of garment performance (although this is already covered in detail within BS 7971-1), rather than attempting to "reinvent the wheel" in respect of protective performance.

The BS 7971 suite of standards continues to represent the benchmark in terms of evaluation of ergonomic and protective performance of PPE for the police, prison officers, military peacekeepers and other employees who are required to deal with violent situations, and the unique status of British Standards under British Law also present a significant barrier to vexatious and frivolous litigation in a way in which no other document can compete.

For information on the work of PH/3/12 and BS 7971, please contact the committee chairman, Paul Varnsverry, via PVA Technical File Services Limited.

Applications for membership to BSI PH/3/12 - and/or its Project Groups - from suitably-qualified experts are still welcome. Please contact the Secretary:

Sarah Meagher
Programme Manager
Secretary to PH/3/12
British Standards Institution
389 Chiswick High Road
London W4 4AJ

Direct Telephone: 0208 996 7169
Direct Facsimile: 0208 996 7198
E-mail: sarah.meagher@bsi-global.com

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European Standards for motorcyclists

- Part One ( A Buyers Guide)

Good protective clothing for motorcyclists has been available for many years. However, how many riders are sufficiently experienced in materials science, clothing design and the mechanisms of injury in accidents to determine in a shop which jacket for example is truly protective and which jacket merely looks protective? The new European Standards set minimum levels for various characteristics of protective clothing that should ensure all clothing claiming to conform to the standards will provide a reasonable level of protection. Clothing, boots and gloves subjected to testing and bearing an independent and recognisable mark of fitness for purpose will be a less risky purchase than unmarked clothing.

The Personal Protective Equipment Directive neatly divides motorcycle clothing into that which is protective and that which is not. The Directive's stipulations are quite clear in this regard, and following lengthy meetings between the European Commission, industry and riders’ groups, agreement on how to categorise motorcycle clothing has been reached.

In practical terms, motorcycle clothing can be divided into three groups:

  • Non-protective. Outer clothing constituting a barrier to the elements: heat, cold, wind and rain. Claims for any other form of protection breach the PPE Regulations, UK law, and industry and riders’ groups’ agreement with the European Commission.
  • Non-protective supplied with CE impact protectors. A non-protective outer garment, as above, fitted with for example accredited shoulder, elbow, knee and back protectors bearing CE marking.
  • Protective. Jackets, trousers, one-piece or two-piece suits, boots and gloves claimed by the manufacturer to be protective. Tested according to the European Standard (or the Cambridge or SATRA standards) and bearing CE marking. Garments must be fitted with CE marked protectors.

What defines which group a garment falls in to?

Quite simply, whatever the manufacturer claims it to be. As is often the case in such situations, however, there are a few mendacious companies who are taking advantage of the situation, and the consumer’s lack of in-depth knowledge, to make capital.

For example, limb and back protectors can only be present for one purpose: to protect. There are some manufacturers, however, who are still fitting components made from plastic and foam into the limbs and back of garments. There are also boots and gloves with similar components. The likelihood is that the consumer will infer that these are impact protectors, but because the manufacturer does not claim them to be so, they take advantage of the loophole.

Where CE marked protectors are fitted to a non-protective garment (typically a textile jacket, but equally applicable to leather jackets, trousers and suits), some retailers are misinforming consumers, claiming that the whole garment is approved. It is not, and retailers who provide such information contravene, for example, the Sale and Supply of Goods Act and the Trade Descriptions Act.

Some such garments feature a “CE” label sewn to the lining, but in fact, this refers only to the status of the fitted protectors. This is misleading. Do not allow yourself to be misled.

Finally, how has the manufacturer or distributor described the garment in their advertising? What did the clothing salesperson at your local motorcycle shop say about the clothing as he tried to sell it to you? The European Commission’s agreement with industry and riders’ groups is quite clear in this regard, and the following advice has been issued:

“If a manufacturer explicitly claims, or implies in sale literature and /or advertisement, that a garment offers protection because of specific additional features, these additional features shall be qualified as “PPE”. As such, they must comply with the provisions of the PPE Directive.

“The specific features may materialise in e.g. impact protectors for limb and/or back, pads for elbow and /or shoulder and protection from cuts and abrasions (not exclusive listing of examples)”

Consequently, phraseology such as:

  • “shock absorbing”
  • “impact resistant”
  • “absorbs shocks during falls”
  • “affordable protection against wind, rain and tarmac”
  • “abrasion resistant”
  • “for protection, quality and style”
  • “total commitment to safety”

can hardly be credibly be argued not to constitute a claim that the product so described is protective.

So how can the consumer tell which group a garment falls in to?

There is a simple answer: by law all CE marked PPE must be supplied with detailed, printed information on selection, care and maintenance of the product. Protective motorcycle clothing and impact protectors must be supplied to the consumer with such information and it must describe, for example: how the product was tested, the test data generated, how to remove and reinstall protectors (as may be necessary when cleaning the garment) and the anticipated service life or how to recognise when the PPE requires replacement. Contact details for the European Notified Body responsible for the testing and certification will also be provided, from which you will be able to contact them to determine the authenticity or otherwise of the manufacturer’s claims. If you are unsure how to go about this, your local Trading Standards Department may be prepared to assist.

In brief: treat “no information” as “not approved”.

“The retailer told me that the European Standards do not apply to leisure riders, only ‘professional motorcyclists’ ”.

Riders’ groups agreed to support the standards if leisure riders’ clothing was specifically excluded, to prevent the standards being used to support compulsion. The standards are for clothing not users; consequently, they can still be used to CE mark clothing for non-professional use. Furthermore, the Cambridge Standard and the SATRA alternative technical specification, which jointly form the basis of EN 13595, are still available and do not discriminate between leisure, professional or competition users. Simply, there is no excuse for industry not to offer accredited products.

“I have been told that the cost of testing and certification is so high, it would price CE marked clothing out of my reach”

This is another red herring. It actually costs less to test and certify a motorcycle suit than it does the average pair of safety shoes – as proven by the fact that the first companies to achieve EC type approval were the small, UK manufacturers of bespoke motorcyclists’ clothing. Furthermore, the main clothing brands are buying CE approved impact protectors at substantially lower prices than they were five years ago. In fact, these major clothing brands, with marketing and advertising budgets in the hundreds of thousands of pounds, could cancel one magazine advertisement and entirely cover their testing costs. They have the budget.

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- Part 2 (The Path to Standards)

Take a long, hard look at your motorcycle clothing. Do you know what it is? Not in the sense of is it leather or textile, one piece, two-piece or separates, and is it padded; but is it protective clothing or is it “fashion” clothing – because since 30th June 1995 those are the legal distinctions.

The requirements and provisions of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Directive (89/686/EEC), and their bearing on motorcyclists’ protective clothing, have been explained within BMF literature many times in the past, but a brief review seems appropriate.

The PPE Directive became an active part of UK law on 30th June 1995. Since that date, suppliers of protective clothing and equipment “designed to be worn or held by an individual for protection against one or more health and safety hazards” (the Directive’s definition of PPE) have been required to categorise their products as PPE, or non-protective; and to CE mark them by self-certification or through independent, third-party accreditation by test facilities known as “European notified Bodies”.

Motorcycle clothing was not originally going to fall within the scope of the legislation. Following the collapse of the ACU Standard for racewear (more on which later), however, a meeting took place between Dr Garth Willson and a Mr Petrovich, of the European Commission, in which the latter was convinced that motorcyclists would benefit from the availability of products manufactured to a European Standard. The European Standards agency CEN (Comité Européen de Normalisation) convened a technical subcommittee with the long title of CEN/TC 162/WG9 – or “WG9” – in order to develop these standards.

In 1998, EN 1621-1 was published, and motorcyclists will be familiar with this, because limb protectors fitted to garments are often claimed to meet this requirement (in fact no protector should be marketed if it does not conform to this standard, but that’s a subject we’ll be looking at in Part 3). Provisional standard prEN 1621-2, which covers back protectors, and which may be published as a full standard by the time you read this, is starting to be promoted in the form of recently-accredited products (for example the T-Pro “Forcefield” back protector). Finally, there are the garment, glove and footwear standards: EN 13595 Parts 1 – 4, EN 13594 and EN 13634 respectively.

In this article, we will be looking at the development and application of the CEN standards for motorcycle clothing, their background and some of the controversy that blighted and slowed their delivery.

The path to standards

In February 1984, one of the monthlies carried an advertisement for motorcycle suits “made to ACU Standard”. An enquiry to the ACU on how other companies could gain this accreditation revealed the advertiser’s claim was a lie; there was no ACU Standard and action was taken to prevent the claim appearing in print again.

Certain personnel within the ACU recognised, however, that the Standing Regulations for road-racers protective clothing - the ACU had merely adopted the FIM’s prescriptions – could be usefully improved. The text is at best ambiguous and at worst entirely meaningless. For example, it requires that: “The following areas must be padded with at least a double layer of leather or enclosed plastic foam at least 8 mm thick:- shoulder, elbows, both sides of the torso and hipjoint, the back of the torso, knees”. The requirement for the shoulders, elbows and knees can be complied with simply enough. It is the requirement for the other parts of the body that raise a question mark over the effectiveness of the requirements. Read one way, it could be argued that the regulations render back protectors mandatory. Read another, few mass-production manufacturers comply with the requirement for double leather between the armpit and the hip. Anomalous, ambiguous, unenforceable and, of course, unenforced.

Motivated by the number of low-quality suits that were sustaining catastrophic failure during racing crashes – which at one point resulted in the ACU issuing an unprecedented ban on one leading European manufacturer’s suits - in 1988, the ACU established a technical subcommittee to prepare its own standard for racewear. Members of this committee included ACU personnel, scrutineers, medical experts and garment manufacturers.

However, no sooner had this group delivered the final draft of their document than the ACU decided not to publish it. The reason subsequently admitted was that the ACU had a fear that if a competitor sustained injury, they might be held responsible as the “accreditation body” for his suit. Far better for the ACU to require competitors to wear products accredited by another body – BSI-approved helmets for example.

The European Commission becomes involved

It was at this point that Dr Willson, who had been a member of the ACU standard committee, travelled to Brussels and convinced Mr Petrovich, whose son happened to be a motorcyclist, to encompass motorcycle clothing within the scope of the standardisation programme instigated in response to the recently published Personal Protective Equipment Directive.

German standards agency DIN were appointed as the secretariat for Working Group 9, which held its first meeting within DIN’s offices in the former East Berlin in August 1991. The committee’s early efforts were primarily focused on developing a standard for limb protectors, but outside of the meetings, controversy was building.

The European motorcycling industry feared that the publication of PPE standards could lead to motorcyclists being compelled to wear approved clothing. Both the Commission and CEN were lobbied by industry and riders’ groups to exclude motorcycle clothing both from the scope of the Directive and the standardisation programme.

At a pivotal meeting with Commission officer Mr J-P Van Gheluwe, the industry demonstrated a textile jacket, which, it was claimed, merely represented a barrier to non-extreme ambient conditions of wind, rain and cold. Such products for private use are specifically excluded from the scope of the Directive, and so the industry considered a block exemption for all motorcycle clothing to be justified.

Unfortunately, someone had forgotten to remove the shoulder and elbow protectors from the jacket, and when one of the Commission delegation enquired “what are these meant to be?”, an industry representative answered honestly and instinctively “they are protectors” – which immediately resulted in the Commission delegation pronouncing them to therefore be PPE and consequently within the scope of the Directive!

A compromise was reached whereby motorcycle clothing intended for private use and providing protection only from non-extreme ambient weather conditions would not be considered as PPE. Any protectors fitted to, for example, the elbows and shoulders were considered to be PPE and therefore to be tested and approved. If, however, a manufacturer specifically claimed or implied in literature or advertising that in addition to fitted protectors, the garment also provided other forms of “special” protection (e.g.: abrasion and cut resistance), then the garment would also be considered to be PPE and subject to testing and certification.

Progress is made

Progress after that point wasn’t entirely controversy-free, but a standard for clothing which had been submitted by the British Standards Institution (BSI), and which combined the requirements of the remarkably similar Cambridge Standard and test house and Notified Body SATRA’s alternative technical specification was used as the basis of the CEN standard for motorcycle clothing. Through a series of separate project groups operated under the control of WG9, a total of eight product standards started to take shape.

In December 1997, the first WG9 standard to appear in print was EN 1621-1 “Motorcyclists protective clothing against mechanical impact – Part 1: Requirements and test methods for impact protectors”.

The garment standard EN 13595 “Protective clothing for professional motorcycle riders – Jackets, trousers and one-piece or divided suits” finally appeared during the late summer of 2002. This was divided into four parts: one part covering general requirements and one covering each of the three test methods. In response to a suggestion by riders’ groups - embraced by industry and accepted by the Commission and CEN - the scope of these documents was amended from earlier versions to encompass clothing for use by professional riders only. This step was taken to provide a barrier to the CEN standards being used as the basis of further legislation making the wearing of approved PPE by leisure motorcyclists compulsory. However, following the implementation of the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) 2001/95/EC, the "professional use" scope is probably irrelevant, since clause 10 of the GPSD addresses the issue of "migration" of professional status products into non-professional use, as follows:

Products which are designed exclusively for professional use but have subsequently migrated to the consumer market should be subject to the requirements of this Directive because they can pose risks to consumer health and safety when used under reasonably foreseeable conditions.

Footwear standard EN 13634 and glove standard EN 13594 also feature a scope amended to encompass professional use only. These were published at the same time as EN 13595, which is important since the standards share many common test methods.

Finally, prEN 1621-2 “Motorcyclists protective clothing against mechanical impact – Part 2: Motorcyclists’ back protectors - Requirements and test methods” has just completed its Formal Vote stage and it is anticipated this document will appear in print early in 2003 – perhaps even by the time you read this.

After eleven-and-a-half years, finally a series of authoritative standards is available that will deliver to the marketplace, and thence the consumer, fit for purpose motorcycle clothing bearing an independent, recognisable mark.


Remember when buying motorcycle clothing; if claims for special features, CE armour etc. are mentioned in the advertising then the protectors - and, if the claims extend to it, the clothing - must by law be CE marked. It has been possible to purchase type-approved and CE marked motorcycle clothing since the Cambridge Standard’s publication in 1994. Motorcycle clothing manufacturers who have accredited their protective clothing include:

Alt-Berg (boots)
ASP (leather clothing)
BKS (leather clothing)
BMW (certain models of boots)
Carrerra (leather clothing)
Crowtree (leather clothing)
Crusader (leather clothing)
Dannisport (leather clothing)
Hein Gericke (Hiprotec ® limb protectors and a selection of boots)
Jofama (leather and textile clothing)
Mir Yousaf Leatherware (Pvt) Limited (leather clothing)
MJK (leather clothing)
MW (leather clothing)
Odell T-Pro (back and limb protectors)
Oxtar (boots)
Planet Knox (back and limb protectors)
RS Performance Protection (leather clothing and gloves)
Scott Leathers International Limited (textile jackets)
Zak (leather clothing)

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- Part 3 (The Standard Explained)

The European motorcycle clothing standards explained


Good protective clothing for motorcyclists has been available for many years. However, how many riders are sufficiently experienced in materials science, clothing design and the mechanisms of injury in accidents to determine in a shop which jacket for example is truly protective and which jacket merely looks protective? The new European Standards set minimum levels for various characteristics of protective clothing that should ensure all clothing claiming to conform to the standards will give a reasonable level of protection. Clothing, boots and gloves subjected to testing and bearing an independent and recognisable mark of fitness for purpose will be a less risky purchase than unmarked clothing.

Whilst this has yet to be recognised as the important landmark in motorcycling’s history it represents, it means nothing if the requirements of the standards themselves are set so low or so high as to be meaningless or unachievable. Whilst criticisms have been levelled that certain aspects of the standards could have been more stringent, in the main the standards represent a useful starting point for further development – both in the documents themselves and in the products they will deliver.

Impact protector standards

EN 1621-1 - Motorcyclists’ protective clothing against mechanical impact – Part 1: Requirements and test methods for impact protectors

Many motorcyclists will be familiar with EN 1621-1, because since its publication in 1997, shoulder, elbow, knee and, to a lesser degree, hip protectors marked as meeting the requirements of this standard have appeared in increasing numbers across the whole range of motorcycling garments.

Protectors are tested on the same apparatus used to evaluate many other forms of impact protection, including horse riders’ body protectors, martial arts protectors, cricket equipment and riot protection for the police.

Simply, the apparatus is a tower mounted on a one metric tonne block of steel or concrete, to which is bolted a load cell. The product for testing is mounted the relevant one of a series of anvils, representing the various parts of the human body, which is bolted above the load cell. Impactors broadly replicating the “threat” (a flat road surface, a fist, a cricket ball or a brick, for example) are dropped onto the sample and the transmitted force received by the load cell is recorded. Picture 1 shows a protector under test. The standard specifies the impact energy of the impactor and the maximum permitted transmitted force. For motorcyclists’ impact protectors, the impact energy is 50 Joules (roughly the equivalent of being struck by an average 2.5 kilogramme house brick dropped from 2 metres) and the mean transmitted force should not exceed 35 kiloNewtons (kN).

Picture 1: A protector under test

Picture 1: A protector under test

prEN 1621-2 - Motorcyclists’ protective clothing against mechanical impact – Part 2: Motorcyclists’ back protectors - Requirements and test methods

Draft standard prEN 1621-2 covers back protectors. This may well have been published as a full standard by the time you read this article. The impact energy is the same as for limb protectors, at 50 Joules, but the transmitted force is lower than for limb protectors at 18 kN for “Level 1” products and 9 kN for the higher performance “Level 2” products. There has been criticism of the standard from medical experts who consider the transmitted force levels too severe; citing decades of automotive research which indicates 4 kN is the maximum force the brittle bones which form the human ribcage can withstand before they fracture. Four kiloNewtons is the requirement adopted in standards covering, for example, horse riders’ body protectors and martial arts equipment.

Attempts to reduce the transmitted force requirement to 4 kN and to correspondingly reduce the 50 Joule impact energy requirement were strongly resisted by industry, who claimed consumers would be “confused” by different impact energy requirements between EN 1621-1 and EN 1621-2.

In truth, it was in industry’s commercial interests to test both types of protector at 50J, since they could then extol the efficacy of back protectors which, when struck with the same impact energy as limb protectors, transmitted only 9 or 18 kN compared to 35 kN. The consumer would be unaware that subtle differences in the impactor and anvil were responsible, still less aware that 9 kN was still more than double the safe limit supported by medical experts. Furthermore, during the late 1990s, some companies had used the wholly inappropriate EN 1621-1 to CE mark their back protectors. Commercial objectives were given priority over consumer safety.

Despite these concerns, EN 1621-2 represents a starting point from wholly unsafe products should be rendered obsolete and unsaleable. It will be important, however, for consumers to ensure back protectors are marked with the correct standard number, if they are not to mistakenly purchase an old stock item marked to EN 1621-1.

Finally, there are a small number of back protectors on the market which have been dual-tested against the requirements of EN 1621-2 and also against a 4 kN transmitted force requirement. Reading the manufacturer’s technical information will disclose which are the superior products.

Clothing standards

EN 13595 Parts 1 - 4 – Protective clothing for professional motorcyclists - Jackets, trousers and one-piece or divided suits

As the title says, and as has been explained elsewhere in this series of articles, the scope of EN 13595 encompasses garments for use by “professional motorcyclists” only.

When it became apparent that their political lobbying of the European Commission and European Standards agency CEN had failed both to have motorcycle clothing specifically excluded from the scope of the PPE Directive and for the programme to be dissolved, industry looked to other ways to slow development of the standards.

Claimed to be to provide yet another barrier to legislators to use the clothing standards as the basis for compulsion, the suggestion was tabled that the document should be divided into as many parts as possible. It was logical to follow the format of other product standards, with a general requirements document supported by documents describing each of the test methods. This slowed progress down slightly, but not significantly given the eight years it had taken to get to the point where advanced clothing drafts were even in circulation!

The four parts of EN 13595 are as follows:

Part 1: General requirements

This “umbrella” document establishes broad technical requirements for materials and the performance criteria for materials and assemblies. For example, the materials and components which make up the garment are not permitted to contain chemicals which are known to be hazardous to the health of the wearer, and which may leech into the skin when the garment becomes wet or when the wearer perspires.

Part 1 also covers design principles and explains the controversial “zoning” principle for motorcycle clothing where the protective performances of different parts of the garment are proportionate to the severity of the forces they will be expected to withstand in an impact with and slide along a hard, abrasive road surface. For example, the various limb joints and the buttocks are expected to provide a significantly higher level of impact abrasion, impact cut and burst resistance because these are the areas of a garment which are most at risk of heavy and prolonged contact with the road. Figure 1 explains the zoning principle.

Figure 1 – Diagram of zone positions on a suit. Drawn from a suit laid out flat, slightly simplified.

Figure 1 – Diagram of zone positions on a suit. Drawn from a suit laid out flat, slightly simplified.

The ergonomic performance of the test clothing is also evaluated via a brief series of standardised tests. A further important test is for “restraint”. Many otherwise satisfactory garments in the marketplace exhibit sleeve and ankle cuffs that are significantly oversized, so an assessment is made of the resistance of the sleeves and legs of the garment to ride up the limb and expose the wearer to injury, or the join between the two halves of a two piece suit separating and allowing the wearer’s midriff to become exposed to the road.

Part 1 also specifies two levels of protective performance: Level 1 and Level 2. Clothing meeting the Level 1 requirements is defined as “Clothing designed to give some protection whilst having the lowest possible weight and ergonomic penalties associated with its use” whereas Level 2 clothing is said to be “Clothing providing a moderate level of protection, higher than that provided by level 1. There are, however, weight and restriction penalties in providing this level of protection”.

In practical layman’s terms, Level 1 clothing should provide adequate protection in accidents at urban speeds, not higher than 30 mph/48 kph. Level 2 clothing should provide adequate protection in higher speed accidents but may not subsequently be reusable or repairable. If even higher levels of protection are required, clothing should further meet the Level 3 requirements of the Cambridge standard or the SATRA alternative technical specification.

Part 2: Test method for determination of impact abrasion resistance

During the development of this standard, a number of existing test methods were proposed and discussed. Some were found not to be suitable for testing certain of the textile materials increasingly in use in motorcyclists’ clothing, and the final choice came between the “Darmstadt” machine (which is used by several textile weavers and motorcycle clothing manufacturers; notably Schoeller, BMW and Alpinestars) and the “Cambridge” machine conceived and built by Dr Roderick Woods of the Protective Clothing Research Facility (PCRF) at Cambridge University.

Both machines were uniquely developed for the testing of motorcycle clothing, but employ distinctly different criteria to assess clothing materials. The Darmstadt machine consists of a “doughnut” of concrete, with a rotary system emerging from the centre from which one or more sample holders are suspended. An electric motor spins the sample holders to a specific number of revolutions per minute and then the sample holders unlock from the central shaft, fall onto the concrete and continue to spin whilst gradually coming to rest. The test sample is judged on the basis of the difference between its mass prior to and subsequent to testing.

Supporters of the method claim that it more accurately mimics the action of clothing in a real accident; a reduction in speed from initial velocity to a halt. Critics claim that the constitution and abrasiveness of the concrete cannot be adequately controlled, that the surface condition changes as debris from the previous “sweep” of the sample holders, further affecting results, but most seriously that this method approves materials which are known to be wholly unsuited to use in motorcyclists’ protective clothing; for example sheep nappa.

Despite these criticisms, the Darmstadt machine initially found favour within the standards committee - possibly because the machine was already in use in industry and there was reluctance to invest in another device! Darmstadt University were given every opportunity to address the areas of technical concern that had been levelled at their device, but failed to respond. Consequently it was decided to write the standard around the Cambridge machine.

The Cambridge machine has been used to develop, test and certify every leather and textile product to be subject of EC Type-Examination and bearing CE marking. At least three have been built: at PCRF, SATRA Safety Product Centre and the device used for many years by RiDE magazine for its clothing tests. Picture 2 shows SATRA’s test machine.

Picture 2: SATRA’s EN 13595 “Cambridge-type” impact abrasion apparatus

Picture 2: SATRA’s EN 13595 “Cambridge-type” impact abrasion apparatus

A heavy duty abrasive belt of known grit value and manufactured to a standard, spins at a constant speed of eight metres per second or just under 18 miles per hour. The test specimen of garment material is mounted on a hinged arm that is released and falls onto the moving belt. A fine copper wire fixed across the surface of the specimen is cut and starts an electronic timer. The test continues until the sample is abraded through, whereupon a second copper wire is cut and stops the timer and the time taken from contact to perforation is recorded. The minimum times for each of the zones are stipulated in Part 1. Picture 3 shows an impact abrasion test in progress and Picture 4 shows an abraded test specimen.

Impact abrasion test in progress

Picture 3 (above): Impact abrasion test in progress
Picture 4 (below): Abraded test specimen

Abraded test specimen

Brushes and a vacuum debris removal system ensure the surface of the abrasive belt is continually cleaned. The method tiers materials according to a hierarchy supported by anecdotal evidence. Leather, textiles (wovens and knitteds, including aramids) and plastics can all be evaluated. The device has also been adopted for use in other standards where there is a requirement for products to be tested for their abrasion resistance against road surfaces, such as roller skating protectors. Figure 2 provides a schematic of the apparatus.

A schematic of the EN 13595 “Cambridge” type impact abrasion apparatus

Figure 2 - A  schematic of the EN 13595 “Cambridge” type impact abrasion apparatus

Part 3: Test method for determination of burst strength

An adaptation of a long-established international test method. A circular test specimen is cut from a garment and securely mounted in a cylinder. Below the specimen is a flexible membrane behind which water is pumped. The membrane distends, placing increasing pressure on the test specimen until, eventually, it fails. The water pressure at the point of failure is recorded. This method can be used to test samples of whole materials, seams or zip insertions and lining fabrics. The minimum burst pressures across the zones are specified in Part 1. Picture 4 shows a leather test specimen at the point of failure. Picture 5 shows the apparatus and a seam specimen after testing.

Leather test specimen

Picture 5 (top): Leather test specimen at point of failure.
Picture 6 (bottom): Apparatus and seam specimen after testing.

Part 4: Test method for determination of impact cut resistance

Certain materials can exhibit adequate abrasion resistance, but poor cut resistance. Once cut, their structural integrity may be severely compromised and catastrophic failure inevitable. For example, in countries where the roads are covered in snow for many months, and where use of snow chains is prevalent, the snow chains can hone the aggregate in the road surface to a sharp profile. These sharp edges can slice through inadequate motorcycle clothing – and the rider underneath! – with alarming ease.

This test method provides a “double-check” on the suitability of materials. A standardised blade, mounted on a holder which runs vertically on guide rods, is dropped from a specified height onto the test specimen and the depth of penetration of the blade is measured. The maximum permitted depth of the cut is specified in Part 1. Picture 7 (below) shows the impact cut test apparatus.

Glove Standard

EN 13594 – Protective gloves for professional motorcycle riders – Requirements and test methods

Glove materials are also required to meet international requirements for their innocuousness. Any metal studs or components of other materials which are intended to improve the abrasion resistance of certain parts of the glove must be fitted to a separate external layer and may not protrude to the inside of the glove. Gloves must extend not less than 50 mm above the wrist joint, and are restraint tested to ensure that in use they cannot be pulled off the hand.

There are requirements for tear strength of materials, with the impact abrasion resistance (minimum requirement of 2.5 seconds) sharing the same apparatus described in EN 13595. The tests for strength of seams and impact cut resistance adopt methods from the industrial glove standard. Optional impact protection is tested with an impact energy of 5 Joules and a transmitted force requirement of 4 kiloNewtons.

Footwear standard

EN 13634: Protective footwear for professional motorcycle riders – Requirements and test methods

Based on the wealth of available industrial footwear standards to draw from, EN 13634 provides an adaptation suitable to the demands motorcyclists place on their footwear. There is a minimum height requirement of 160 mm, measured inside the boot from the footbed up the rear of the boot to its topmost edge.

The strength of the bond between the sole and the upper is tested, the thickness and cleat height (depth of “tread”) of the sole must both be above prescribed mimima and its resistance to abrasion is tested. The sole is also required to demonstrate a minimum specifoied level of inherent rigidity – too soft a sole could collapse in an accident and increase the risk of severe foot injuries, which a more rigid sole might help to prevent.

The uppers of the footwear are subjected to the impact abrasion test described in EN 13595 Part 2, although the impact cut test follows a different method to that used for garments. The water absorption and desorption characteristics of the material worn closest to the wearer is also assessed.

Optional requirements include testing of impact protection which may be fitted to the ankle and shin, water resistance and fuel oil resistance of the outsole.


Each of these standards features requirements based on several years of independent laboratory testing products from the marketplace; determining where the dividing lines lay between products that protect and those which do not. The standards do not seek to replace conventional wisdom with new concepts of academic origin, but are founded on a level of best practice established over several decades by leading garment manufacturers. The result is a series of documents that – even taking into account concerns in respect of the back protectors standard - will provide exceptional benefits to motorcyclists seeking dedicated safety clothing and those who wish to make their purchase against a recognisable, independent mark of fitness for purpose

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- Part 4 (Compliance Controversy)

The regulations concerning PPE for motorcyclists are quite plain: if the manufacturer claims in their literature or advertising that the product, or some component of it is intended to provide protection, then the product or component shall be considered PPE and must be brought into compliance with the PPE regulations. Motorcycle clothing is a category of PPE that is required to be independently tested. Approved clothing is required to bear CE marking.

Given that the motorcycling industry was an integral part of the lobby that negotiated an understanding with the European Commission, one should surely expect nothing less than their total adherence to the rules of the game.

Well, that simply is not happening.

There are a number of manufacturers – predominantly, but not exclusively, the UK suppliers of bespoke leathers – who had elected to CE mark their garments against the requirements of the Cambridge Standard or SATRA alternative specification. This was because the European Standards were still under development. It is now possible to purchase leather or textile garments meeting the Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3 requirements of these documents.

The major players have apparently not made much effort in this direction, however, despite continuing to market their products in a manner that in many cases both contravenes the terms of the accommodation reached with the European Commission, and breaches the PPE regulations.

Looking through magazine advertisements and the web sites of some manufacturers, it does not take too long to find companies who market their clothing in a manner that is equally contemptuous of the law. Where phraseology appears in print such as “affordable protection against wind, rain and tarmac”, “offer extreme protection”, “for protection, quality and style” and “total commitment to safety”, how can this credibly be argued not to constitute a claim that the product so described is protective?

For example, on the web site of leading boot manufacturer’s Alpinestars (www.alpinestars.com), the author found a detailed specification for the S-MX PLUS boot containing no less than thirteen terms; each of which clearly implied that the product is protective. . The specification for the GPS Road Boot contained nine such terms. I have coloured in red what, in my opinion, constitutes the contentious terminology in the S-MX Plus description:

“SHIN PLATE. Contoured shin plate protector is injected in high modulus PU for a high level of impact and abrasion resistance. CALF PROTECTOR. U shaped protector is impact resistant and protects the internal/external ankle and rear calf area. Additional protection is provided by the top reccessed buckle structure. SLIDER. Interchangeable biinjected PU material with snap-in assembly. HEEL/ANKLE PROTECTOR. Wide and ventilated heel counter extends to both ankles to increase protection and is combined with a shock absorbing padded insert, and selfmolding foam ankle protectors. Replaceable PTFE coated aluminum sliders are positioned in the back and external section of the heel to allow the boot to slide and absorb shocks during falls. ANKLE SUPPORT. Internal patented "ankle brace" with shock absorbing material. SHIFT AND TOE PROTECTOR. Injected PU extended to the toe area. INSTEP FLEX AREA. Extended thermoformed bellow for a soft back and forth flex. UPPER. Lorica and leather. SOLE. Brand new sole has been designed for improved feeling between the rider's foot and the pegs of the motorcycle. CLOSURE. Instep speed lacing closure. Unique and protective lateral zipper with reflective piping. Replaceable ratchet buckle closure on the calf features a hidden strap for security and is integrated with a calf slider. LINING. Synthetic forefoot lining laminated with open cell foam. Highly breathable lining on ankle and leg areas. FOOTBED. Alpinestars anatomical and replaceable countered footbed provides arch support and forefoot pedal feeling.

Still with Alpinestars, their description of the “Stunt” jacket speaks of leather with “excellent abrasion resistance” and “maximum tear resistance”

Italian clothing giant Dainese (www.dainese.com) operates a very impressive web site, with an abundance of moving images and close-ups of their products.

The main Dainese page makes specific reference to the importance of safety. Phraseology appears such as “Protection and comfort; the two keys to the safety of the motorcyclist, two words with significance that Dainese has come to learn well over thirty years…” and Dainese promotes a formula for their philosophy “Safety = Protection + Comfort. Grand ideals currently unmatched by compliance with the requirements of the PPE Directive.

Dainese explains how this philosophy manifests itself within their products with descriptions such as that for the “Talos” suit that proclaims, “Some parts were made using the new D-Stone ® fabric with exceptional performance in terms of abrasion and tear resistance...”

Apart from its impact protectors, Dainese does not market, at the time of writing, a type-approved and CE marked motorcycling suit.

German clothing superstore Hein Gericke (www.hein-gericke.com) also fail to receive a clean bill of health - although in mitigation they have made significant effort with their respected Hiprotec ® impact padding system and have recently launched a range of CE marked boots. Will they be the first major clothing supplier to market a full range of approved clothing? The purpose of their SAFE ® safety-seam might be open to interpretation, however, and product specifications including “Double leather in the crash zones”, as is claimed for the Tribal Evo jacket, show they still have some way to go.

British distributor Feridax (www.feridax.com) deserve marks for effort, but prove it is difficult to market leather garments credibly without relying on the material’s reputation - established across several decades – as the choice of motorcyclists seeking protection from injury. Their promotion of the Spyke 4 race suit talks of “Keprotec inserts for extra abrasion resistance”.

These are just some of the examples found in a brief trawl through cyberspace that also included visits to the sites of Frey Daytona, Spidi (who provide perhaps the best example of how to promote garments within the regulations), Axosport (again, a carefully worded site) and many others.

Some garment suppliers have been fitting their products with protectors discovered to be fraudulently CE marked. In 2002, one UK-based distributor was caught out when Trading Standards purchased one of his garments and arranged for the fitted protectors to be independently tested. The protectors failed to meet the requirements of EN 1621-1 and the distributor’s stock of garments was reportedly impounded until the non-conforming protectors were replaced with the genuine item.

Industry can to some extent argue that since the clothing, footwear and glove standards were only published fairly late in 2002; with the lead times involved in the development, sampling, selection and catalogue photography for the major distributors’ ranges – often a year or more before they hit the shops – they cannot reasonably be expected to have a “European Standard” range available until the 2004 model year at the earliest. Against this, however, industry knew from 1991 that the standards were under development, was aware when they were completed and knew the EU Member States had approved them for publication. Moreover, if industry can market back protectors conforming to EN 1621-2 long before the standard is officially published (the author’s Gore-Tex suit being a case in point), why not a range of clothing?

A significant proportion of the European motorcycle clothing industry appears to be treading a thin line, with retribution only a visit from Trading Standards or a product liability case away. If the consumer purchases a motorcycle garment based on the manufacturer’s advertising and the retailer’s sales “spiel” that it is protective, and the product is not CE marked, the manufacturer and retailer have broken the law and that consumer should contact the local Trading Standards Department.

If this discovery is made after what the consumer thought was a protective garment has disintegrated around them during an accident, then previous litigation indicates the courts will be on their side. For example, in Maxwell v Custom Lids (Milton Keynes County Court, case number MK708466), a suit suffered catastrophic seam failure when the wearer fell from his motorcycle at 40 mph. The judge stated that the motorcycle suit Mr Maxwell was wearing was not fit for purpose as motorcycle clothing. It is understood the brand distributor at the time removed all stocks of the model concerned from retailer’s shelves. With eight motorcyclists’ clothing standards now available, it will be much simpler to challenge the fitness for purpose of a product if it is sold using false claims.

This brings us full circle to the opening paragraph of Part 1 of this series of articles. Clothing declared by the manufacturer not to be PPE may provide a level of protection that is satisfactory, adequate, barely adequate or completely unsatisfactory. Clear identification of the various types of clothing will enable consumers to differentiate between competing products in the marketplace and this will safeguard the interests of both the consumer and the supplier. It is hoped that in addition to alerting consumers to the situation, and the issues involved, these articles will also have resonance with manufacturers and distributors of motorcycle clothing and impress on them the need to be open and honest in describing the status of the products they market.

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