Check the safety standards for gear
When choosing motorcycle clothing and helmets, make sure everything conforms to accepted safety standards.
New Zealand is a small market with little local production, while other large, developed countries invest millions in testing and rating protective clothing and equipment. So, New Zealand has generally followed Australian and European Union safety standards for motorcycle gear.
A higher price doesn’t always mean higher protection. Look for gear that has been approved to the relevant safety standards and that performs well in independent testing.
Ride Forever has recently teamed up with the Motorcycle Safety Advisory Council (MSAC) and Australian State road and road safety agencies to develop a new star rating scheme for motorcycle clothing, called MotoCAP. It will use independent testing by Victoria’s Deakin University in Melbourne, for use in Australia and New Zealand.
Why develop our own ratings? Because the EC standards commonly displayed in clothing almost always do not relate to the clothing itself. They’re solely for impact protection and helmets. The EC standard for garments applies to professional clothing and seldom applies to the clothing available to the public. We spend more than $94m a year supporting over 7,000 injured motorcyclists. If more riders wear better-performing clothing it may help to reduce the cost of injuries.
Look for the star ratings as they roll out in store.
Several international standards are accepted for motorcycle helmets used in New Zealand. This includes Japan’s JIS, America’s Snell Foundation, and Australian, British and EU standards. There’s also a UK testing scheme called SHARP (Safety Hemet Assessment and Rating Programme) and, closer to home, an Australian equivalent (Crash) that can help steer your choice.
In theory, the European Standard for protective motorcycle clothing is EN13595 Parts 1-4, but most of the gear you see labelled as CE-certified or approved refers only to the armour.
As our new star rating scheme rolls out, better and more comparative information on riding gear is becoming available. Until it’s complete, look for triple stitching that folds the main stitching away inside the garment, and seam welding. Check what you’re getting by way of armour. Even if a jacket’s shoulders and elbows have CE inserts, the back might just have a non-protective foam pad.
Look for standard EN1621 on slip-in armour for shoulders, elbows and knees. There are three levels of protection. Level 3 (extreme protection) absorbs twice the energy of Level 1 (basic) before transferring the same force.
Back protectors should be labeled EN1621-2. There are only two levels and the maximum force transferred is approximately half that of joint protectors. Standards here, though, are not the whole story.
Slip-in back protectors might pass the impact test but they’re nowhere near as effective as ones worn separately, eg a vest. These go right around the back of your rib cage and some shield your tailbone.
You see more and more chest protectors around nowadays, especially at track days. Look for the EN1621-3 standard. Again, with two levels.
Inflatable armour, both in the garment and separate vest-type, has filtered down from MotoGP and is becoming more widely available. It should display the EN1621-4 standard.
Gloves should meet CE standard EN13594 and boots, EN13634. The new MotoCAP star rating scheme will provide additional reassurance. On gloves look for double closures on the wrists, quality stitching, scaphoid sliders on the heel of the palm and extra protection, preferably plastic armour, for the knuckles.
Boots should have all-round protection with strong cups for heels and toes, plus a stiff steel shank in the sole.