If you come off a motorbike, you are inevitably going to slide along the road surface. Without serious protection the injuries can be horrific, so your gear needs to resist the abrasion for as long as possible. There are some widely accepted standards for this.
Jackets and pants should be able to slide across a road surface under pressure for at least 4 seconds, ideally up to 7, before wearing through.
Typical 1.4mm cowhide used in bike leathers lasts about 6 seconds. (Denim jeans last about half a second. Ouch.)
Gloves should offer 2.5 seconds of abrasion resistance and boots between 5 and 12 seconds.
Achieving performance standards like these occupies some of the best technical minds in motorcycling. And the results can be impressive.
Modern motorcycle gear can incorporate everything from kangaroo and stingray leather through to textiles like cordura and kevlar composites. Designed and manufactured to cope with abrasion, some will be waterproof too.
Cut and tear protection
Your gear needs to resist being cut, penetrated or torn by sharp objects. In a crash, foot pegs, wheel spokes, broken glass and any sharp edges from vehicles or road signs all become weapons. Without clothing that can protect you, severe cuts can result. Look for clothing that conforms to one or more of the international standards.
No matter how strong the material if the garment splits at the seams, or the zippers fail on impact, it’s useless. So the material, fasteners and seams must remain intact in a crash.
Make sure all exposed seams have at least one other row of concealed stitching. This helps hold the seam together if the top stitching wears away in contact with the road.
Impact protectors (or body armour) aim at protecting those parts of the body most likely to suffer a serious injury in a crash. A full set would include shoulders, elbows, spine, hips and knees. Typically, these slip into pockets in your gear but the best spine protectors are usually worn separately under your other gear.
Look for CE marking or other international standards.
Airbag suits and jackets are now more widely available, offering the ultimate in protection. ‘Active armour’ is a new development that remains flexible until impacted.