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European standards for motorcycle clothing

Two European standards for motorcyclists' protective clothing include specific abrasion and impact tests.

Two of the most common hazards associated with a motorcycle accident are abrasion and impact injuries. For this reason, the current European (EN) standards for motorcyclists’ PPE include tests to assess protection against these two hazards. Below is a summary of test principles.

Impact abrasion test – EN 13595-2:2002

In the world of textile testing there are many well-established procedures and pieces of test equipment for assessing the resistance of a material to abrasion. However, when the European standard for protective clothing for motorcyclists was first published in 2002, it included a new abrasion test that was different from any being performed at the time. The important and significant difference with the new test, detailed in EN 13595-2:2002, was that it was designed to simulate what would happen during a real-life motorcycle accident when a rider falls from his or her machine.

The test incorporates a ‘rolling road’ covered with an abrasive material. The test starts with the sample being impacted against the moving abradant. The impact phase of the test is important as it can cause significant damage to the test specimen. The overall damage at the end of the test was considered by the European technical committee developing the test methods to be highly representative of that seen in motorcyclists’ suits from real-life crashes.

Specifically, the test involves a 49N (newton) weighted sample being dropped through a distance of 50mm onto a 60 grit abrasive belt moving at a speed of eight metres per second (8m/s) – approximately 18mph. The test ends when the sample is holed – indicated by a trip wire, placed underneath the test specimen, being broken. The result reported is the time (in seconds) to cause holing. To ensure consistent results, the abrasive power of the belt is assessed using two layers of a standard reference fabric and the specimen’s abrasion time is corrected accordingly.

Impact performance – EN 1621-1:2012

The severity of injuries to the body tends to increase with contact pressure (force per unit area). Hence, a given force is likely to cause a more severe injury when it is applied to a smaller area of the body.

Therefore, impact protectors worn during motorcycling, and activities such as contact sports, are designed to reduce the contact pressure on the body during a collision. They do this, firstly, by increasing the contact area – usually by using a hard outer shell – and, secondly, by reducing the peak force applied – usually by increasing the duration of the impact through a reduction in the relative deceleration between the body and the object being impacted by use of a deformable material.

The principle of the EN 1621-1:2012 test used to assess the protective qualities of so-called ‘body-armour’ worn on the limb joints while riding a motorcycle, involves dropping a weight onto the sample, which is placed over a rigid metal hemispherical anvil with a radius of 50mm. This in turn is connected to a rigid and massive base via a high-speed force sensor.

The weight (a 5kg impactor with a flat strike face 80mm x 40mm) is dropped onto the sample from the necessary height (approximately 1m) to generate an impact speed of 4.47m/s. This equates to an impact energy of 50 joules. During the impact, the force transmitted through the sample to the anvil is measured by the high-speed force transducer. The lower this force, the more protective a product is considered to be. Hence, the standard includes a requirement for a mean maximum transmitted force of less than 35kN. The impact test is carried out after subjecting the sample to various pre-treatment conditions.

Other tests covered in the European standards for motorcyclists’ clothing include resistance of the structural materials to tearing, cutting and bursting.

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