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A European standard for motorcyclists' back protection

Examining the requirements of EN 1621-2:2014.

Motorcycle riders are particularly vulnerable during road accidents, so use of appropriate protective clothing is critical in helping to minimise any potential injuries. For the last 20 years in Europe, a Standards Technical Committee Working Group (referenced TC162/WG9) within the European standards agency – Comité Européen de Normalisation (CEN) – has been developing and revising product performance standards for this type of protective clothing.

These standards are produced to support CE certification under the European Regulation (EU) 2016/425 on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The first standard was published across Europe for motorcycle riders' back protectors in 2002. This was given the reference EN 1621-2:2002 and included tests to ensure that back protectors were of sufficient size, ergonomically suitable and provided one of two defined levels of impact protection. This standard was used successfully by manufacturers and suppliers of back protectors and provided an internationally recognised benchmark for two performance levels of impact protection. These were referred to as 'level 1' and 'level 2', with the latter offering a higher level of protection but with the potential for increased weight and thickness.

The impact test adopted by the original standard involved the protector being placed over an instrumented anvil intended to approximate the wearer’s back. The protector was then subjected to a series of impacts from a kerbstone-shaped striker with a specified level of impact energy. The lower the force transmitted through to the anvil, the better the protection was considered to be.

General view of EN 1621-2 impact test equipment before release of the kerbstone striker

For protective coverage area, the 2002 standard covered two types of product:

In line with CEN procedures, this standard was subject to a full revision which resulted in the publication of EN 1621-2:2014. The 2014 standard retains the two performance levels for the impact test, but includes new pre-treatment conditioning procedures (the 2002 standard specified only that this test be carried out at ambient conditions of 20ºC). The first conditioning procedure is a compulsory requirement for impact testing after storage in a warm and moist environment. This serves a dual role of assessing performance when the protector is wet, such as may occur during riding in the rain. It also acts as an ageing treatment which will fail certain types of unsuitable compounds that may be detrimentally affected by hydrolytic breakdown. The new standard also now includes two optional impact test conditioning procedures – one at a higher temperature of 40ºC and the other at a lower temperature of -10ºC. The intention of these is to enable manufacturers to offer a greater range of products for suitability in different riding environments.

Close-up view of the kerbstone striker after impact with the back protector sample

In terms of protective coverage, the 2014 standard also includes a third type of protector, referred to as a 'central back protector'. This is intended to only cover the centre of the rider’s back and excludes the scapular region.

In addition to these fundamental differences, the 2014 standard was also revised to better clarify certain parts of the procedure that had led to previous ambiguities. For instance, the sites on the protector where impact tests should be carried out are more clearly defined.

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