What is PPE?
PPE is “personal protective equipment” which means clothing that protects you from injury. Some motorcycle clothing is designed to protect you from injury; other clothing may be designed for fashion. Clothing that is simply for fashion is not PPE. Clothing that is PPE should have a “CE” mark.
Do I have to wear PPE?
In the UK, you don’t have to wear any PPE when riding a motorcycle (a helmet is not legally PPE
What different types of PPE are there?
There are many different types of PPE on sale for use on a motorcycle. There are gloves, boots, trousers, jackets, one-piece suits and separate protectors. All of these can be PPE and will be CE-marked. All of these will be approved by an independent testing authority and will likely have a number to show which tests were done (indicated by an “EN” followed by a number).
Gloves – usually tested to EN 13594
Boots – usually tested to EN 13634
Jackets, trousers and one-piece suits – usually tested to either EN 13595 (for professionals) or prEN 17092 (for consumers)
Protectors – usually tested to either EN 1621-1 (limbs), EN 1621-2 (back), prEN 1621-3 (chest) or EN 1621-4 (inflatable)
Most types of motorcycle PPE have two levels of protection with level 2 generally offering more protection but perhaps being heavier or more uncomfortable. However, the new clothing standard prEN 17092 has 5 levels which describe different products as below:
AAA – race-style one or two-piece suits
AA – one or two-piece touring style suits
A – light summer clothing
B – light abrasion-only clothing
C – impact protector garments
B and C garments are usually meant to be worn together, for example, as separate knee pads (C garments) with Kevlar-lined trousers (B garments). AAA will offer the best protection but will be hot and heavy and difficult to use away from the bike unlike the lighter and cooler AA or A garments. Getting too hot when riding can pose a serious risk for tiredness and concentration, so always choose the highest level of protection for the conditions and the type of riding you expect to do. Having different types of PPE, e.g. summer and winter jackets, will mean you are more likely to use PPE all year round.
How is PPE different to normal clothes?
Motorcycle PPE is tested to see if it really does protect you from injury. This include tests that:
- Simulate sliding down a road at varying speeds
- Check the sleeves/legs don’t slide up
- Check protectors stay in the correct place
- Check the seams don’t split
- Check protectors absorb some of the strength of an impact
Normal clothing isn’t tested for these things.
What should customers look for?
All motorcycle PPE will have a prominent “CE” mark and in nearly all cases will show a pictogram of a person riding motorcycle and the number of the standard used (see above). Clothing that does not have the “CE” mark is not PPE.
Some current clothing is not “CE” marked or has “CE” marks that only refer to the armour. These will remain on sale for some time and are perfectly legal to buy and wear and in most cases will protect you better than normal street clothes. As of April 2019, all motorcycle clothing manufacturers will need to certify and “CE” mark new designs of clothing although shops can continue selling their stock of clothing without “CE” marks until they run out. This means both non-“CE” marked clothing and “CE” marked PPE will be sold alongside each other for some time yet.