Sometimes, no matter how much you try to ride safely or how often you check every single part of your motorcycle before riding, external factors such as reckless motorists on the highway, road hazards, and extreme weather conditions will always put you at risk of an accident.
In such cases, defensive riding is not always enough. And while it is a good practice, no rider can ever be safe while on the road. With the inherent risks that come with motorcycle riding, being a responsible rider not only means obeying the speed limit and being highly conscious of your surroundings. It also means wearing appropriate protective gear.
Is motorcycle body armor truly effective?
The answer is yes. According to a study by Dr. Liz de Rome, motorcycle body armor significantly reduces the risk of open wound injuries on the torso by 63%, hands and wrist by 73%, legs by 59%, and feet and ankles by 90%.
The de Rome study analyzed the correlation between wearing motorcycle body armor and the likelihood of injuries in motorcycle accidents by examining 212 motorcycle riders who were wearing minimal protective clothing and full body armor at the time of their crash.
Out of the 212 riders, 82.5% wore motorcycle jackets, 87.3% wore motorcycle gloves, 34.9% wore motorcycle pants, and 38.2% wore motorcycle boots. The majority of them suffered only minor injuries, with only 23.1% admitted to the hospital and 58.8% required to undergo some treatment but did not necessarily stay long in the hospital. The rest were either uninjured or have decided not to seek medical attention.
These statistics suggest that aside from reducing the risk of sustaining injuries, motorcycle body armor can also lessen the possibility of hospital confinement after a crash.
Why wear motorcycle body armor
It is crucial to protect the head especially since traumatic brain injuries remain the leading cause of death in most motorcycle accidents. But what some people forget is that it is crucial to protect other body parts as well.
Motorcycle body armor lessens the amount of force transferred to you and distributes the impact you receive if you hit anything during a motorcycle accident. This is made possible by materials with abrasion resistance properties that protect high-impact areas such as the shoulders, elbows, spine, hips, and knees in the event of a crash.
Aside from the physical protection, wearing motorcycle body armor can also give you some peace of mind. We all know that riding a motorcycle is already inherently dangerous, but wearing enough protection can make you feel more confident and safe on the road.
Different types of motorcycle body armor
There are many kinds of motorcycle protective gear, but the most fundamental articles of protective clothing that every rider should have are listed below. The de Rome study also assessed how each of them is effective in shielding the body part they are supposed to protect.
The de Rome study found that wearing motorcycle jackets lessens the risk of open wound injuries on the upper body by 63%. This means increased protection for the spine, shoulders, and elbows which are considered high-impact areas.
Motorcycle jackets are made from a variety of materials, but leather remains superior because of its incredible ability to resist abrasions. However, leather is not exactly the most comfortable. While it is more protective, it is also heavier, more expensive, and does not provide adequate ventilation.
If you find leather motorcycle jackets uncomfortable, you may want to consider motorcycle jackets made of textile, mesh, or Kevlar. Jackets made of these materials are much lighter, less expensive, and more comfortable to wear.
But more than the price and comfort, protection should still be the priority. So when you are shopping for motorcycle jackets, choose one that has additional padding in the back, shoulder, and elbows because these are typically the body parts that receive the initial impact during a motorcycle accident.
According to the de Rome study, gloves reduce the risk of open wound injuries on the hands and wrists by 73%. Your initial reaction is likely to put your hands out to catch yourself from falling in the event of a crash, so it only makes sense that you protect your hands as well.
Just like motorcycle jackets, gloves also come in leather, textile, mesh, or Kevlar. Whatever material you prefer, always try to choose gloves that have extra padding and armor on the fingers, knuckles, palm, and back of the hand to lessen the force of impact and prevent abrasions.
Aside from the material used, you should also consider the fit of your gloves. They should be tight enough but still comfortable to wear. Ill-fitting gloves can make manipulating levers and buttons difficult, so having the right fit will enable you to handle the vehicle comfortably.
The de Rome study also found that motorcycle pants reduced the risk of open wound injuries on the legs by 59%. Not only that but it also helps reduce the impact on the hip and knee joints which are highly vulnerable in motorcycle accidents. So if you want enough lower body protection, you should invest in a pair of high-quality motorcycle pants.
Motorcycle pants are typically made of leather and textile, but which one you choose will depend on the terrain and weather conditions you are riding in.
And just like with motorcycle gloves, you should also make sure that your motorcycle pants fit you perfectly and are comfortable enough when worn in the normal riding position. It should not be too tight, too bulky, or ride up too high because it can make riding, maneuvering, and braking difficult.
Lastly, the de Rome study found that motorcycle boots reduce the likelihood of open wound injuries on the feet and ankles by a whopping 90%. In a motorcycle accident, chances are you will use your feet and ankles to take the force of the fall. Your foot can also get trapped under the motorcycle in the process. But with motorcycle boots, such scenarios can be avoided.
Motorcycle boots typically have outer protection around the toes for abrasion resistance, steel toe inserts for impact protection, and oil-resistant soles that have a better grip on slippery surfaces. So if you think regular footwear is enough for riding, think again.
You should also consider fitment when buying motorcycle boots. Riding with a pair that is too tight can hurt your feet and the pain will take away your focus from the road. Riding with a pair that is too loose can be just as uncomfortable because the boots would be slipping and sliding off your feet. So to ensure safe riding, choose a pair of motorcycle boots with just enough room for your toes to wiggle but also snug enough that they stay in place.
Things to consider when buying motorcycle body armor
Choosing motorcycle body armor is more than just finding the coolest looking garment that can make you look like a badass on the road. There are more important factors to consider, like the ones listed below:
Wearing complete protective gear from head to toe is the most ideal way to prevent injuries in a motorcycle accident. However, it is not always practical. Each piece of protective clothing can cost hundreds of dollars especially the premium ones, so if you can only afford to choose one piece of protective gear other than a helmet, your next choice should be something that sufficiently covers your torso because it is the body part that needs protection the most aside from your head.
Protecting your torso is crucial because this is where the spine and vital organs are located. If you hurt your spine or any of your internal organs during an accident, it can cost you your life.
Fit and comfort
Your motorcycle body armor should fit you perfectly. If it is too large and too loose, the armor may move around a lot and not provide adequate protection upon impact. If it is too small and too tight, it can make riding uncomfortable which can prompt you to just not wear it at all.
It is also more ideal if you buy body armor that offers enough ventilation. When considering comfort, you should not only take into account whether the body armor is too tight or too loose, but also whether or not you will be too hot while wearing it.
It is common to see a CE certification when shopping for motorcycle body armor. This symbol stands for Conformité Européene, or “European Conformity” in English, which is a European safety standard that basically measures how much force motorcycle body armor can absorb.
The CE standard focuses mainly on two things: abrasion resistance and impact protection. Abrasion resistance refers to the body armor’s ability to withstand tears, cutting, or abrasions, while impact protection refers to the body armor’s ability to distribute the force of impact across a wider area to reduce the risk of injuries from a crash.
Most international brands that supply motorcycle safety gear to the global market label their motorcycle protective armor with this rating to indicate that their products conform to European motorcycle safety standards. However, such standards are not officially adopted in the United States. But despite that, manufacturers of motorcycle body armor in the US still use them as guidelines to produce high-quality protective clothing.
A CE rating is not simply a CE logo on a motorcycle protective gear though. Here are the different CE ratings and what each rating means:
- CE Tested – manufacturer tested the body armor according to CE criteria in their own facility but does not necessarily mean the body armor passed CE standards
- CE Certified – more secure than the CE Tested rating because the body armor is tested in CE-accredited facilities; however, it means that either only certain parts of the body armor were tested or only certain parts were approved. It is still up to you to find out which parts were tested or have passed CE standards.
- CE Approved – most secure rating which means that the entire body armor was tested in CE-accredited facilities and all parts passed CE standards