Essex County Fire and Rescue Service

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Protection

Our firefighters are highly trained people who approach their duties professionally and with appropriate personal protective equipment. They would never be able to do their firefighting job without proper training, protective equipment or full risk awareness.

It is absolutely NO DIFFERENT for them as FireBike riders and motorcycle enthusiasts. In both roles they are well trained and prepared for what may lay ahead. It should be the same for you as a rider.

Wearing the right protective equipment can help any motorcycle, scooter or moped rider significantly reduce the consequences of a collision or "unscheduled dismount". Nonetheless the benefits offered by protective garments are still widely underestimated, especially by scooter and moped riders and commuters. Attitudes and perceptions regarding protective kit still need to change if improvements in road safety are to be achieved.

This section aims to provide some simple guidelines to help increase the number of motorcyclists using appropriate protective clothing and equipment.

Why You Should Always Wear Personal Protective Equipment

Fashion and “look” are important factors influencing the purchase of motorcycling apparel. However, there are important safety aspects to consider.

Unlike car drivers who are surrounded by a protective steel cage with seatbelts and airbags, motorcycle riders enjoy the feeling of riding in the open air. Unfortunately this sense of freedom has its drawbacks especially in terms of protection in the event of any kind of collision but also when riding in extremely hot or cold weather, when it’s raining, when hit by insects or by debris flung up by other vehicles. It’s for these types of situations, and possible encounters between the rider and the road surface, that protective equipment should be used at all times.

Comfortable clothing suited for each individual riding style is essential, and should:

  • Offer protection in the event of a collision
  • Keep riders comfortable in hot or cold or wet weather
  • Help to make riders visible to other road users

Many scooter riders do not realise that travelling at lower speeds does not mean they are not at risk of serious injury. There is no difference in coming off a scooter at 25mph or a larger motorcycle at the same speed. Scooter riders have exactly the same chances of suffering injuries such as broken limbs and extensive skin abrasions requiring skin grafts – or worse. It is easy to find suitable protective clothing matching personal style and tastes.

What follows is some general information and guidance on the protective equipment that is available.

Helmets

A crash helmet is the single most important piece of protective kit. According to the World Health Organisation, helmets reduce the incidence of fatal head injuries by 50%.

Helmets help protect the head in many ways. The outer shell resists penetration and abrasion. The fundamentally important liner inside the shell absorbs the shock by slowly collapsing and spreading the load under impact. The soft cloth liner next to the head keeps riders comfortable and the helmet fitting snugly.

Always secure the helmet using the chin strap – this is essential to ensure the helmet does not come off in a crash. Fastening the chin strap is a legal requirement.

It is ESSENTIAL that you choose a helmet that fits correctly. It must fit snugly and securely. If it moves around on the head it won’t offer the best protection. Your helmet dealer will assist you in selecting the best size helmet for you. Never buy a helmet just because of the brand or reputation, fit must come first.

Helmets sold in the UK must satisfy testing standards and comply with either British Standard 6658:1985 or ECE Regulation 22.05. Look for a label inside the helmet or on the shell. In addition look out for the independent SHARP rating assessment for your helmet. This gives a 1-5 star safety rating to help inform your purchasing.

NEVER buy or use a second hand helmet. The external appearance of the shell can disguise damage to the internal protective material, in which case it will not offer sufficient protection in a crash.

Also ensure that the helmet’s visor is clean and free of marks and smudges which could affect your vision, especially in strong sunlight. Misting can be reduced or eliminated through venting and anti-misting inserts/treatments. Never use a dark visor at night or in poor weather conditions.

Helmet Checklist:

  • It bears a clearly visible label indicating BS or ECE type approval
  • It covers rider’s forehead and brow
  • It doesn’t move, slip over rider’s eyes or put pressure on the forehead
  • Peripheral vision should not be obstructed
  • The helmet mustn’t cause pressure or impede vision to riders wearing glasses
  • Most importantly, it must be comfortable and be correctly fastened

Gloves

Never ride without specialist motorcycling gloves. The first thing you do in a crash is to instinctively put out your hands for protection. Skin can be removed from the hands in less than a second, so protection is essential.

Motorcycle gloves are available in many styles, weights and thicknesses. Lightweight gloves with no padding and possibly some ventilation are more comfortable during the summer while heavier, lined and/or insulated gloves are available for additional protection from winter cold.

Motorcycle gloves need to protect riders’ hands and wrists without reducing their ability to operate the machine. Full-fingered gloves protect hands from blisters, wind, sun and cold and will help prevent cuts, bruises and abrasions in a crash.

Make sure the gloves have good straps/fixings around the wrist. If the gloves can be easily pulled off without undoing a fixing, they will come off just as easily in a crash.

Gloves Checklist:

  • Hands and wrists are covered entirely
  • The gloves fit snugly
  • The gloves are waterproof to ensure hands don’t get dangerously cold
  • Gloves specifically designed for motorcycling ensure full control over the machine

Boots

Motorcycle boots protect feet, toes and ankles without affecting the rider’s maneuvering ability. ‘Trainers’ may be quick and easy but even a minor fall has the potential for serious injury to feet, toes and ankles. Riders should consider whether they need to spend more on waterproof boots or to look for additional features such as toe and ankle protectors (replaceable when worn out).

Boots Checklist:

  • Entire foot, ankle and lower shin are covered
  • The boots are waterproof to ensure rider’s feet don’t get uncomfortably – and dangerously – cold
  • Boots with plastic or metal guards offer more protection in case of accidents.

Leathers

Riders should always wear appropriate clothing to protect them from impact and abrasion injuries in the unfortunate event of a collision.

Leather jackets and trousers (or suits) offer excellent protection to riders in the event of a crash. Good quality leather garments are available nowadays in very fashionable looks and colours, with excellent safety and protective features (usually with in-built body armour providing additional protection for the shoulders, elbows and knees).

Leather garments should fit well and feel comfortable without being tight/restricting movement and should ideally be at least 1.2mm thick.

It should be loose enough to allow comfort, but tight enough to hold body armour/other protective equipment in place.

Leathers Checklist:

  • Bright colours to aid visibility to other road users
  • Loose enough for comfort, tight enough to hold armour/protection in place
  • Keeps rider comfortable in prevailing conditions
  • Wrist fastenings to stop sleeves riding up
  • CE approved protection 

Textiles

If you prefer not to wear leathers, there is a range of textile/synthetic garments available, which can be extremely water resistant and provide warmth through thermal linings. Textiles need to have built in body armour, which substantially improves their impact and abrasion protection.

Wearing regular denim jeans whilst riding a motorcycle or scooter is never a good idea. However, there are specialist denim jeans available on the market which are reinforced in key areas with Kevlar (the same material used in bullet proof vests), which provides far more abrasion resistance than regular denim.

Body Armour

Body armour or impact protectors are designed for use in clothing to provide protection against injuries caused by impacts with the ground or road surface in motorcycle accidents. The armour helps prevent and reduce in the severity of contusions, fractures, muscle stripping and joint damage.

Such armour may be purchased separately or can be included as original equipment forming part of a garment. The best armour will be CE marked as a proof of compliance with EU standards.

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