Global – Although in our part of France it has rained for the first time in a couple of weeks with the heat ranging from dry and hot to – hot and humid, England – Scotland and Wales the past week saw the temperatures rising to hot and sweaty.
With that heat comes the usual manifestation, as surely as rain and threats of flooding return, advice from various “safety” sources to ride wearing nothing less than the full “proper” protective clothing.
Some advice considers that it is better to dress up for a crash and sweat in order to remain safe.
There are those (including ourselves) whose tendency and outlook is not to have the mind-set of crashing, (of course you cannot control your own destiny) to have a bit more hindsight as foresight but that’s a whole other topic. For now it is about the rider’s choice to wear what they see fit, the “freedom of choice” that combines for a lot of people what motorcycling is all about.
Not so much dressed to crash but to survive the way you are dressed in the “Bear” Grylls sense of navigating outside the norm of everyday life.
There appears to be a set of riders who as a whole see themselves as enlightened individuals – after all, we are individuals – as part of the motorcycling/biker culture who subscribe to “All The Gear All The Time (ATGATT), philosophy and there is nothing wrong with that, that’s a choice that can be made.
Even with the ATGATT theorists, there is division with the type of clothing that says you are an ATGATTist e.g. full leathers, textiles, Kelvar lining, motorcycle labelled gloves, boots, while legally wearing all that is required – an approved and correctly fastened motorcycle helmet with suitable eye protection (with of course the exception in the UK for Sikhs wearing a turban).
Then there is the sensible advice of wearing at least appropriate or suitable clothing, in other words, an adaption of what you are comfortable with, which could be seen as what you can afford. Not everyone can afford the “best” leathers or textiles or wish to wear that type of motorcycle clothing.
When taking your motorcycle test in the UK, the authorities give a general guide which indicates the minimum level of clothing acceptable:
- motorcycle boots
- sturdy footwear or boots that provide support and ankle protection
- textile or leather motorcycle trousers
- heavy denim trousers
- heavy denim jacket with several layers underneath
- textile or leather motorcycle jacket
- motorcycle gloves
Imagine, as some would have, that motorcycle clothing should be made compulsory when riding a bike. Apart from the conundrum of how do you manage this from a police point of view, subsequently making riders law breakers, having stopped riders for compliance or not, with some appropriate fine or driving licences endorsed with penalty points because the gear you were wearing was not from a government approved list.
Extrapolating this out to compulsory approved motorcycle clothing for everyday riders would have to meet minimum standards which are in place at present through a European Directive (to be repealed in 2018 by a new European Regulation – EU Legislation and PPE ) on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – clothing (Gloves, Jackets, Trousers – one piece or two piece – impact protectors – inflatable protectors) not just for impact abrasion resistance. The standards are developed by a technical committee working group (CEN/TC 162/WG 9) within the CEN – Europe Committee for Standardization and contained in European Standards (EN).
Clothing that is placed on the market as PPE must meet these minimum standards and are independently tested and approved to set minimum levels for various characteristics that should ensure that all clothing which claims to conform to the minimum standards will provide a reasonable level of protection.
That is how you end up buying motorcycle clothing that has a CE label that indicates that what you are buying does what is claimed by the manufacturer.
For governments this could be easy enough, if there was the will to do so, the riders group in Iceland in 2012 successfully resisted the introduction of mandatory protective clothing by their government.
As an example of an introduction of compulsory wearing of protective gear, helmets have to be built to a standard for selling and wearing in Europe (ECE 2205), however the compulsion to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle on public roads is made by individual member states not the European Union.
Like helmets made to a standard there are various prices, depending on the model and make, so you can buy clothing e.g. a textile jacket for over a thousand pounds or down to under a hundred pounds that have approved to a standards marking.
Call to End Confusion
However concerns are raised by Mark Hinchliffe in MotorbikeWriter from Australia, that standards of protective motorcycle clothing are confusing to understand or even that the labelling is deliberately misleading, with calls to end the confusion.
The call comes from CEO and founder Grant Mackintosh of Draggin’ Jeans who have been manufacturing high Quality Motorcycle Clothing since 1997 and are the only casual motorcycle brand in the world to have ever passed both CE Level 1 and CE Level 2 certifications for Abrasion, Burst and Tear resistance.
Grant asks, “When you buy motorcycle protective clothing with a CE sticker, are you getting proper riding gear or something more suitable for gardening?
“Current European standards are being reviewed after 20 years, but it seems there is pressure on the reviewers to lower the testing standards because many manufacturers cannot meet them.”
Grant adds that, “The French have already issued a new protocol (French Protocol 89/686/CE) with lower standards so French companies can claim a CE label.
I was in Europe and there were motorcycle gloves being sold with a CE certification but when you read the number they were certified for gardening, so what chance does the motorcyclist have in that confusing environment?”
He supports the Cambridge testing machine developed by a Cambridge University researcher as the proper standard for testing and certifying protection as regards abrasion resistance, saying, “It has formed the backbone of the British and subsequently the European standard for more than the last 15 years and is widely accepted as the best method for evaluation motorcycle clothing.”
His outlook on the quality of protective motorcycle clothing is that, “Just because an article of motorcycle clothing has a CE label, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fit for the purpose of riding.”
Grants recommendation is that Australia should introduce as soon as possible an independent testing regime with appropriate labeling, using a star rating system so that riders can have the proper information thus ending the confusing situation over the current European standard.
At Motorcycle Minds we would agree on the confusion and Grant’s recommendation for a star rating system similar to Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) or in Europe – Euro NCAP which, “provides consumers with transparent information on the level of occupant and pedestrian protection and collision avoidance capabilities provided by different vehicle models in the most common types of serious crashes.”
In the UK there is something similar for helmets run by government. SHARP, the Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme – sharp.direct.gov.uk is set up to help riders, “make a more informed choice when choosing a helmet with a simple five star scoring system.”
Grant has suggested that riders check the CE labels carefully, then go online and research which country they are certified in, for what purpose and to what level.
He states, “The number they should be looking for is EN13595-1 (level 1 and 2) for clothing where the abrasion resistance for level 1 clothing is 4 seconds and above, and level 2 is 7 seconds and above.
The number for the armour approval standard is EN1621-2 (previously EN1621-1) followed by a letter which corresponds to the location such as S for shoulder, E for elbow, K for knee etc.”
So if you wish to wear all the gear all the time or just some of the gear some of the time it is not that easy to pick the “right gear” from peg to saddle!
Gosh It’s Hot
OK now that I have your attention, the whole point of this article is that in all this recent cerebral masturbatory debates and preaching on whether wearing a tee-shirt with no gloves and flip-flops is a bad thing in hot weather, there is no advice on how to stay cool – or so you would think!
Popping up in the debate in the UK is Survival Skills – Kevin Williams who looks at staying hydrated in hot weather on the Survival Skills Facebook page – and asks, why is hydration so important?
The full article below.
Why’s hydration so important?
Well, what we tend to forget is that nice, cooling breeze that we’re feeling as we ride along on the bike is keeping us cool by evaporating sweat from our skin. And that means we’re steadily losing the water in our body.
And the cooler our riding kit, the more we’re evaporating sweat.
How much fluid we lose isn’t consistent. A person who perspires heavily will need to drink more than someone who doesn’t. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, may also mean we need to drink more water. Older adults are also at a higher risk of dehydration, as age means we’re less sensitive to dehydration and may not even feel thirsty. And some medications can act as diuretics, causing the body to lose more fluid.
The human body is composed of up to 70% water and water is involved in so many chemical and neurological processes in the body that just 2% dehydration means that we start to suffer problems. Apart from thirst, other symptoms are (roughly in the order we’ll start to suffer them) are:
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramps
- Impaired memory and concentration
And if we stop sweating altogether, we’re about to move into heat exhaustion – a potentially dangerous condition.
The best way to check for dehydration is to monitor our urine. If it’s consistently colourless or light yellow, we are most likely staying well hydrated. Dark yellow or amber-coloured urine, particularly if it’s strong-smelling, is a warning sign of dehydration.
The simplest way to rehydrate is to drink water. Drinks best avoided include strong coffee (the caffeine is a diuretic), sports drinks and sugary drinks (they are packed full of calories).
Dehydration really is something we don’t fully appreciate here in the UK, and I know now that almost inevitably in the years when I was despatching, I was dehydrated through the summer months.
So here’s the Survival Skills ‘hot weather’ riding tip; start your ride with a glass of water – that way you’re already hydrated and no playing catch up. Take a bottle of water with you and take a drink at intervals, and refill it as needed.
If you eat during your ride, avoid salty, processed foods – sorry, that includes the Biker’s Breakfast, (my favourite)!
Instead snack on something like fruit salad – fruits like strawberries, kiwi, oranges and bananas are full of water. Then finish the ride with another glass of water.
Oh, and on a long journey factor in the time it takes to stop at some services, get the kit off, and take a pee when you stop to refuel. That way you won’t be tempted to skip on the drinks.
More tips come from MotorbikeWriter in Australia where, although dealing with a lot of hot riding, that, “dehydration doesn’t just occur in the heat of summer. In winter, the cold can shut off the body’s thirst mechanism and trick you into thinking you’re not sweating. Meanwhile, your body is losing fluids as the air passes over your body.”
And back to our favourite subject of food and coffee, after that “Bikers Breakfast” you didn’t have, “While having a coffee break, avoid having too many sweet cakes, donuts and muffins. Sugar can dehydrate you if it gets to very high levels in your blood. This can happen if you are a diabetic, take certain medications or have an infection or some organ diseases. Sugar causes your kidneys to produce more urine to eliminate the sugar, leading to dehydration.”
At Motorcycle Minds we are not of a mind to ever go out on the bike in t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops, which is so uncool looking and crass. We wouldn’t even be seen dressed like that to go food shopping down at Tesco’s or in our case E. LeClerc!
Whatever you ride, however you dress, pick the clothing that you are comfortable in – that offers you the protection that you want – however confusing the markings – check out motorcycle magazines or on-line publications for their testing and recommendations which usually cover more than just crash protection – buy what you can afford and stay cool in hot or warm weather.
Our previous 2010 article – CE Markings aka Caveat Emptor – Let the Buyer Beware
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