Motorcycle gear fails abrasion tests

Good Gear Guide abrasion tests

Eight out of 10 of the most commonly worn motorcycle suits in Australia have failed abrasion tests conducted by Dr Chris Hurren at Deakin University in a joint study with researchers from Neuroscience Research Australia in Sydney.

Senior Research Officer Dr Liz de Rome says only two passed at the minimal level of the European standard.

“Eight failed miserably,” she says.

Liz De Rome - motorcycle gear abrasion tests
Liz De Rome

“They are supposed to give four seconds of slide time but quite a number of them got less than half a second. 

“The gear that is out there is not good. We need to get the manufacturers competing to improve, without a set upper limit for performance.”

While the study has not yet been published, preliminary findings were presented at the Australasian Road Safety Conference (2015).

“We will not be publicly releasing the names of the brands we tested. It would be unethical and unfair. The aim was to inform and spur action by government to support the development of the five-star rating system, not to name and shame industry who are often as much in the dark as their customers.

“There are no standards nor any accredited testing facilities in Australia. We will release the results of individual products to their manufacturers on a confidential basis to help them in quality improvement.

“We are supporting industry by determining the thresholds for injury protection and thermal comfort, to set guidelines for products that are fit for purpose. The major objective is to set up an independent assessment system, like NCAP (New Car Assessment Program), which has led to substantial improvements in the safety of cars by providing independent assessments to customers.
“Improvements have to be market driven, no one buys a one-star car any more, so now industry can invest in the production of 5-star cars. We are working towards a program so that riders can choose five-star gear and know they are getting what they have paid for.”

Liz says  a five-star rating system for motorcycle protective clothing s preferable to mandating protective clothing.

She says that if protective clothing is mandated, it could create a market for fraudulently labelled garments.

“I really think the five-star rating is absolutely the way to go,” she says.

Liz, a rider since 1969, recently told the NSW Parliament’s Motorcycle Safety Inquiry that there “is no association between the cost of garments and their protective value, when you look across the spectrum of what is available”.

“Cost and brand name is no indicator of whether the garment is fit for purpose,” she told the Inquiry.

“We have to find a market mechanism to force the manufacturers to improve their products, and to enable that through what the riders buy.

“The best quality product in the market in Australia today is probably the stuff in Aldi.

Aldi motorcycle gear abrasion tests
Aldi motorcycle gear

“I introduced Aldi to a manufacturing consultant who advises companies on how to make gear that will comply with the European standard, and that is what they have done. Nobody else in Australia is producing full sets of motorcycle gear –  jackets, pants and gloves –  that comply with the European Standards.

“Most of the garments coming in from overseas do not comply.The European standard is a good standard, and we should use that as the benchmark—as the international standard—because the clothing has an international market.” 

Liz says she helped simply to prove that effective protective clothing does not need to be expensive, although she agrees that the pricing model used by Aldi is obviously not viable for the market in general. “They have broken new ground in manufacturing that others can now follow.”

Her previous investigations into motorcycle protective clothing include The Gear Study, which was the first in-depth study of the effectiveness of motorcycle protective clothing in crashes.

“We found that if you are wearing gear with full-impact protection, the serious injury rate is reduced by 30%. It is not 100%; it is 30%. People still get injured,” she says. 

“It does not prevent injuries; it reduces them. A standard would not get us anywhere.” Liz is also the author of The Good Gear Guide, published by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

Good Gear Guide abrasion tests

Duncan McRae, manager of health promotion and advocacy agency Youthsafe told the Inquiry his observation over 25 years of rider training is that people want to buy good quality motorcycle gear.

“They go to the market place with good money, spend good money and buy rubbish,” he says.

“They can spend $2500 on a suit that they think is going to protect them, and it is really just a fashion statement. That suit will not actually do the task that it needs to do.”

He says a star rating system would educate purchasers so they can make well-informed purchasing decisions. 

“It will not necessarily be the most expensive item that will offer the best protection. We tend to make that sort of mistake when we are purchasing anything,” he says.

Although Liz is too modest to send us a photo of her on her bike, she says she comes from good motorcycling stock: Her mother, Isobelle (Belle), then Belle Flach, was a photographer in the British Women’s Auxiliary Air Force  in WWII.

Isobelle (right) - abrasion test
Isobelle (right)

“Her job was to look after the cameras in Lancaster bombers which took photographs during bombing raids to ensure they had hit the targets. Mum had to retrieve and develop the film when the aircraft returned and get the results by motorcycle to bomber command. They had dedicated riders to do the deliveries but she did ride the bikes. She also developed many of the photographs now seen in war museums including those from the Dam Busters movie.”

29 Comments

  1. I can’t believe we’re still having this discussion. EN13595 was published 14 years ago. Everyone witout a vested interest agrees its a good standard. Aldi can bring it to the market for a cost our kids on their ‘youth wages’ can afford. If only they could get out of bed early enough to beat the well informed middle age buyers to it when it hits the store…
    Why can’t govt simply require sellers in motor vehicle dealer licensed premises to disclose if the gear meets EN13595 and which level? No need for ridicoulous and obviously parochial ANCAP stars. Simple yes or no will suffice.
    The actual issue here is not the standards or the cost, it’s the vested interest. 30% reduction in injury severity and no action for 14 years. Clearly no one cares.

  2. Good, interesting article.
    Comments re Aldi, & that price is unrelated to quality
    are exactly what I have noticed at Aldi & at cheaper motorcycle retailers.
    Stirred a hornet’s nest too. :))))))))))))))))))))

    ps
    I dislike universirty safety “experts”, esp female ones, because of the biased anti-motorcycle nonsense they spout
    but Liz de Rome is quite different
    & I look forward to reading more of her articles.

  3. what a load of rubbish, imagine if ANCAP said “we wont name manufactures who fail crash test because that isn’t fair on them” I smell a rat here!

  4. “Senior Research Officer Dr Liz de Rome says only two passed at the minimal level of the European standard. “Eight failed miserably,” she says. “They are supposed to give four seconds of slide time but quite a number of them got less than half a second. “The gear that is out there is not good. We need to get the manufacturers competing to improve, without a set upper limit for performance.””

    So 8 of the 10 most popular are substandard. Great.

    “We will not be publicly releasing the names of the brands we tested. It would be unethical and unfair. The aim was to inform and spur action by government to support the development of the five-star rating system, not to name and shame industry who are often as much in the dark as their customers.”

    It is clearly unethical NOT to publish the results, if it is now known beyond reasonable doubt that people are buying substandard gear. How could any reasonable person accept the researchers position as ethical??

  5. Important point the good Dr missed – while Aldi gear may pass a certain abrasion test, one main concern in choosing good protective gear is that it fits well to your body size / shape. Even good stuff fails to protect if it does not fit well (too tights / too loose). Aldi does not offer a good range in sizes – so let’s not all go and buy Aldi gear just because it apparently is, according to the good Dr, better than Aus-made or even imported. Instead, do your research, buy gear that actually fits and protects.

    1. How do you do that when at this point the only way to test the protective capability is to crash? I have been a competition license holder for more than 30 years and have had my share of off’s, so I think I have a little experience in this field, yes a good fit is required, but that won’t help in an off if the goods are sub standard. All my race gear is European certified, even my Aldi gloves which have saved me more than once.

  6. “Eight out of 10 of the most commonly worn motorcycle suits” – so what exactly does this mean? The most commonly worn gear in my experience is a jacket and some kind of jeans. Would this qualify as a suit for this testing? If not they haven’t even tested what most people are wearing, which means it’s probably worse than she is saying. Also in my experience (been present at too manu of bike crashes, both minor and major), abrasion protection is the least of our worries – the gear people are wearing has been protecting just fine in the most common crashes I’ve seen. Impact protection is the big issue.

    Not naming anyone because she apparently wants to spur government action on a 5 star rating system. A 5 star rating system will only add cost to the gear. If the European standard is so good (which some of us who have done our own research are already aware of anyway), why wouldn’t we just use that standard? Otherwise we would be going down the same ridiculous path as helmet standards. We are now allowed buy and (in a few states) wear helmets that are certified to the European standard. So manufacturers no longer have to meet the Australian Standard and can (hopefully) pass on those cost savings to us.

    She is apparently a rider, good on her for trying to do something positive for fellow riders. But don’t get the government involved until we can tell them what we need. If she really wants government to do something positive, people like Guy Stanford and the motorcycle councils/organisations who sorted out the helmet debacle should be involved otherwise the government, who really have no clue about the subject of the laws they pass, will just fuck it up like they always do and it will end up costing us, the riders, both in dollars and potentially skin and bones.

  7. So Dr Liz de Rome says she will not be publicly releasing the names of the brands she tested because it would be “unethical and unfair”.

    However, in her eyes it’s apparently both ethical and fair to let Aussie riders unwittingly put their lives in danger by purchasing safety gear which is now known to be grossly inadequate? Is it ethical and fair to allow safety equipment to be sold even though it is known to be useless?

    There’s absolutely nothing to stop you naming the brands, Dr Liz de Rome. It’s obvious that your standards of ethics and fairness are a hell of a lot different to mine! Shame on you! Shame on you!

    1. Smells strange to me also Kim – there’s a money trail somewhere I’d be guessing.

      One could be led to believe that in this case the ‘ethics’ and/or ‘fairness’ are in a business context and relate to the companies who either make, market or import products intended to preserve life or reduce/prevent injuries of ‘actual people’ … oh, I recognise that smell now, its bovine excrement!

      I guess the cronies need some way of keeping their mates wallets full now they don’t have to test helmets…

      Let’s be clear – there is a BIG ethical issue with not releasing the details of unsafe products. I wonder if the results are subsequently published whether one could successfully pursue the unethical people who suppress the results of this kind of research if one was adversely affected ?

      1. Ethics is a funny business, especially when it comes to research. All research projects conducted through a university have to go through “ethics clearance” before anything can happen. There are many hoops to jump through to get this clearance. Its a right royal pain in the arse and the bane of many researchers, but is there to protect people. In most instances the names of participants MUST remain anonymous. Names cannot be used in any document (including those created by the researcher in the course of the work and kept on the researcher’s own computer), only codes. Records linking codes with names cannot be kept on any computer – but must be kept in a secure location. Sure, there are no “participants” here, but we do not know what the ethical requirements were for this research.

        There is a good chance that Liz received some, or all, of the clothing free of charge from suppliers or retailers. One of their conditions could be that the names of the apparel or supplier remain anonymous. Breaking this anonymity may mean no more testing in the future. Like everybody else, I don’t know the details of the deals.

        In the end we do not know why Liz has kept this info private. But don’t just bag her – she may have had her hands tied.

        Having said all that, I would still like to know the detailed results of the research. Could be interesting reading! And I will be really pissed off if the expensive suit I just bought is one of those that failed.

  8. I guess she didn’t test Rukka gear. Rukka makes the three items mentioned (jackets, pants and gloves), which are sold in Australia and do comply with the European standards.

    1. Rukka is developed in Finland, top of the range in European standards, surely better than Aldi. Australian manufactured seems to be the issue, as well as imported gear – but there is a difference there. Clearly good stuff is available and imported, it is the knowledge base of the buyers that is not necessarily up to speed yet.

      1. As of now (Nov 2016), Rukka does not have any garment which is CE-approved. It uses protectors which are CE-approved, but that’s a totally separate thing.

      1. still fails the taste test in my view. test something, find its unsafe, don’t tell people who are using it … simple fail, no complex logic needed.

  9. Ive been riding for 25 years & this article, without naming brands is useless. I was of the assumption that Tiger Angel jackets & pants manufactured in Melbourne are top quality & would meet Euro standards.
    I’m also now confused as to if this article refers to products like Dainese that I use, being of a low standard ?
    I’m confused.
    This 5 star rating system was suggested about 5 years ago. Why is NOTHING implimented ?
    The star rating system is obviously the way forward, but please somebody get it done instead of talking about it.
    Also as John points out, publish the results, including brand names.

  10. PLEASE NOTE:
    Liz de Rome declared at the Inquiry that she has no pecuniary interest in Aldi.
    The Good Gear Guide is provided free as a service to riders.
    When the final report on the abrasion testing is released, we will publish the full results, with names.
    No, Aldi does not produce the gear, but sources it from various manufacturers.
    This article is not a paid ad for Aldi.
    I hope this answers all your queries.
    Mark

  11. “i introduced aldi to a marketing consultant” This woman is both working for the
    “industry’ that has a financial interest in selling us clothing as well as making
    submissions to government agencies How can there be any claim to scientific detachment?
    If she has received any monies from the commercial sector she should declare it

  12. Commercial in confidence of not, a lot of claims by various manufacturers and/or retailers over the years and calls for independent testing to provide the consumer with fact. Also some underhanded tactics by some to force others out of business, all on the basis supposedly of legal protections around Kevlar etc. About time this entire subject was exposed to public viewing. Please release the results!

  13. This is a bit hard to believe with some kind of result data to support it. All well and good to say stuff fails and Aldi is better, but without detailed results it almost comes across as an advertisement for Aldi.

  14. 100% agree with Graham — lets see names. When will the report that will back up these claims be available? One thing I thought was strange was this quote:

    “Nobody else in Australia is producing full sets of motorcycle gear – jackets, pants and gloves – that comply with the European Standards.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Aldi doesn’t produce the motorcycle stuff it sells in Australia? Rather it would have certain styles/standards in a factory in Asia/South Asia works too? Like most other manufacturers these days? Seems like a pretty big call that I’d like to see backed up. I’m not slagging the report but the devil is always in the detail. Interesting nonetheless.

    1. Manufacture it = you make it
      Produce it = you supply it
      Aldi produces the goods, that doesn’t mean they manufacture them.

      I can produce a dictionary to confirm what I am saying; this doesn’t mean I am going to sit down, write a whole dictionary, get it printed ……
      You may have been asked by a policeman to produce your licence. He’d get a bit upset if you manufactured it
      yourself.

      Last paragraph doesn’t make sense.

      I know this stuff, I swallowed a dictionary when I was twelve. 🙂

  15. Name and shame them. Put up the brands and the tests done. If the European branded gear didnt pass the euro tests id want to know and question the supplier.

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