Munich. Helmet, overalls, boots, gloves – these days, most motorcyclists are aware that choosing the right coveralls involves far more than just covering up. Even in summer, bikers wearing jeans and sneakers have become a rare sight. Modern motorbike clothing has embraced high-tech developments. TÜV SÜD’s experts explain what to look out for when buying new bike leathers, and warn: Replace overalls immediately after an accident!
Leather, textile or a combination of both, with protectors at strategic points – for anybody planning to take to a motorbike saddle, proper clothing is not only about good looks, but also – indeed, primarily – about good protection. Protective overalls have seen enormous advances in recent years. As Lars Krause, TÜV SÜD’s motorcycle expert, comments, “In terms of comfort and breathability, today’s leather suits are almost as effective as textile clothing; in turn, textiles are constantly improving with respect to abrasion-resistance.” Further vital considerations are optimum freedom of movement and weather protection. “If you feel good, you’ll ride more safely”, advises Krause. So how can bikers choose the right clothing for their needs?
One- or two-piece: Important questions to ask in advance are: How, when and why will the bike be used? One-piece suits are a good choice for shorter trips; the close-fitting overalls reduce wind resistance and cannot slip or bunch up. For longer tours or travelling to work, two-piece textile or leather suits are a better choice because they can also be worn when not on the bike, and also offer space to stow at least the minimum of keys and a wallet. Whatever the reason for riding, being visible is crucial, so choose lighter colours!
Nappa or nylon – Leather and textiles are the safest materials for biking. If leather is your preference, check the thickness. Tests have shown that leather clothing must have a minimum thickness of 1.2 millimetres to ensure its natural abrasion resistance will suffice. The design of leather bike clothing has made particular advances with respect to functional gear; thanks to new tanning processes, leathers are now a feasible choice even for conditions of wind and rain. The alternative tanning agents used in modern leather clothing ensure that the wearer stays dry even in a downpour; an additional benefit of this new process is that the leathers stay cool even in direct sunlight. New breathable membranes that are bonded directly to the leather also keep bikers dry and fresh.
From cow, goat or kangaroo skin to synthetics: Textile clothing is lighter, more comfortable and also offers superior protection against wind and rain. But the greatest advantage of textiles over leathers is that they can be worn over normal clothes, making them an excellent choice for commuters. Where breathability is concerned, textile suits are still ahead of leathers; fabrics are lighter, and additional zippers as vents in the outer layer ensure that air can circulate between the lining and the body to provide freshness. “Bikers planning trips in the heat should go for textile clothing”, advises Krause.
Protectors: Shoulders, elbows, back, hips and knees – today’s protectors are both comfortable and useful. Protectors can either be integrated directly into clothing or obtained separately. Krause comments, “The size, form and arrangement of the protectors play a vital role in the degree of protection offered by motorbike clothing.” Look for the certification marks: EN 1621-2 applies to back protectors, and EN 1621-1 to all other types.
Getting the fit: When trying on the clothing, ensure it is comfortable and fits perfectly. It should offer good freedom of movement; remember too to allow room for functional underwear. Leather suits have stretch textile inserts in movement zones to improve flexibility and ventilation. Ensure that sleeves are the correct length; when the elbows are bent the cuff must extend beyond the wrist and close smoothly. Of course, length is also an important factor in trouser or overall legs. To check these two points, it is useful to bring your own boots and gloves along when trying on new bike suits. Once the outerwear fits, turn your attention to protection. First, consider the protectors integrated into the suit; their number and type will give an indication of the quality of the garment. If there are no certification marks, forget it! Textile styles should always have a waist belt to cinch in the overall or jacket and prevent flapping. Check that any thermal lining can also be adjusted, to ensure that both clothing and protectors always fit closely and precisely. And a final tip for bikers that prefer a sportier riding style: take care that the collar can be adequately adjusted; the forward crouch adopted by sporty bikers can often cause collar chafing.