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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Safety helmets and protective clothing for motorcyclists

When riding mopeds or motorcycles it is always very important that you wear the correct protective clothing. This will protect you if you fall off. It also protects you from the weather and helps other road users to see you. Find out about safety helmets and the protective clothing available.

Importance of protective clothing

Safety helmets

By law you must wear a safety helmet when riding a motorcycle on the road

Wearing the right gear is just as important as servicing your motorcycle and knowing how to ride it.

By law you must wear a safety helmet when riding a motorcycle on the road.

To protect yourself from injury and stay comfortable, invest in good quality clothing. This should include:

  • visors or goggles
  • a jacket
  • trousers
  • gloves and gauntlets
  • boots
  • visibility aids

It is a good idea to get clothing with armour at points which are most vulnerable in a crash like:

  • shoulders
  • elbows
  • back
  • knees
  • ankles

Safety helmets for motorcyclists

SHARP - the helmet safety scheme

A helmet is the most important piece of your protective kit - choosing the right one could save your life.

Safety Helmet Assessment and Rating Programme (SHARP) is the safety rating for motorcycle helmets set up by the Department for Transport. SHARP provides an independent assessment of how much protection a helmet can offer in an impact. Helmets are rated from one to five stars. The more SHARP stars a helmet has, the better the protection it can give.

Safety helmets - the law

By law you must wear a safety helmet when riding a motorcycle on the road. All helmets sold in the UK must either:

  • comply with British Standard BS 6658:1985 and carry the BSI Kitemark
  • comply with UNECE Regulation 22.05
  • comply with any standard accepted by a member of the European Economic Area which offers a level of safety and protection equivalent to BS 6658:1985 and carry a mark equivalent to the BSI Kitemark

Damage to helmets

If your helmet receives any serious impact you should always buy a new one. Damage won't always be visible to the naked eye.

Never buy or wear a second hand helmet, as you may not see if the protective material inside the helmet is damaged.

Visors and goggles

A visor or goggles are vital to protect your eyes from wind, rain, insects and road dirt.

All visors or goggles must comply with either:

  • a British Standard and display a BSI Kitemark
  • a European standard which offers a level of safety and protection at least equivalent to the British Standard and carry a mark equivalent to the BSI Kitemark (ECE 22-05)

You should not wear tinted glasses, visors or goggles if you are riding in the dark or conditions of poor visibility.

It is very important that you keep your visor or goggles clean. You must have a clear view of the road ahead at all times. To clean your goggles or visor wash them with warm soapy water. Do not use solvents or petrol.

Glasses and contact lenses

If you need glasses or contact lenses to read a number plate at the prescribed distance then you must wear them when you ride.

Protective clothing for motorcyclists

Second hand kit

Don't buy second hand kit - it might not protect you if you have an accident

Motorcycle clothing is of two main types:

  • clothing made from man-made materials
  • leather clothing

When you are choosing protective motorcycle clothing make sure you look for additional protection for the shoulders, elbows and knees.

Don't buy second hand kit. It may be cheaper but you don't know what's been done to it. It might not protect you if you have an accident.

Gloves and gauntlets

Good gloves or gauntlets are essential when you ride a motorcycle. Never be tempted to ride without gloves. If you fall off you could seriously injure your hands.

Motorcycle boots

It is important to wear good boots or footwear when you ride a motorcycle. If you wear sandals or trainers your feet will have little protection if you fall off.

Riding in cold and wet weather

Be prepared for the weather to change - take waterproof clothing and screen wipes in case it rains. Being wet and uncomfortable while you are riding can distract you from hazards on the road.

When riding in very cold weather your hands and feet can become painfully cold. No matter how good your gloves or boots, the cold will eventually get through.

Electrically heated motorcycle accessories

If you are serious about motorcycling in cold weather you should consider buying electrically heated inner gloves or electrically heated handlebar grips.

These accessories put a large demand on your motorcycle's electrical generator. You should check that it can cope with the extra demands before you buy and fit them.

Visibility aids for motorcyclists

Improve your visibility

To improve visibility in the dark wear reflective clothing or strips

Many road accidents involving motorcyclists occur because another road user didn't see them. Using some form of visibility aid will help others to see you. Remember you need to be visible from the side as well as the front and back.

Improving your visibility in daylight

Wearing fluorescent orange or yellow clothing in daylight will improve your chances of being seen.

Other methods you could use to help other road users to see you in daylight include:

  • wearing a light or brightly coloured helmet
  • wearing brightly coloured clothing
  • riding with your headlamp on dipped beam

Improving your visibility in the dark

To improve visibility in the dark you need to wear reflective clothing or strips. They work by reflecting the light from headlamps of other vehicles. This makes you much more visible from a long distance away.

How to find out more about protective clothing for motorcyclists

For more information about protective clothing you can read the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) official publication 'The official DSA guide to riding: the essential skills'.

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