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Buying motorcycle clothing online? Don’t be fooled!

Online shopping for a cool new motorcycle jacket or some sturdy-looking new motorcycle gloves is easier than ever. But what are you really buying?

Attractive websites promise low prices and world-wide shipping, and all you have to do is ‘click to order’. However, a closer look at websites that sell ‘motorcycle gear’, shows that for a growing number of them it seems common practice to fool the consumer (you!) into buying clothing that is not really fit for motorcycling purposes. So, unless you are buying from a known and trusted website, please read on and make sure they cannot fool you.

Within the European Union and the United Kingdom there are no uniform rules on what you must wear when you are out riding your bike. On a national level however, governments can set up their own rules, like in France where it is a legal requirement to wear CE approved gloves when you ride. However, the European Union and the United Kingdom do have uniform rules when it comes to the production and testing of motorcycle apparel. By law, motorcycle clothing sold in the EU and UK must conform to the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regulation. Conformity to standards and CE marking provide assurance to you, the buyer, that motorcycling apparel is fit for purpose.

‘Motorcycle clothing cannot be legally placed onto the European market unless it has been tested and officially certified’

Paul Varnsverry

Paul Varnsverry, expert in motorcycle clothing and technical director at PVA-PPE Group, says: “There are European Standards, so that the tear strength, abrasion resistance and seam strength of motorcyclists’ clothing can be scientifically tested. Motorcycle clothing is also regulated by European legislation, so everyone involved in the supply chain – from the factory to the retailer – is legally responsible for the products they sell. Motorcycle clothing cannot be legally placed onto the European market unless it has been tested and officially certified.”

Part of the regulation Paul Varnsverry mentions, is that the entire garment must be independently tested and certified, and not just parts of it. So, if you come across websites that – for example – sell motorcycle jackets with ‘CE approved protectors on shoulders and elbows’ or with a ‘CE approved back protector’, you know something is wrong, because CE approved protectors are not enough. The entire garment must be independently tested and certified. Sellers of motorcycle gear that is not CE approved will also often use misleading texts, such as ‘CE Certificate’, ‘CE Certificate of Conformity’ or ‘CE Compliance Assessment’.

If you are shopping online:

  • Watch out for misleading texts in the item’s description.
  • Watch out for false CE approval claims.
  • Only buy items that are genuinely CE approved and come with all the right documents.
  • When in doubt (and when the COVID-19 circumstances allow), visit your local motorcycle shop that sells protective motorcycle clothing and get some good advice and explanation before you spend your hard-earned cash.

On his LinkedIn page, Paul Varnsverry tirelessly exposes websites that sell motorcycle clothing with false claims about CE approval. Genuine CE approved gear will have markings or labels indicating which class of protection it provides and the standard against which it was tested. To have a garment CE certified, the tests must be conducted by a notified body, a third party. The manufacturer provides detailed product information (a technical file which includes what materials are used where, drawings, constructions, etc.) and the notified body will take those documents and compare them to the garment itself; making sure what is provided on paper is not falsified and truly reflects the garment. The notified body will then run the required tests on the garment(s) and confirm compliance or not. A garment either passes or fails for a certain classification.

By law the manufacturer’s Declaration of Conformity must include the following information:

• The manufacturer’s full name and address;
• A statement that the Declaration of Conformity is issued under the sole responsibility of the manufacturer;
• The model name of the PPE product and, if applicable, its catalogue number (e.g. CE Jacket, product code 123456), or a clear colour image of the product;
• A statement that the product is in conformity with the requirements of the PPE Regulation 2016/425;
• The standards to which the PPE product has been tested (e.g. EN 17092-3:2020, for Class AA garments);
• The name and official number of the official body which has issued the type-examination certificate (e.g. Ricotest, Notified Body No. 0498);
• The certificate number;
• The place and date of signature;
• The signature of the manufacturer’s authorised signatory, their name and function in the company.

The details of the certification body and certificate number enable checks to be made for authenticity (if this information is not provided, it may be because the product has not been tested and certified!). Some certification bodies provide a search facility on their websites, others provide an email address to submit enquiries to.

Motorcycle gear which has been CE certified will always have a booklet with instructions on how the customer selects the appropriate protection class, the declaration to the CE label, instructions on how to combine the motorcycle clothing with other protective elements and how to use and adjust the protectors. The booklet also contains a detailed explanation of the protection class and instructions on how to store and dispose of the protective equipment. In the booklet you will also find a website address where you can find (or request) a so-called DoC, the Declaration of Conformity of the product. If the item you’re looking at is not certified, there is no DoC. With the Declaration of Conformity, the manufacturer or importer declares that the product meets all applicable regulations.

Paul Varnsverry: “If manufacturers place their Declarations of Conformity on their websites, this enables consumers who are researching a potential purchase to make checks with the certification bodies before parting with money. If Declarations of Conformity are not made accessible, consumers can email the manufacturer asking for copies. Manufacturers are not legally obliged to make copies available upon request – details of how to access need only be supplied with the product – but if a company has nothing to hide, why would they reasonably refuse? If manufacturers prefer not to face the prospect of being inundated with requests, then making the Declarations of Conformity publicly accessible on their web sites is the logical solution.”

What if you are from the UK?
After Brexit, the European PPE Regulation will still apply in the UK. The British government stated that all EU laws in place on the day Brexit was finalised, will be incorporated into British law. The British Standards Institution has also stated that it will continue to be a member of the European Standards agency, CEN.

Written by Wim Taal

This article is subject to FEMA’s copyright