The type of crash I had on Monday is statistically the most common: a low speed impact within a few miles of your home. How unscathed you are after such an incident very much depends on what you are wearing.
Scooter riders in general are perhaps one of the worst groups for riding around in casual clothes. Maybe this comes from the low speed of their machines, a desire to look a certain way or an unwillingness to invest in expensive kit.
Thankfully, at the time of my latest crash I was dressed from head to toe in fully-armoured Weise motorcycle clothing. Even at an impact speed of around 15mph the abrasion from salted tarmac was enough to tear right through the outer material of the jacket and trousers at the usual impact points – shoulder and knees – but only through to the armour held safely within.
Without the armour it is far more likely that I’d have broken a bone. As it was, after my mates picked the scooter off my foot I was able to hobble to the side of the road unaided.
Armour – what are your options
The most obvious option is to wear Motorcycle Clothing. Pretty much any bike-wear worthy of the name now includes armour.
- In jackets this should be in the shoulders, elbows and back
- In trousers it should be in the hips and knees
- The key standard to look for is ‘CE-approved’ armour. Some cheaper brands do sneaky things like putting approved armour in the shoulders and elbows but only a foam ‘comfort pad’ in place of back armour.
If you don’t want to wear dedicated bike gear, then in the last few years another option has surfaced which is the armoured vest. These tend to be highly breathable mesh jackets that hold the included armour close to your body, while at the same time giving you the physique that you could have, if you spent more time in the gym and less time in Greggs.
I used an Alpinestars armoured vest on Vespa Raid Maroc under a motocross shirt and it protected me in several low-speed offs in temperatures where it would not be healthy to wear a normal waterproof bike jacket.
The other advantage of an armoured vest is that it can be used to improve the crash protection of any classic kit you might like riding in, whether that be denims, vintage Belstaffs or a parka. As an aside, we’ll be stocking the Knox armoured shirt in the SLUK Shop soon.
Are all armours equal?
One of the main objections people have to wearing traditional armoured bike gear is that the armour feels stiff and bulky.
Old style CE armour often was stiff; sometimes made from a mix of hard plastic and soft foam to absorb impact.
In the last few years however, new types of armour have been developed using non-Newtonian polymers which have the unusual property of being soft, and pliable except when subjected to impact, when they behave more like a solid.
Two British companies – Knox and D30 – are leading the push to have these new-breed armour materials adopted by manufacturers of motorcycle clothing. Knox’s latest polymer – Microlock – exhibits all the fit and comfort advantages of non-Newtonian armour, but also extends its protective goodness over a greater range of temperatures compared to rival products.
Get in the habit
Armour only works where it covers, and if you remember to wear it.
On hot days it is tempting to just ride in denims when close to home. There’s no point in preaching, we’ve all done it.
The trick then is to find something protective that you will choose to wear, whether that be Kevlar-lined jeans like the Drayko ones I’ve used for years, or an armoured mesh jacket like the Weise Air Spin Evo Jacket I wore to Istanbul for our Frankenstein Scooters trip.
Whatever you do to aid self-protection will only help when it goes wrong suddenly and unexpectedly.