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If you have read the 2021 ChromeBurner Magazine, you may remember the article where we gave information about the different labels that motorcycle jeans can achieve. We received many positive reactions and in the past year we have noticed that our customers have become increasingly aware of the different levels of protection in motorcycle jeans. That's not surprising, because by definition, motorcycle jeans are a very clear garment where the different safety levels are almost directly translated into the look, feel and comfort. These are the three most important aspects why you would want to have a pair of motorcycle jeans instead of leather or textile pants. For this issue of the magazine, we went a little deeper into the matter: we joined REV'IT! in the lab to put two different pairs of motorcycle jeans through the same tests they have to pass to get CE certification, and see for ourselves exactly where the differences lie!
The testing and certification of motorcycle clothing is not entirely new. The current standard is the EN 17092 standard but it did not come out of the blue. The distant ancestor of this standard dates back to 1989 and was quite outdated. In addition, it was not specifically applied to motorcyclists. In 2002, there was a first attempt to objectively and consistently assess the safety of motorcycle clothing but this directive only applied to professional use (couriers, personal transport by motorcycle, medical emergency assistance, etc.) of motorcycle clothing and was therefore widely avoided by the motorcycle clothing industry.
After all, it was much more beneficial for the manufacturers to market less safe clothing for recreational riders or commuters and they actually got away with it with impunity! Since 2020 a fresh wind is blowing and the current EN 17092 fortunately goes a lot further in depth. For each type of garment, guidelines have been drawn up in which the human body is divided into different zones (1 to 3) where zone 1 is the most critical zone and 3 is the least critical. In order to obtain a certain certification, products will have to score satisfactorily in those zones. This package of standards was created by Working Group 9, a collective of some 35 European representatives, such as clothing manufacturers, testing bodies and shareholders. This may sound at first like a "toilet duck" story, but practice has shown that the standards are strict yet realistic. The EN 17092 standard is in a positive sense an enormously complex standard with much attention to detail and we can talk endlessly about it, but for this article we will, as mentioned earlier, zoom in on motorcycle jeans.
Well, that was the theory for a moment! But what does a garment have to go through in the laboratory to earn a certain certification? The EN 17092 standardization includes a number of standardized tests. Let's start with the two least "tangible" tests. First is the test for dimensional stability. This sounds complicated but very crudely put, this is the washing machine test. A garment must go through about five special wash cycles in a high-tech washing machine. After those wash cycles, the garment must have shrunk or stretched a maximum of 5 percent.
The purpose of this is to prevent the garment from shrinking or stretching too much, thus maintaining the all-important fit (think back to the critical zones of the body) but also keeping the protectors in place. In addition, washing clothes is of course a light chemical process, which could potentially affect the mechanical properties of the fabrics used. The second test is about harmfulness; both to humans and the environment. It tests for pH, chemical (color) substances used must be within safety limits and the garment must not cause skin irritation. Here you have to think not only about the fabrics used, but also the zippers and buttons.
The most interesting tests are those to determine abrasion resistance, tear strength and seam strength. It is precisely these tests that we have been able to see for ourselves!
In order to show the difference in strength and abrasion resistance, we took two pairs of pants for these tests: a REV'IT! Piston A-certified so-called "single-layer" of 12.5oz Cordura Denim and a REV'IT! Reed AAA-certified "double-layer" of 16oz Cordura Denim with REV'IT!'s own PWR|Shield high-grade polyamide/nylon fiber at the critical areas. So the main component of both pants is Cordura Denim, which is a blend of Cordura fibers with traditional denim. At first glance, something immediately stands out. The Piston has a fashionable wash, while the Reed is solid blue. REV'IT!'s Lab Coordinator Jorrit Memel explains: "We can influence the look of a pair of jeans in several ways. This can be done, for example, through chemical washes, by sanding down the dyed fabric, through a laser or through a stone wash. What you are basically doing in all cases is damaging the fabric. This is less of an issue for a normal pair of jeans but when you are trying to achieve a certain wear and tear strength for a pair of motorcycle jeans it is a different story. This is also the reason why you have more choice in terms of washings for motorcycle jeans in the B or A certifications than in the triple-A models." Aside from looks, you also notice an immediate difference between the two pants when you pick them up and slip them between your fingers. The weight of a fabric is measured in ounces per square yard. The 12.5oz fabric of the Piston pants feels lighter, softer and more supple than the 16oz fabric of the Reed pants which in turn feels a bit harder and stiffer. Before we've even done the abrasion resistance test, we can instinctively pinpoint which pants will score better on that!
To test the wear resistance of the pants, three round samples are cut out per trouser. These are placed on the so-called AART Darmstadt machine, named after the university where this machine was conceived and developed. This machine consists of three rotating arms with a concrete tile underneath. That concrete tile is machined in such a way that it has an average friction coefficient as defined in the EN 17092 standard. In layman's terms, the tile reminded us of an old, poorly maintained piece of road surface somewhere in Eastern Europe. In any case, it was quite a bit rougher than the asphalt on our highways! Because a fabric consists of warp and weft, the length and width directions in which the threads run, the three samples are placed on the machine in different directions. Parallel to the warp, parallel to the weft and one sample at a 45 degree angle to the two. This is to rule out the possibility that the fabric might perform differently at different angles.
The fabric will have to pass the test at all three angles. We will start with the Piston with A certification. As mentioned earlier, it should remain whole at a 45 km/h drop and the machine is set. The arms start spinning and the tempo is seriously increased. The samples come flying by at high speed until suddenly.... "BWAF". The machine drops the arms on the concrete stone with a force that simulates a fall of a 75 kg person. Due to the friction between the samples and the concrete tile, the arms come to a stop quite quickly and the room fills with the smell of pained textiles. Pretty intense! Jorrit removes the samples and in the picture below you can see that all three samples are visibly damaged and starting to get thin. But worn through? Not so! Jorrit has seen our facial expression during the test and remarks, chuckling: "This was nothing yet, soon the triple-A pants will come!". The samples from the AAA-certified Reed are prepared and the machine is set again, this time to simulate a fall at a speed of 120 km/h. The machine starts up again and begins to pick up speed. Faster and faster, until the samples fly by with a buzzing sound and the machine begins to shake. "KLAP!" The samples hit the concrete and after a few seconds come to a loud grinding and sliding stop.
Inside the machine hangs a gray cloud of smoke and the air in the laboratory is almost unbearable. What a violence! If this simulates a fall of 120 km/h, then you suddenly realize how important good clothing is. Jorrit again removes the samples and what appears, despite the violence and the intensity which was tangibly a factor of 3 higher than in the previous test, there is also no hole to discover. The fabric is damaged, but again not worn through. And neither is your own skin underneath!
We walk further to the pulling machine. This can test both the tear strength and the seam strength of the pants. For the tear strength, a sample is grabbed that has already been partially cut. The machine grabs two ends and by slowly increasing the pulling force, the fabric should tear further open. The force at which this is allowed to happen is, of course, defined in the standard. The Piston Pants will slowly start to tear, thread by thread, at a certain tensile force, expressed in Newton. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to communicate the exact value to REV'IT, but we were allowed to try out the same force on a spring bunker ourselves.
To give you an impression: our colleague Rick, no stranger to the gym, was able to reach this value with great difficulty for one second where the sample in the machine had to endure this force for several minutes. The Reed AAA pants reach a value that is about 2.5 times higher, a considerable difference! In the graph you can clearly see the difference between the pants. The green and red lines are from the Piston pants in warp and weft directions and the blue and orange are from the Reed. Each peak in the graph is a point where threads snap and the machine has to start building up power again until the next peak, when the next threads snap.
To the same machine the task of testing the stitching for strength as well. Instinctively, the seams are the weakest point of a garment. Nothing could be further from the truth. REV'IT uses triple stitching, also known as safety seams, on its motorcycle jeans. The machine steadily increases its power and to our surprise, it is the fabric itself that starts to tear, not the seams. And we have just seen how strong the fabric is. So don't worry about the seams, they are practically infallible!
We chat with Jorrit for a while, where the main discussion point is actually which pants you should buy now. Jorrit is very down-to-earth about it, but also clear: "Always make sure, whether you're talking about boots, gloves or in this case jeans, that your garment fits your way and style of riding. Look, do you usually take a leisurely drive around the church in nice weather? Then I can totally relate to the fact that you're probably fine with A rated pants. Officially I am not allowed to say, but if you fall at a speed higher than 45 km/h, then you have the knee protectors to help you, because they always hit the asphalt sooner than your knees. But do you think it's cool to ride a Hayabusa at the speed limit or do you just do a lot of fast highway driving? Then please look for the safest pants you can buy. You can always make a concession on safety, for example because you find AA-certified pants more comfortable or more attractive. But then be aware of the fact that you are making a concession. I prefer to see you adapt your style of driving! In any case, as far as I am concerned, it is always unwise to ride without knee protection, such as with B-certified pants. And with a wink: "But we don't carry that at REV'IT!