Can you tell me something about CE/European ratings for back protectors and other armor?

Here’s a short explanation of the rating system used to measure the effectiveness of motorcycle armor in absorbing and withstanding impacts.

The “EN” stands for “European Norm.” You might also notice armor listed as “CE”. The letters “CE” are the abbreviation of the French phrase “Conformité Européene” which literally means “European Conformity”. The term initially used was “EC Mark” and it was officially replaced by “CE Marking” in the Directive 93/68/EEC in 1993. “CE Marking” is now used in all EU official documents. All of this has to do with the European motorcycle safety standards. America has unofficially adopted these standards, but they are not required by law for street use. In contrast, to ride a motorcycle in Europe, you have to have protective apparel that meets these standards. Since April 2018, all motorcycle garments fall under the scope of the PPE regulation, which basically means that if it is sold as protective motorcycle apparel, it’s deemed to be personal protective equipment and should be tested at an official notified body under a strict set of standards to comply with the PPE regulation.

How are CE-standards and PPE related? Very much, actually. Motorcycle clothing (specifically jackets and pants/trousers, notwithstanding gloves, boots, and impact protectors) is grouped into what’s called Personal Protective Equipment – aka PPE. And like your kitchenware or electronics, PPE is governed by their own specific set of rules and regulations depending on how these products are used and how they are classified, and which group/subgroup they fall under. Here’s where it gets quite complicated. The set of standards that “govern” PPE – specifically motorcycle clothing – for leisure use is CE-standard EN 17092, which has now become a harmonized European standard.

Harmonized standard, meaning that it is a recognized throughout the EU as a tool that’s widely accepted for the certification of PPE motorcycle garments. That said, we’ll disclaimer here and say that this is intended to be a general overview of an incredibly complex subject that is both politically and economically charged. The purpose is to help riders understand that even with an arguably imperfect system in place, the CE-certification label/marking does mean something. It means that the garments have been tested to meet at least the minimum safety requirements, so you actually know what it’s intended use is. And that’s Personal Protective Equipment in the form of motorcycle clothing.

A major impetus behind standard EN 17092 coming into play is because of aforementioned reason: to make sure riders actually get something protective when shopping for motorcycle clothing without any prior knowledge of materials, constructions, or test methods. Just because it looks strong, doesn’t make it so in an emergency situation. And just because it feels sturdy, doesn’t make it appropriate to be worn at riding speeds. The application of the EN 17092 standard means that clothing that looks like protective motorcycle gear, actually is protective motorcycle gear!

Where EN 17092 differs from EN 13595 is that the EN 17092 standard is applied to PPE for leisure motorcycle use; commonly grouped into various genres such as sport, adventure, and urban riding. It is a different standard for a broader purpose. Meaning that now it takes into consideration the various types of riding people will be using them for.

Urban riders likely won’t be wearing full-leather one-piece suits to commute in, despite it being a “safer” choice. Nor will adventure riders. That said, it’s a fine balance between making sure safety is a top priority, but also that comfort, breathability, waterproofing, flexibility, and more is taken into consideration, all while offering the protection best suit to the riding style.

For North America, the only time you need CE- and/or EN-rated apparel is when you are on a race track. Also, since each track has different standards, the rating of apparel you need varies depending on which track you ride on. The same type of difference occurs with helmet requirements. For those states with helmet laws, you only need a DOT-approved helmet to ride on the street, but some tracks require the latest Snell-m rating to ride. Many tracks are now accepting ECE rated helmets as well. You will want to check with the track beforehand.

CE Tested, Certified or Approved
CE   Tested
The term normally implies that the manufacturer tested the whole or just a piece of a garment within their own facility that might meet certain standards. However, the garment is not necessarily tested in a certified testing facility to meet officially accredited standards.
CE Certified
This is more secure, as it states that the garment samples were tested in certified testing facilities. In this case, you need to find out which part of a garment was tested
CE Approved
 This means several parts of a garment were tested in certified facilities and are accredited to meet or surpass the required standards in all zones

So what do they test for EN 17092?

Impact abrasion resistance – One of the biggest differentiators between the professional and leisure standard – though both are requirements – is in the way in which determination of impact abrasion resistance is tested. It determines if a fabric can withstand/resist an impact abrasion slide. A hole bigger than 5 mm when tested using the AART Machine (Advanced Abrasion Resistance Tester) equates to a fail. This test is in place so the outer shell of the fabric can take the hit and not your skin. The lowest outcome of a material is how it will be graded.

Tear strength – A pre-slit specimen is “pulled apart” and they measure the force that’s necessary to further tear it. If you rip open your garment via a sharp object, they want to make sure that it’s very difficult to rip the fabric open further.

Seam strength – Seam strength is tested on the structurally strong seams. For example, the sleeve that’s attached to the body of a jacket. It measures the force necessary to rip the seam open. They want to make sure that if you fall of your bike, then slide, that the seams from vital connection points remain connected.

Dimensional stability – Dimensional what?! Exactly. This test requires a garment to be washed five times, not in a regular washing machine but one that is specific for fabric testing, with water speed, volume, how fast it spins, temperature, etc. all regulated. The purpose it to make sure the garment doesn’t shrink over time/washings, to ensure the correct fit, and to make sure the protectors in the garment stay in the proper location. There can be no more than five percent shrinkage, or it fails.

Innocuousness – The amount of chemicals used – such as dyes – on the garment must be safe, especially when it comes into contact with your body. They test pH to make sure it’s gentle on the skin and no irritation occurs. Additionally, they also test any substances that are known to endanger the health of the user or that of the environment.

While the focus of the above information is primarily on motorcycle clothing, note that boots need to meet EN 13634:2017 standards, gloves EN 13594:2015, elbow, knee, hip and shoulder protectors to EN 1621-1:2012, back protectors to EN 1621-2:2014, and chest protectors EN 1621-3:2018. EN 1621-4:2013 covers lanyard-activated air bag protectors, while EN 14021:2013 is a specialized stone shield protector like those used in motocross. Each of these categories has its own set of standards that must be passed for certification.

OK—here’s the “code” for the rating numbering system:

Let’s take a rating of “EN1621-2:2014” The numbers following the “EN” are an indication of what the protector is rated for. The “1621” indicates the item is rated for motorcycle use and the “-2” tells us the area of protection. A protector labeled EN1621-1:2012 is going to be for pretty much anywhere but the back. A protector labeled EN1621-2:2014 is going to be for back protection only. There are two levels of CE protection: CE level 1 and CE level 2 protectors. Typically, you only need a CE level 1 for most tracks. However, some more advanced and higher speed track schools or races require CE level 2.

Finally, the “2014” refers to the year when the standard was implemented. The standards have to be reviewed or updated every few years.

Level 1 protectors: The maximum transmitted force must be below 18 kN, and no single value shall exceed 24 kN Level 2 protectors: The maximum transmitted force must be below 9 kN, and no single value shall exceed 12 kN.

A lesser used rating you may see sometimes included with the EN1621 rating is “EN340:2003.” The “340” is just a general standard that is not specific to a specific sport or job. So when you see both the 340 and 1621 on a piece of armor, the 340 is really pointless because the 1621 already covers all the requirements for the 340.

The important things you want to look for is the CE level 1 or CE level 2. The CE level 2 is going to offer you the best impact protection. With back protectors, you want to make sure the shape and size of the back protector. A CE level 2 back protector is not going to do you any good if you can’t fit it in your jacket or if the pocket is too big and it moves around on you.

Here’s a further breakdown of the general labeling requirements for protective clothing using the EN340 standard:

EN 340:2003 – Protective clothing – General requirements
  • Mark identifying the manufacturer
  • Product identifying mark
  • Size or size range designation
  • EN ### – specific Standard number
  • Pictogram – for specific hazard protection, plus performance levels, where applicable
  • Care labeling. May include a maximum number of cleaning cycles (max ## x)
  • Single use PPE to be marked “DO NOT RE-USE”

For the EN1621 standard, the labeling requirements are as follows:

EN 1621-1:2012 – Motorcyclists’ protective clothing against mechanical impact. Impact protectors

Type of protector:
S – Shoulder
E – Elbow
H – Hip
K – Knee
K + L – Knee + Upper and Middle Tibia
L – Front of leg below a K protector
KP –Knuckle Protection

Plus an indication of the covered area:
A – reduced coverage for specialized applications
B – normal coverage

EN 1621-2:2014 – Motorcyclists’ protective clothing against mechanical impact. Motorcyclists back protectors

Type of protector:
B or FB – Full back protector (central back and scapuae)
CB – Central Back
L or LB – Lumbar protection only

Performance level 1 or 2
Abrasion resistance level 1 or 2
Impact cut resistance level 1 or 2
Burst strength level 1 or 2
Level 2 is more protective in all cases

89/686/EEC – Personal protective equipment

EN 13634 – Boots
EN 12594 – Gloves
EN 1621-1, EN 1621-2, and EN 1621-3 – Limb, Back and Chest
EN 13595-1, now EN 17092 – Protective clothing for professional motorcycle riders. Jackets, Pants and One or Two Piece Suits

Here is a break down of a CE label and what to look for:

1. This pictogram indicates that this is a protective equipment for bikers (ISO 7000-2618)
2. Category and type of protection (detail above)
3. Low temperature impact test (-10 ° C) validated
4. High temperature (+40 ° C) impact test validated
5. Performance level (1 or 2)

As a reminder, an EN 1621-1 certified hull transmits less than 24 kN at level 1 and less than 12 kN at level 2. With regard to extreme temperature tests, an empty box indicates that the protection has not validated the optional test but remains certified. To be clear, the different types of protection are indicated by letters (type A and type B correspond to the width of the shell).

CE certified motorcycle apparel made after 2018 will have a “Class” section in the CE label or marking. The most recent technical standard by which to obtain the CE Certification of protective motorcycle apparel is UNI PrEN 17092, which identifies 5 classes of protectiveness: AAA, AA, A, B and C. These protection classes differ depending on the type of usage and levels of protection:

Level of Protection
Class AAA (prEN 17092-2:2017)
Is the highest level of protection with which to take on the
highest level of risk. Garments classified as such offer maximum protection, but are also heavier and less comfortable to use.
Class AA (prEN 17092-3:2017)
Is the second highest level of protection with which to take on the wide range of risks that motorcycle riding presents.
Class A (prEN 17092-4:2017)
Is the third highest level of protection. Protectiveness is less than the previous classes, but garments are lighter and more comfortable to wear on a daily basis.
Class B (prEN 17092-5:2017)
Where the level of protection against abrasion is equivalent to Class A, but without the impact protectors. Garments in this class offer abrasion resistance in line with that of level A but are not equipped with protectors. Jeans without protection fall into this class for example.
Class C (prEN 17092-6:2017)
In the least protective class, we find so-called “protection containers” that resist impact but not abrasion (underwear with integrated impact protectors for example)

The performance requirements, to assign a protection class, are based on specific performance requirements for “risk category zones” of the garment, which are defined according to the likelihood that the area will be subject to mechanical stress, in the event of an accident. There are three zones, as follows.


Zone 1 The areas of motorcyclist’s protective garments that have a high risk of damage e.g. impact, abrasion, and tearing. Must have impact protectors and needs to last 4 seconds on the abrasion test to meet Level 1 protection, and 7 seconds to meet Level 2.
Zone 2 The areas of motorcyclist’s protective garments has a moderate risk of damage e.g. abrasion and tearing. Must have impact protectors and needs to last 4 seconds on the abrasion test to meet Level 1 protection, and 7 seconds to meet Level 2.
Zone 3 The areas of motorcyclist’s protective garments has a low risk of damage e.g. tearing, which requires 1.8 seconds for Level 1 and 2 and 5 seconds for level 2 on the abrasion test
Zone 4 Can be used for ventilation and stretch panels, but must still last 1 second on the abrasion test for Level 1, and 1.5 seconds for Level 2.

Want to know more?

Our friends over at Rev’it! have put together an article that goes into more detail on the CE certification and the testing they go through to make sure their products meet all the requirements. You can check that out here. CE Certification Explained