Whether you’re a seasoned motorcyclist or a complete newbie, we’re pretty sure you know how important protective gear is. You may be an urban fashionista using your two wheels for commuting, you may be an adventure rider getting off the road as much as you can, or you may be a cruiser fan forever chasing those twisties. Regardless of what you ride or where, you know the risks, and you know gear matters.
In an ideal world, as riders, we should be able to just trust gear manufacturers to make the best protective clothing for us they possibly can. We should be able to simply walk into a store, pick out the gear that best suits our style and the type of motorcycling we do, and enjoy the ride. Unfortunately, we all know that’s not always the case. All motorcycle gear is not created equal, and as consumers, we need to know exactly what to look for when we’re shopping for a new pair of riding pants or a jacket.
At first glance, however, it’s all a little confusing. There are several different safety tests, standards, and regulations out there, but it rarely means anything even remotely human to us. What is CE, anyhow? And why should you be paying attention to it?
To help you out, we put together this quick and simple cheat sheet explaining what CE tested vs CE approved is, and what safety standards should you be paying attention to when choosing protective motorcycle gear.
Okay, so first things first. What the hell is CE, and what does it stand for?
In short, CE is the abbreviation of the French phrase “Conformité Européene”, meaning “European Conformity”. In other words, CE signifies the European motorcycle safety standards, and technically, all motorcycle gear should be CE-approved or CE-certified. The CE marking on your riding jacket or pants signifies that the gear has been thoroughly tested to either meet or, in some cases, surpass the existing safety standard. This is good news. The bad news is that often, motorcycle gear manufacturers may opt for the “CE-tested” marking, which is better than nothing, but it doesn’t offer the same level of protection.
Confused? Hang in there.
Essentially, there are three levels of CE marking out there. There are the CE-approved and CE-certified, which is what you should always be aiming for, and then there’s CE-tested. The difference is twofold: first, it indicates how and where the gear was tested (did the manufacturer run its own tests, or did it test the gear in certified facilities? Did they merely test for impact but skipped abrasion tests? You get the picture). Second, it’s about which parts of the garment were tested (and again, you want to know that all of your gear has been tested thoroughly for maximum safety). Keep in mind that it’s not just the armor pads, but the entire garment that needs to be safe: besides solid armor, abrasion resistance, and tear-resistance are also crucial. You don’t want the seams of your pants to come apart if you’ve crashed and you’re sliding on the pavement, right?
CE-approved, on the other hand, means that the entire piece of gear was thoroughly tested in a certified testing facility and that it has met or surpassed the existing European safety standards. In other words, CE-approved and CE-certified give you the best chance out there in terms of armor as well as abrasion and tear-resistance.
Here’s a simple way of looking at it:
CE-tested: you may be OK
CE-certified: you’ve got great gear!
CE-approved: your body is protected as best as humanly possible.
Okay, so now you know the difference between the three tiers of gear testing out there, and you know you always want to hit that CE-approved mark. But wait, there’s more: often, you’ll see CE Level 1 vs 2 markings on your gear. What the heck is that all about?
Level 1 and Level 2 CE certificates are issued to your armor. When it comes to back protectors, for example, the armor is typically tested using varying degrees of impact force. CE Level 1 means the gear was hit with a certain amount of force and withstood it; during Level 2 testing, however, the impact force – and the resistance of the protector – is much greater. In other words, while CE Level 1 is pretty good, and it may be enough if you’re just riding a few blocks down to grab a coffee. However, if you’re headed to a racetrack or a gnarly hard enduro trail, you want to make sure you’ve got a CE Level 2 – graded armor.
There is a common misconception out there that only professional motorcycle racers who ride at a competitive level need the highest levels of protection. There is a little bit of truth in that: yes, if you’re just out for a quick spin, if you’re saddling up your café racer to meet your friends and hang out, or if you’re commuting a short distance, you likely don’t need a pro-level racing suit designed to protect riders at high-speed crashes and slides. However, motorcycling, even if it’s a short distance, even if it’s non-competitive, is an inherently risky activity. While no motorcycle gear is capable of always protecting you a hundred percent, you want to make sure you’re wearing high-quality, CE-approved apparel that gives you the best chance of walking away from an accident unscathed.
With this in mind, when you’re shopping for a new piece of gear, just pay attention to the labels. Some gear manufacturers do not sell their gear in Europe, where meeting safety standards is obligatory. In North America, as an example, a piece of protective motorcycle gear is not required to meet those standards, so you want to double-check that what you’re buying is actually certified.
How are you staying safe while riding your motorcycle, and what’s your favorite piece of gear? Let us know in the comments below.