Everyone loves a bargain, and while some motorcycle clothing might seem pricey in your local dealer or other specialist bike kit shop, the internet is full of cheap gear that promises to protect you at a fraction of the cost.
Amazon and eBay are two marketplaces with a huge choice, while adverts fill riders’ feeds on Facebook with what appears to be top-quality gear at tempting prices.
But is it safe?
Quick links…Is cheap motorcycle clothing safe?
For years, many manufacturers promised that their leathers, textiles, gloves and boots were ‘protective’, but they didn’t have to prove it.
Until 2018 that is, when the law changed across Europe and the UK meaning that ALL motorcycle kit was classed as PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). You can read the full details about CE standards and motorcycling here, but what you need to know is that it’s not about a bureaucrat adding rules to make riding more expensive; CE certification is about giving riders an informed choice when it comes to spending money on what is safety equipment. And it hasn’t put prices up.
Properly tested – and legal – riding kit will have a label like this sewn inside
Legally, in the UK you must wear a helmet tested to ECE 22.05 or the newer ECE 22.06, but that’s it.
Common sense, however, would suggest that if you have a finite budget to spend on your riding gear, you might as well find the balance of the most comfortable, practical and stylish as well as the safest, so by looking at the labels you can make that informed choice.
This simple article explains what the safety labels mean in bike boots, jackets, trousers, leathers, gloves, armour and helmets.
Because all motorcycle clothing is PPE, it is, however, illegal to sell any that hasn’t been tested and certified to a recognised standard. And there are plenty of sellers out there who seem to think this law doesn’t apply to them…
There’s a race to the bottom when it comes to selling cheap kit online. Buy from a reputable source and you’ll be getting a product from a known brand that has put its clothing through the testing necessary to help you decide if it’s right for you.
But ads on Facebook, and items for sale through Amazon and eBay can sometimes be for kit that comes direct from a factory in Asia with no thought given to the regulations, and as many of them will infer their products are CE-approved, by taking advantage of confusion on the customer’s part they’ll potentially cut corners in order to offer the cheapest – and hence most tempting – items. There’s a limit to how cheaply something can be made, and that can mean poor construction or even, as we found, fake armour that could leave you seriously injured or worse if you were involved in an accident.
These leathers came up quickly in a search on Amazon, so we bought them…
Needless to say, there’s plenty of legitimate kit for sale on platforms like Amazon and eBay, but it can be hard to know the difference. The easiest way is to buy a recognised brand through an established seller with a proper UK base that you can check on Google Maps. These sellers will likely state the standard that the product achieved, for instance an RST leather jacket that meets EN 17092 level AA.
But search on these same sites for motorcycle kit and you’ll be faced with a barrage of gear (often ‘sponsored’, so it comes up early in the listings) that has no mention of certification. So we bought a set of one piece leathers from a company called Eviron, through Amazon, to find out if it’s any good…
We’re not picking on Eviron or Amazon, but that’s what we bought and where we got it. We chose it because it was one of the first we found, but were plenty of clues that this might not be a legal, certified piece of riding kit:
To ensure you buy certified kit that’s being legally sold, if you’re in any doubt ask to see the declaration of conformity for the product, then check it against the information in this feature about CE labelling. If the seller starts talking about CE-certified protectors only, or doesn’t give a clear answer (ALL legitimate UK sellers know the law), look elsewhere.
Remember, all motorcycle riding kit must be labelled correctly. If it’s not, it’s being sold illegally and could be a fake.
Eviron leathers also sells via eBay and its own website
Paul Varnsverry, technical director of PVA-PPE Group (a company providing advice to businesses around the world looking to make and sell PPE in the EU and UK) has a somewhat unique pastime: when he sees some dubious kit online he’ll ask the seller if it’s been tested and certified. If they do reply, it’s usually to say that the protectors are CE-approved, but that’s it. Which means the product is illegal, with no proof of that promise of safety. And as we found, they might be
lying misrepresenting those protectors too.
When Paul asked Eviron Leathers if the one-piece suit it was offering for sale on Amazon was certified, he was told that it wasn’t, because it costs £42,000 to do it.
It doesn’t, so we at BikeSocial paid to have it done…
It’s important to state that our test results do not provide any form of certification. While we did use a leading notified body (a test house qualified to carry out testing and certification), these results cannot be used by any other party in any communications regarding its product.
These test results show that Eviron is capable of producing kit that could pass certification after just a bit more work. With some changes to the design of the sleeves, and by using properly tested and certified impact protectors – not the dangerous fakes seen in the hip and back, or the outdated armour in the knees – these leathers have the potential to pass certification.
So why aren’t they properly tested?
Certifying a garment involves several tests – we had a selection carried out including seam strength and abrasion to give us an idea how safe these leathers could be
A set of motorcycle leathers (and textiles) are a ‘garment’ and need to be fitted with impact protectors that are tested to their own standards. A back protector doesn’t have to be supplied, but if there’s a pocket for one, it must be fitted and it must be safe. Testing of the armour is carried out by the manufacture of it, so the garment manufacturer just needs to buy – at minimal costs – safe, legitimate items to use in its product.
The leather used in construction must be tested for chemical innocuousness, which is just over £600 for each colour and type. This could get very costly, but it’s a cost that should be shouldered by the tannery, not the garment supplier; spread over the potentially millions of feet of leather a tannery could be producing, the costs that will be passed on to the garment manufacturer (and hence the customer) should be just fractions of one Cent.
The cost of testing a garment to meet EN 17092 is approximately £1,200 – that’s everything a manufacturer or brand needs to pay for the materials and construction methods of an entire range. This is why prices haven’t gone up from the major brands – that one test could, for instance, easily cover several variations of one- and two-piece leathers, jackets and trousers in many different colours.
There is no real excuse for any brand to not meet its legal requirement in having its products tested for safety performance in order to allow riders to make their best buying decisions.
A final thought… the made-to-measure bespoke brands like Hideout have been testing and certifying their individually made kit for almost 30 years, so there’s no obvious reason for a company making generically-sized gear not to do it.
At the time of writing, Eviron was claiming to sell products certified by SATRA in the UK
After having this suit tested, I contacted Eviron leathers to ask why it was claiming that testing costs £42,000 and what it thought of the results of our tests. Here’s the reply:
We have recently enquiries from Amazon Saftey compliance team and a third party from europe DE regarding the saftey of all our motorcycle gears to which we have satisfied to european standards under EU Directive for PPE , as a member of professional body myself I always sourced prodcuts from authorised suppliers, the answer your member had was a misunderstading by my colleague which caused quite a commotion.
Please find reply to your quetions /concerns below:
All our products have CE approved Protectors tested and verified by recognised independent body.
We raised the issue with CE protectors manufacturer and they have provided us DoC and reports to prove that the protectors are in compliance with CE Standards.
We are not only checking proper ce marking with each batch but also getting reports from Tannery to make sure leather used is in compliance chemical testings.
Our suppliers are authentic and their DoC gives us confidence that all our products are in compliance but if any our customer has unmark protector we would love to replace with LVL1 protectors free of cost
We as a young brand are working closely with our manufacturing partners, most of the time we do stock items but some time has to arrange direct from overses which has its own drawbacks but we are working to improve that side as well so customers don't have to go through customs clearance and any ambiguity of value declaration issue.
As mentioned in the start as a professional body memeber I believe in quality products and full customer staisfaction and to support our statement we have recently done our Leather testing independetly not only for chemicals EN 17092-2 (En13688-2013) but also EN 17092-2:2017 Tear, Burst and Seems strength.
We hope above is sufficient hoever should you need any information please contact us for any relevant question.
I replied asking for copies of the declarations of conformity and any other proof of testing and compliance but have not heard back. This article will be updated if/when they’re received.
For background, Eviron Sports Limited was formed 28 February 2008, with Mr Mahmood as the current director (since 1 March 2013). Mr Mahmood is also shown as director of Revenue and Tax Management Chartered Accountants and Artefact Design Solutions Limited
The leathers were still available to buy from Amazon as we published this article
I also contacted Amazon to ask what it thought could be done to prevent the sale of illegal personal protective equipment on its platform. While keen to stress that this is not an Amazon-specific issue, we at BikeSocial hope that a company as big and successful as Amazon can lead the way when it comes to ensuring the UK’s riders are buying products that are proven to be safe.
An Amazon spokesperson said: “Safety is a top priority at Amazon and we want customers to shop with confidence on our stores. The item in question has been removed.”
BikeSocial understands that Amazon is investigating the issue, so we hope to be able to follow up on this story in due course. Anybody with concerns over the safety or legality of any products for sale on the site – either direct from Amazon or from third party sellers – should contact customer services.
While the original listing for the leathers we purchased is no longer available, the same product is still for sale on Amazon, from the same seller.
The point of CE standards is that there are checks along the supply chain.
In the UK, Trading Standards is growing increasingly active in removing uncertified kit from sale, and of course HMRC will not be wanting to see items shipping direct into the UK without paying the relevant taxes and duties. It might be a bargain for the buyer if it gets through, but there can be unpleasant surprises if it doesn’t. And that avoidance is, ultimately, money out of a budget that helps pay for things like our National Health Service.
When you buy from a shop in the UK, if you have a problem with the product you complain to the store owner, not the landlord. Where things get complicated is with online marketplaces…
Facebook isn’t getting a direct-cut from the sale of each product sold in the adverts it accepts payment for, though it would appear that eBay and Amazon do. I asked Alan Murray, Chief Executive Officer of the British Safety Industry Federation (BSIF) if he believed store fronts like Amazon, eBay and Facebook should be held accountable for the items sold on their platforms in the same way that bricks and mortar shops in the UK are: “It is very hard in my opinion to be absolute about the status of the portals”, he told me. “The issue [around whether they should be classed as economic operators] is now being addressed in a new EU regulation, coming into force (in the EU and NI) in July, but not GB.
“There is evidence that Trading Standards will challenge the portals, and evidence also of items being taken down.”
Mr Murray consulted with the UK Government’s Office for Product Safety Standards, to which a spokesperson said that “this particular product is marketed by a seller based in the UK and it is sold and distributed by a third-party seller.
“In this instance Amazon are purely operating as a marketing platform and under product safety legislation they are not deemed to be an economic operator. They are also able to avail themselves of the innocent publication defence under e-commerce regulations unless they have been informed that the content on their platform is illegal.
“Where a product is fulfilled by Amazon, sold by Amazon or made by Amazon they may be deemed to be an economic operator and thus their status will change and they have duties and responsibilities in relation to these products.”
It appears that there will be new laws – at least in the EU – down the line, but as it stands the online marketplaces are under little obligation to help buyers ensure that what they are purchasing is legal and certified protective equipment.
As all motorcycle clothing is classed as PPE, a simple step could be to insist that product listings include the certification level that the garment achieved.
For instance, a legitimate motorcycle jacket might be certified to EN 17092 Level AA; if that was displayed in the ‘Technical Details’ of a listing, the buyer would be better equipped to make an informed choice when it comes to safety equipment. By law, the jacket has to have that label sewn inside, and come with a declaration of conformity, so the customer could check that the item is as described when they receive it.
I’ve put this suggestion to Amazon.
Adding an entry that shows the certification achieved by a product – like this mocked-up example – could quickly help Amazon ensure that the products sold on its platform are legal and be of real benefit to buyers. It’d be joining up that chain of checks that CE standards allow and would ideally allow the buyer to click to view the legally-required Declaration of Conformity. As a bare minimum though, we’d like to see online retailers forcing sellers of new kit to complete a field for the certification level achieved.
As well as selling on its own website and via Amazon, Eviron leathers also uses eBay. I asked the press office for a comment, and whether it thought it might be possible to insist that all listings for motorcycle clothing have the certification level included…
At time of publishing, no comment had been received – this article will be updated if/when it is.
These un-certified riding jeans were advertised under multiple accounts on Facebook
Paul Varnsverry describes the problem of illegal safety equipment as ‘rampant’.
It’s very hard to avoid untested and potentially unsafe kit when searching on Amazon and eBay, while Facebook appears quick to take the money of companies advertising non-compliant kit, but reporting those items rarely sees them disappearing very quickly. And with multiple accounts selling the same product, the scammers behind them know how to target as many unsuspecting purchasers as possible, even if a few instances do get taken down.
Some sellers also join motorcycle groups to directly sell their products – trackday enthusiasts will often be presented with ‘bargain’ leathers through the platform. BikeSocial’s own small Test Team page was joined by ‘FIRW Gear’, a representative of which joined a discussion of some legitimate RST gloves, apparently offering copies for sale at £50. When questioned, the person clearly had no understanding of what their legal requirements were…
This company didn’t choose the best Facebook group to try sell untested and potentially dangerous kit
Traditional forums are of course also targets of this practice and anybody interested in buying provably safe riding kit should always be wary.
Facebook is also awash with fake kit. FIRW Gear is proud to advertise its ‘Dainese Style’ leather jacket, while the briefest of looks also revealed Arlen Ness, Triumph and Ace Café being ripped off.
Casual clothing doesn’t have to be certified, but these ads are taking money from the real brands, not to mention the fact that there’s a very good chance you won’t receive what’s shown in the photos.
Just a few examples of the fakes so readily advertised on Facebook
I asked Facebook what steps it takes to ensure that products offered through paid advertisements on its platform meet the legal requirements of the UK under the current PPE regulation…
At time of publishing, no comment had been received – this article will be updated if/when it is.
The set of leathers that we bought from Eviron via Amazon cost £215, which is cheap. The leather used and the construction proved to be good enough when we had them independently tested, though the cuffs are dangerously loose, and the lining material was poor. The claims of CE protectors being included were false, and the back and hip armour were dangerous fakes, as can be seen from the test results.
But at £215, you could replace those protectors for around £35, putting the cost up to £250; still a bargain if Eviron could sort out those loose cuffs and you were careful when putting it on to avoid damage to the lining.
But that’s not the whole story, if your order is also shipped direct from Pakistan, you could be liable to £44 in VAT, plus import duty and any fees the courier might choose to levy. Now you’re getting into the prices of some of the recognised brand’s budget kit, which you can buy from a UK store with full customer support. Not to mention that BikeSocial members have exclusive access to discounts on riding gear on the Rewards site.
If you’re willing to ignore the fact that there is no guaranteed consistency in the quality of what you’re buying in a product that isn’t certified, and that you might have to spend more on replacing dangerous fake body armour, and that the company is evading taxes then you’re not the one breaking the law – that’s down to the seller. But real damage is being done to an industry that takes your safety a lot more seriously, and that does actually pay back into our country.
The choice is yours, and while I’m sure it’d upset some of the big brands out there, I’d love to see riders able to buy direct from factories around the world, giving them even more opportunity to get the deals that suit them. But that won’t happen until we have a level playing field that allows riders to make an informed choice, and to do that sellers like Eviron need to get their kit certified. Proper armour will cost them very little and the expense of proper testing is minimal across a large customer base, so there’s little reason they couldn’t offer reasonable quality leathers for as little as £250, and I’d love to be able to recommend them. But for now there seems little desire to change when the opportunity to sell to an unsuspecting audience is so readily available…