Despite strong evidence of protective benefits, thermal discomfort is a key disincentive to motorcyclists wearing protective clothing in hot conditions. This paper presents some findings from our studies concerning the thermal management properties of motorcycle protective clothing and their physiological impact in hot conditions.
The thermal and vapour permeability and abrasion resistance properties of motorcycle protective clothing were investigated in laboratory tests. The physiological and cognitive impact on humans was investigated using objective and subjective measures under controlled climate conditions and in a real-world riding trial. The aims were to determine: (i) if associations existed between thermal management and the abrasion-resistance properties of a range of commonly available, all-season motorcycle protective suits, (ii) the extent of the thermal load imposed by motorcycle clothing worn in average Australian summer conditions, and (iii) the impact of that thermal burden on psychophysical function.
The results demonstrated significant physiological strain for motorcyclists wearing protective clothing in hot conditions. Wide variations in the thermal characteristics and abrasion resistance properties of the suits tested were identified. Ongoing work is investigating the impact that elevated thermal discomfort and physiological thermal strain can have on riding performance and the potential for clothing features, such as ventilation ports to reduce thermal discomfort. These results will determine thresholds for the thermal qualities of motorcycle clothing required for an acceptable compromise between user comfort and injury protection. The outcome will inform industry and consumer information programs about the performance required of motorcycle protective clothing suitable for use in hot conditions.