For years researchers based at the ARC Research Hub for Future Fibres have been focusing their research on what happens to a motorcyclist’s clothing during a crash. Among their projects is MotoCAP – a star rating assessment system for protective clothing that they developed for Australia and New Zealand, which rates the protection and thermal comfort levels of motorcycle clothing.

The research team, made up of Dr Christopher Hurren, Dr Liz de Rome, Dr Xin Liu, Dr Gayathri Rajmohan, Armstrong Xie and Kaylene Stocks, worked with government agencies, in consultation with industry, to create the test program and star rating scheme to enable motorcyclists to make informed decisions about their motorcycle clothing. The test results and advisory services are also made available to industry. 

‘The research in this space is all new,’ says team leader Dr Christopher Hurren, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Frontier Materials.

‘There has been very little research done on what happens to a motorcyclist’s clothing during a crash. 

‘Most clothing development has come from manufacturers looking at the damage that occurs during racing and designing to mitigate this. Riding on roads is very different to riding on a race track. 

‘Road surfaces are different and impact injury from other motor vehicles and roadside furniture changes the risks a rider is exposed to. 

‘Epidemiological studies generally identify the issues but do not propose methods to alleviate them. This team’s research looks at the fundamentals behind what happens when we crash and uses this knowledge combined with epidemiological studies to reduce injury severity and in some cases avoid it.’

Since the MotoCAP rating scheme was launched in September 2018, the website user numbers have grown. Currently the scheme has more than 8,000 users per month. The highest user groups are from Australia and New Zealand with interest growing from users in North America, Europe and the UK. It has also attracted the attention of influencers in the motorcycle world including Brittany Morrow, Brett Tkacs, Kevin Williams and Dave Moss.  In 2019, the program won a Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) Road Safety Award. 

Three years since the launch, the relevance of the research continues to grow with the Federal Government’s National Road Safety Plan 2020 (ATC 2011) naming the increased use of effective protective clothing by motorcyclists one of its strategic aims. 

In July 2021, Jaala Pulford, the Victorian Minister for Road Safety, and TAC requested the opportunity to visit the laboratory with the Motorcycle Expert Advisory Panel to find out more about the work of the research team. 

‘Our research continues to be used by riders and governments worldwide to help reduce injury severity,’ Dr Hurrensays. 

‘It is an important tool for governments in developing policies in the motorcycle safety space. 

‘The team is the first to provide scientific knowledge on what happens to a rider’s clothing during a crash. The MotoCAP program is the first of its kind in the world. 

‘Our team is all about providing the knowledge to riders, governments and road designers in order to reduce injury severity worldwide. Initial work and proof of concept is occurring in Australia and New Zealand with the aim to expand it to the world.

‘Ongoing research by the team continues to increase the information and aim towards reducing injury severity and fatalities in a motorcycle crash. This information is relevant to a wide range of people including riders, government and non-government road safety experts, protective clothing manufacturers and road design practitioners.’

MotoCAP has given the research team more exposure – Dr de Rome and Dr Hurren have been invited to a number of Australian and New Zealand events to promote MotoCAP to riders. 

In 2019 Dr Hurren spent four weeks in New Zealand, travelling by motorcycle to 11 events as 

part of the Shiny Side Up Bike Fest  to inform riders of the MotoCap safety information and website. The event attracts more than 10,000 attendees. 

‘The team is doing important research that will help to reduce road injury,’ Dr Hurren says. ‘This work benefits the rider, their family and their community as well as reducing the burden on government health funding. 

‘The industry has recognised the importance of the work with a number of companies contacting Deakin University for advice on how to improve their products into the future.

‘Our research helps us to understand how clothing can protect a motorcycle rider in a crash and helps us to understand the fundamental interactions of abrasion, impact and burst failure that can occur to rider clothing during a crash. And this research will help us to develop new clothing and provide advice in order to reduce injury severity and in some cases avoid injury in the first place.’