Pint of Science: Chris Hurren speaks on MotoCAP

Dr Chris Hurren.

Motorcycle crashes make up almost 24 per cent of serious road crash injuries in Australia contributing to the $27 billion of annual road trauma costs for the Australian Government, but can this number be reduced by simply improving protective clothing? The Institute for Frontier Materials believes it can.  

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 that enables motorcyclists to make informed decisions about their motorcycle clothing. The test results and advisory services are also 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 trackracetrack.  

‘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. And in 2019, the program won a Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) Road Safety Award. 

This is an edited extract of a ‘Real-world Impact’ article that will be featured in our 2021 Annual Report – keep an eye out for its release. 

Learn more about the work being done by Dr Christopher Hurren and his team at a Pint of Science Festival event at Little Creatures Geelong on May 9. Dr Hurren will be a guest speaker on the topic of: ‘It’s all about the human body: From malaria and protective motorcycle clothing to 3D printing spare body parts’.