Nearly all motorcycle jackets available today have bits and pieces that are CE certified, but never before has an entire garment — not just the elbows, shoulder and back armour — been CE certified for rider safety, like Alpinestars’ Atem jacket and suit. After a 12 month-long gestation period and a myriad of new testing processes, the Atem is about as high tech as any modern high performance motorcycle.
In contrast to other jackets, which only include CE armour in the shoulder, elbow and back, the entire Atem jacket was subjected to a series of tests that mimic crash-like conditions. The first of which is an abrasion test that simulates a slide along the pavement. A portion of the Atem’s 1.3mm leather hide is weighted and then dropped several times from every conceivable direction onto a rotating belt with a 60-grit sandpaper-like surface. If the garment can survive for more than 4 seconds, it passes the test and is granted Level 1 certification. The Atem surpassed Level 2, which requires it to remain intact for more than seven seconds.
The second test, the impact cut test, simulates encountering a piece of debris, like glass, while sliding on the road. This time, a portion of the jacket is stretched and mounted onto a block with a rectangular hole. A blade-like “striker” is then dropped from a meter up, travelling at 2.8m per second for impact right above the hole. For Level 1 certification, the max penetration depth should be no more than 25mm. The Atem qualified for Level 2 status, which is set at no more than 15mm.
Next is the burst strength test that evaluates the rigidity and hardiness of the garment and seams when hit with extreme force, like in a crash. A circular sample is placed over a diaphragm that’s clamped around the edges and is then inflated into a dome shape. The pressure required for Level 1 status is about 98 psi, and Level 2 is even higher at 112 psi. And, yes, the Atem achieved Level 2 status in this test too.
Sliding along the pavement at any speed can cause the jacket to move and shift in the opposite direction in which you’re sliding, but the Atem comes with adjustable cuffs in the sleeve and ankles (for the suit version) that keep everything in place, decreasing the chances of road rash. The cone test applies about 3kg of pressure into the sleeve for 60 seconds, and, if it moves no more than 60mm, the garment attains Level 1 status.
Though they achieved nearly every Level 2 certification, the Atem suit and jacket are still only rated at Level 1, because Alpinestars felt it important not to compromise fit and comfort in non-impact areas, like the armpits. Nearly every technological detail from professional MotoGP and WSBK race suits have trickled down into the Atem suit and jacket. The Atem does, however, lack the airbag system found in the race replica version and the accordion panels in the back and knees that allow for greater mobility, which more or less account for the $US1400 difference in price. The Atem suit retails for $US1500, while the jacket goes for $US700.
So is the Atem the safest suit or jacket you can buy? Every crash is unique and no two are alike, so protective gear can only do so much. But knowing that the entire jacket/suit — and not just the hard bits — will keep you safe in a crash is heartening nonetheless. [Alpinestars]