Research History of Motorcycle Leg Protection



International Congress & Exposition
Authors Abstract
This paper reviews and summarizes the history of motorcycle leg protection research. This consists of a summary of the devices and concepts, as well as a description of the evolving methodology used to evaluate such devices. For over two decades members of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) along with other organizations worldwide have studied motorcycle leg protection devices toward the goal of minimizing motorcyclists' leg injuries occurring during collisions. In the early phases of this research, it was found that maintaining leg protection space during collision was possible by using certain kinds of leg protection structures. At the same time, it was also found that such devices have the potential to worsen overall rider injuries, including increased head injuries, due to effects such as rider ejection and torso pitch. Later research addressed various design concepts in search of an effective device which protects motorcyclists' legs and yet which does not worsen overall rider injuries. Up through 1989, a viable solution had not been found. The paper continues with a description of tests conducted in 1989 to further evaluate the United Kingdom Draft Specification (UKDS) for motorcycle leg protectors. These tests were the most comprehensive to date in terms of: the types of motorcycles and cars used; the leg protector designs and categories; the type of impact configurations considered; and the use of state-of-the-art test methodologies, including new motorcycle impact dummy and performance measures. Test results showed that UKDS type leg protection devices can increase both leg and head injuries, and overall injury severity.
LEG PROTECTION FOR MOTORCYCLE RIDERS has been an active area of research for nearly two decades. Research into devices which potentially might protect the legs of motorcycle occupants, without increasing injuries to other parts of the body, has been pursued by various researchers worldwide. To date, this research has not found a viable solution. This is partly due to the basic nature and properties of motorcycles as vehicles; and also due to the very wide range of crash conditions under which such devices should not be injurious. Compared to car occupants, motorcycle riders are relatively exposed to their surroundings, and subject to varying impacts with outside objects during accidents. As a result, for example, leg injuries experienced by motorcycle riders vary widely in terms of type, severity, location and cause when compared to those of car occupants. The inherent complexity and multi dimensionality of motorcycle impacts makes leg protection research difficult both in terms of devising a leg protection device and in evaluating such proposed devices.
In particular, leg protector research has been technologically limited with regard to test methodologies for the assessment of rider injuries, especially in the area of the leg, and with regard to providing realistic dummy motions in motorcycle/car impacts. So, in a sense, the history of leg protection research has been twofold, involving both the development of appropriate test methodologies as well as the evaluation of proposed experimental leg protectors.
This paper summarizes the history of previous leg protection research and associated evaluation methods. It also summarizes the results of a 1989 series of full scale leg protector evaluation tests utilizing new test methodologies and procedures. These topics are discussed in the following order:
  • History of Experimental Leg Protection Devices
  • History of Leg Injury Measurement
  • Recent Test Results
  • Conclusions
The appendices contain additional descriptions of:
  • A preliminary human factors evaluation of UKDS leg protectors
  • Summary of an injury cost model used to evaluate recent test results
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Sakamoto, S., "Research History of Motorcycle Leg Protection," SAE Technical Paper 900755, 1990,
Additional Details
Feb 1, 1990
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Content Type
Technical Paper