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Protective Racing Suits – A Brief Introduction

If you are considering taking up track cycling you will need a racing suit. Here we present a brief introduction to the history and advantages of racing suits.

Race suits, as well as a decent helmet, gloves and riding boots, are an essential part of any serious biker’s gear, as well as looking great they could also save your life.

Originally, a race suit was just cotton overall intended to protect a driver from oil and dirt but from these humble beginnings, they have developed into state-of-the-art pieces of kit. Race suits now protect the wearer from heat and fire and are made from multi-layered fire and heat retardant materials such as Carbon X or Nomex.

In order to achieve approval from the FIA racing suit fabric must be able to withstand a flame for at least 11 seconds, in order that the wearer could escape a burning vehicle unscathed. FIA approval is needed for nearly all levels of racing.

Early fire retardant race suits were functional but didn’t look the best. Over recent years, an element of comfort and style has been added to their functionality. These days, features such as a cooling moisture wicking layer which helps to cool the wearer by drawing moisture away from the body, are commonplace.

Floating arm designs and elasticised lower back panels increase the comfort of the wearer and increase their freedom of movement. Over the last few years, the materials that race suits are made from have become much more lightweight without losing any of their protective capabilities.

At most tracks, the management will require you to wear a full two-piece or single-piece racing suit. As well as being just plain common sense, this is also down to insurance requirements. If you fancy a two-piece suit it will need to have a complete circumference zip at the point where the trousers and jacket meet. Race suits can make you feel invincible but don’t be fooled and let complacency set in, never forget that your bike could kill you in a second.

Be sure to shop around for a suit that fits you perfectly, you will be wearing your suit for hours, all day sometimes, so you need to be comfortable in it. Try a suit on complete with all of your other gear so that you know it fits properly.

Don’t skimp on price either, buy the best suit you can afford, it might save your life.

What’s best, a one-piece or two-piece suit?
Well, one-pieces are usually a little safer and you can make do with a suit of lower quality if you opt for a single-piece. However, they are difficult to wriggle in and out of every time you need a toilet break or break for lunch. A two-piece suit is much easier in this regard but is considered to offer slightly less protection. Make sure the two parts zip up at the waist.

The need for bikers to wear decent safety gear cannot be overemphasised. Thousands of lives could be saved every year.

Wilson has been biking for over 35 years and is an active safety campaigner working to encourage fellow bikers to invest in proper protective equipment such as a
race suit, helmet and gloves.