All modern riding apparel should be fitted with genuine CE protectors at the shoulders, elbows and knees. Additional CE protectors are available to be fitted at the hips and tailbone, although many manufacturers opt to use foam inserts at these points.
There's a wide range of reputable manufacturers producing CE protectors, such as Knox and Betac. Some manufacturers such as Alpinestars and Dainese produce their own. Most are made of some form of polyurethane (PU) although some simpler ones are made of dual density foam. There's also increasing development from companies such as D3O and SAS-Tec of viscoelastic protectors which are highly flexible but will quickly stiffen when subjected to force.
So what does it mean?
The CE EN 1621 marking means that the manufacturer of the tested protector has gained CE approval which is a requirement for sale in the European Community. This involves independent testing which will verify the protector's ability to absorb force and in doing so, reduce any impact injuries to the wearer.
Merely having CE certification doesn't necessarily guarantee the quality of the protector. Some just meet the standard, some go further beyond. Some are fairly crude and can deteriorate in performance over time. The better ones that can be found in good quality suits are essentially the same as those used in the suits of MotoGP and WSBK riders (we've checked).
What to look for
All genuine CE protectors are supplied with booklets or hangtags which should be attached to the garment by the manufacturer. These booklets will give the address of the manufacturer or testing centre, as well as the details of the testing undertaken. If your new suit or jacket doesn't come with this, you should assume that the CE protectors inside are fake.
How to look after them
Most manufacturers recommend replacing your protectors every 3-5 years as performance can deteriorate over time. Additionally, they should not be exposed to extremes of temperature. Many types are permanently damaged when exposed to temperatures of 60c. Which may sound a lot, but when you consider how hot the inside of your van or trailer gets on a summer day, you may want to reconsider if it's a good habit to throw your leathers inside and forget about them after a trackday or race meet.
It's probably a good idea to remove them if you're going to be washing the garment itself. Most are either fixed in place by velcro or tucked into a separate pocket. Hangtags will usually confirm these instructions as well as advising to keep them clean and check for damage regularly.
Don't be afraid to pull your protectors out for a look every now and then. Just be sure to put them back in the correct spots and don't mix up the rights and lefts. Most side-specific protectors will be marked with an L or R.