Kevlar Bike Protection: Spyder D3O Armored Suit

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

Abrupt force, collision and impact are unfortunate byproducts in the world of action sports like downhill mountain biking and freestyle skiing. But a U.K.-based chemical engineering company, d3o lab (www.d3o.com), has created a special shock-absorbing gel that is making its way into gear and apparel built to protect bodies flying fast through time and space.

The company’s namesake d30 gel is a proprietary and top-secret material made with “intelligent molecules” that are flexible under any normal situation, though on impact the gel seizes up. As the company explains it, d30 molecules instantly “shock lock” together to absorb energy and create a solid pad once a force is imposed, then bounce back to the flexible state after the pressure is gone.

d30.jpg

above: A representation of d30 gel on the molecular level.

Already d30 has found its way into shin guards, ski gloves, equestrian gear, bike shorts and gloves for ice climbing. It can be stitched into clothing as a thin layer of padding, supple and comfortable enough to wear, though ready to seize up into a solid rubbery barrier on the instant of impact.

To test this magic gel, I biked last month with the D3O Armored L/S Crew and D3O Ultimate Chamois Bike Short, both pricey downhill mountain biking apparel products made by Spyder Action Sports Inc. (www.spyder.com).

Spyder-mtbsuit1-W.jpg

The top — the $350 D3O Armored L/S Crew — looks like a race jacket made for the motocross crowd. But this body armor is actually a compression top with padding tacked on from shoulders to wrists.

It zips open and slips on with no stress. Though studded with the d30 pads, your arms are free to move and grip handlebars.

The shorts — the $270 D3O Ultimate Chamois Bike Short — fit close and pad your rear with a traditional foam seat. But on the outer thighs and hips d30 panels protect from contact with roots, rocks and other objects that might ruin your day during a wreck.

Spyder-mtbsuit2-W.jpg

Though I did not purposefully crash for the sake of this column, I did test the Spyder apparel while riding for comfort and performance. Its heavily padded structure adds some weight and bulk, though the pads never got in the way while biking.

To test the d30 panels, I knocked my legs with a pipe and a small hammer. As the company claims, the gel locks on impact, instantly distributing and diluting the force.

Conclusion: d30 is a neat new substance for gear companies to deploy. It’s a subtle padding that is less noticeable than hard-shell impact plastics yet more effective than regular foam — a thin layer of protection that you might not otherwise have.

—Stephen Regenold writes The Gear Junkie column for eleven U.S. newspapers; see www.THEGEARJUNKIE.com for video gear reviews, a daily blog, and an archive of Regenold’s work.

Posted by TC worley - 05/30/2008 11:39 AM

First!

I’d wreck in it for you.

Posted by gordon - 05/30/2008 04:11 PM

This rolled directly out of Spyder’s Olympic ski suit program. Great to see the company utilizing it in other apparel. And yes – I’d like to get my hands on one..

Posted by Austin - 06/01/2008 12:24 AM

A wreck would be the real review, however I understand the not intentionally hurting yourself thing. One question, when you say the fabric “seizes up” do you mean it forms a solid plane or acts more or less like a sponge? In other words, Does it deflect or absorb?

Posted by Stephen Regenold - 06/01/2008 11:27 PM

I would say it deflects. D30 becomes a hard pad when pressure/force is applied. It’d be akin to having a hard rubber pad, about 1-inch thick, as protection. But this thick rubber pad is flexible while not under pressure.

Posted by maffa - 10/19/2009 11:55 AM

no, the intermolecular bonds form when there is a high energy input, this acts like foam
then the material is solid like a normal plastics body armor, however the deflection part is much more efficient at dispersing energy because the gel ‘moulds’ to your body which further increases surface area to dissipate impact energy.
and it is breathable (:
i am getting one as soon as i have enough money. theyre not cheap ):

Posted by Steve - 06/18/2010 12:30 AM

I use the compression top and it’s amazing! A must have as a professional stuntman. If you want to get your own, contact me. I’ve got a brand new ones for under $250!

Posted by drewskie - 11/14/2010 09:38 PM

Where do you get them Steve? I’ve been looking for some 3 months and can’t find any results

Posted by guy - 12/01/2010 10:24 PM

Steve where do you get them, and who is making them?

Posted by Kyle - 02/02/2011 12:19 PM

Xion Stuntpadding. It has essentially a full body suit of different pieces you can buy (jackets, sleeves, shorts, legs, etc). Great quality.
stuntpadding.com

Posted by the shadow - 05/28/2011 01:21 AM

hand to hand combat suit, much like a wetsuit, must add spetrafiber or Kevlar to stop other things as well,… yes i do need a super-suit.

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