Thursday, May 17, 2012

An amazing material - D30

I have never written about motorcycle safety gear but I happened upon a very interesting product the other day at the local Cycle Gear shop here in Eugene and wanted to tell my motorcycling buddies about it. Rather than write an email to them I hit on the idea of posting it here where it might get wider circulation. The reason I think that is because my little discourse on Vespas has garnered an astounding 270 pageviews since I posted it back in March. (Another post, Maiden Voyage: Conclusion, about our first ride on the CBR250, got 300 hits!) I know I don't have that many dedicated followers out in cyberspace but apparently what I write about motorcycles and motorcycling gets read by more than my few I'm Outta Here faithfuls. Thanks are due to some other bloggers who have listed my blog as one they follow. No doubt some of their readers have decided to give my blog a look now and again. Anyway....

Last spring I bought some gear for the tour of the southwest on my VStrom; a Nolan N30 helmet, tough knuckle-armored biking gloves, waterproof armored riding boots. Seeing as I was heading into what I thought would be a hot, sunny desert climate and that in any case I'd soon be riding in tropical Thailand again, I bought a pair of open mesh cycling pants from Cycle Gear in Sacramento. Cycle Gear is a nationwide motorcycle accessories chain whose in-house brand is named Bilt. They offer a wide selection of fairly good quality gear at reasonable prices. The Bilt pants I purchased have conventional armor, that is to say plastic, knee protection and an external padded area on each hip to help prevent injury in the event of a fall. But I was never impressed with the sturdiness of those little buffer pads.

As I was stashing the pants in the closet before returning to the states I noticed they were fitted with two internal velcro-flapped pockets, one over each hip, that I had overlooked before. The pockets were empty but obviously designed to hold armor pads. Strange to have pockets with nothing in them, I thought.  But then, I only paid 100 bucks for them. What should I expect for that price? Once here in Eugene I decided to visit the local Cycle Gear shop in search of some genuine hip protection, ideally something made to fit those pockets. With the help of the friendly staff there I discovered D30. After a short and convincing demo in the store I ordered these hip pads and then did a little research. Here's the main d30 site.  And here is a Wikipedia article.

D30 pads, left one is in its velcro equipped holster - $25/pair
The orange, spongy pad is light, very flexible and soft to the touch. That is, until you hit it or try to poke something through it. Then it instantly stiffens to take on the consistency of hardwood or metal and becomes virtually impenetrable.
Here's some folks from "testing" some D30 armor
While I don't know how long the video links I've included below will be available (videos sometimes disappear quickly and without warning) short of testing the armor on yourself they are possibly the best intro to the properties of this amazing material.

Apparently D30 has found wide application as a lightweight and comfortable body armor for snowboarders, police and corrections personnel, even in cases for smartphones (naturally). The first link below is to a short YouTube video from the online motorcycle store "Go AZ Motorcycles" out of Scottsdale, Arizona.
Video: In store demo from
I tried the demo with a hammer on my own hand and I can tell you, the D30 works as claimed. I felt force and pressure but nothing that would bruise or break a bone.

This next one isn't about the trademarked product "D30" in particular, at least as far as I know, but about an amazing combination of a polymer, polyethylene glycol, and silica that has found its way into body armor of all sorts. The claims are similar to the ones made for D30 and I'm assuming this the same product or a precursor. And it's cool. The video is also a bit longer but if you have any interest at all in body armor it's certainly worth the 9 minutes you'll spend watching it. Towards the end you'll see some fabric reinforced with liquid armor that repelled a sharp, steel tipped hunting arrow with  impunity.
Video: Liquid Armor.
Here are just a couple more:
On the properties of D30 before shaping into a pad: How does D30 work?
D30 was originally used as a protective layer in ski caps. Watch "Smack me on the head with a Shovel."
In one of the videos you can see entire sets of pads being offered to replace the ones that came with your old gear. That might be a good investment. I hope I never have the need to test these pads "in the field" but if I do, I bet they will help defend my tender parts against a bad case of road rash.

Now that I've spent a bit of time writing this, I'll probably learn that many of you already knew about D30. If so, the laugh's on me. Please consider leaving a comment if you got anything out of this....