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Hoplight Armor™
Hoplite Armor™ is our patent-pending technology that uses a painstakingly engineered system of sliding fabric layers, strategically placed on the highest risk body locations: elbows, shoulders, back, hips, thighs and knees. We named it Hoplite Armor™ after the revolutionary fighting armor of the ancient Greeks.

Let’s geek out for a couple minutes.

A bike crash is the simple conversion of kinetic energy into potential energy through copious amounts of friction. This assumes the aerodynamic drag of your body sliding along terra firma is negligible and you crash on flat ground. Newton’s second and third laws of motion tell us that your body mass decelerates in proportion to the application of the friction force acting against your direction of motion.

Friction is a force, and your flesh is a mechanical structure. Forces distributed over areas of mechanical structures are called STRESS, and the resulting deformations of those structures are called STRAIN. Flesh stretches—elastically at first (it springs back to normal without damage) for small strains, and later plastically (when it deforms permanently) for larger strains, culminating in ultimate failure. Abrasion is the net result of countless small ultimate failures, as energy is dissipated by snapping off molecule after molecule. In the case of road rash, your skin is ground off and damaged by overstressing it.

So this is intuitively obvious but critical, because people have attempted to solve the road rash problem without understanding the underlying mechanism.

Some have suggested placing extremely durable textiles, woven from tough materials like Kevlar®, in a single layer. But here is a little proof that they did not grasp the real root cause. How many times have you stood up from a crash and noticed that your shorts are pretty much intact? And was the skin underneath the intact fabric unscathed? Speaking from experience, we’d guess it almost certainly looked like raw meat. Nylon is a pretty abrasion resistant fiber. Making stronger fabrics only makes fewer rips. It does very little to help your skin.

Now, let’s think about the extremes of friction. Suppose we created a garment with infinite friction. In a crash, you would stick to the pavement, coming to an instant stop. The huge, instantaneous dissipation of energy in your body would probably kill you. At the other extreme, if we were able to create a fabric that eliminated our friction with the ground, our skin would be unscratched. Unfortunately, we would slide for the rest of eternity because there is no force to slow us down. Intuitively, minimizing friction is key.

But only so much can be done with a sports fabric to make it slippery. We are confined to a handful of raw materials, the usual suspects of polyester and nylon (a.k.a. polyamide), for their ability to wick, stretch, dry, breathe, etc. Coatings like Teflon are only on the order of microns thick--they lack the molecular bond strength to withstand the huge dissipation of energy (Take a metal utensil to a nonstick pan to convince yourself of that). So, what can be done?

Layered fabrics.
As layers are added, new forces are added that benefit you in a crash. They work against the friction force that slows you down, and thus reduce the stress on your skin. First, interlayer friction arises from fabric layers sliding over each other. Second, each layer has a certain amount of springiness that creates snap-back forces proportional to the amount they are stretched, just like a spring (textile people call that “recovery”—that’s the principle behind compression gear). Third, each layer added gives a small amount of incremental thickness that can be consumed by abrasion. Do 3 layers work better than 2, do 4 work better than 3? Yes, but only with respect to lessening road rash. Heat stress, moisture management and comfort need to be carefully balanced against the protective benefits. It’s a tradeoff, and we concluded 2 layers is a happy medium.

But can you just wear any old base layer under your jersey and get the same effect? Will it help, yes. Will it perform as well as our engineered system? No. Try it out. Put on a base layer or even a T-shirt, then zip up your jersey over it. The fabrics just don’t play nicely together the way we’ve tailored them to. There are many factors that determine an optimal system; you can’t just throw random ingredients in a bowl and hope they magically become a cake.

With our Hoplite Armor™, we limit the dual-layer placements to places most at risk for road rash. This minimizes the weight and heat stress. Will this prevent road rash, hematomas and broken bones? No. Sadly, two thin pieces of fabric can only do so much. This technology works best against abrasion, not blunt force trauma. And it is intended to reduce the severity of road rash compared to an unprotected area with only one layer of coverage or none at all.

Will the garment be okay after the crash? Let’s also state the obvious to prevent any confusion. We engineered a technology to lessen road rash, not lessen rips and tears in your clothes—that is a different problem and different solution.

Nevertheless, road rash has long been thought of as inevitable. If you fall down at high speed, you are going to get hurt. But truth be told, engineering was never brought to bear on the problem. We looked at the facts and came to the logical conclusion the solution would involve something other than rugged fabrics. And Hoplite Armor™ was born.

If it didn’t work, we would not have patented it.