High density energy absorption
Airowear are constantly working with suppliers around the world to develop materials that are soft enough to work with the body’s inbuilt protective mechanisms, yet stiff enough to dissipate focal impacts from fence rails, posts or rocks. All within the constraints of weight, breathability, flexibility, elasticity and consistency. Over the three decades of body protection, vast changes have been introduced by Airowear and our 3 top of the range material systems give you the ultimate performance.
Unlike helmets that protect the rigid skull, body protection must have a totally different technology. While we still use air pockets, it isn’t the bursting of the air pockets that absorb the energy, but the flexing of the surrounding structure. Controlling the deformation of that structure requires a deep understanding of viscous elasticity.
Multi layering and minimising the numbers of joints creates very effective protection against extreme surfaces, horse kicks and penetration by horse studs.
Our material development is continuous so updating your body protection every few years will yield the best of comfort and protection.
Based upon the Ultraflex technology, the elasticity of the foam is enhanced to allow for a closer fit and easier breathing. The difference is truly amazing and recommended for the regular rider and those who have a shapelier body and find regular body protection uncomfortable.
Patented by Airowear, this technology has unbelievable drape without reducing performance. It creates a garment that flows with ever micro movement and gives the impression of total freedom.
Air protection uses quite a different approach to energy absorption, as different as seat belts are to air bags in cars. It is the combination that yields the best results. Air requires rapid deployment, precise control of the inflated air cushions, but can cover areas impractical for static systems.
How it compares to foams
As described above foams use the structure around the air pockets to absorb the energy, but with air bladders it is the air movement and pressurisation that does the work. Air is relatively inefficient compared to foams, but by using large volumes, often 4 inches thick, the absorption happens over a longer time resulting in much less force to the body. To be effective, the air cushions need to be pre-pressurised and have a large impact area that results in a large increase in pressure. (If you ever have manually pumped up a bicycle tyre, you know how much more effort is required to increase the pressure and stiffness of the tyre increases.)
If you land on a shape that can penetrate through the 4 inches of the tube e.g. a fence rail or post, then the air cushion will provide much less protection than foam.
Much is made of inflation speed, which is important as it takes a fraction of a second from leaving the horse before impacting the ground or obstacle. But for air cushions to be effective, they need a certain level of pre-pressurisation and so the most important question is the time that it takes before the air cushions become effective. The Satra M38 specification does exactly that measurement. This is much more appropriate that using high speed video to measure inflation speed as there is no measurement of the pressure in the tube.
A technique often used by designers to increase inflation speed is to reduce the size of the tubes. The less the volume to fill, the quicker the inflation speed, but this reduces the energy absorption capability of the system.
To maintain precise control of the position of the air cushions, a robust structure is required. This can be either by having a girth strap that pushes the air cushions against the body. This requires that the air jacket is worn loose to create space for the air cushions to expand. This results in the chest being punched upon inflation and maybe a fight between the body protector and the air jacket as they may not be aligned due to the loose fit prior to inflation. If the air jacket is poorly adjusted, then this can result in severely restricted breathing and a delay in CPR being applied.
Some air systems are designed to inflate outwards and can be worn closely fitted to the body. Not only does this eliminate the discomfort upon inflation, it allows easy removal in the event that CPR is required.
Brain motion can be exaggerated if the neck can move excessively during an accident. Research has shown that females have weaker necks than males and can result in more head injuries. Motor racing uses the Hans system, but an air jacket that locks onto the jaw can reduce head motion significantly. Allowing the rider to tuck & roll is an important protective technique, so forward movement of the head is necessary to allow this. However, forcing the head into a forward position can result in neck injury, so your air jacket should never contact the back of your helmet. Obviously having a well-fitting air jacket is essential to reduce this possibility.
Many riders complain of injury to their pelvis and having protection in this area with foam is impractical, but this is an area that air can perform very well.
Elasticity for flexibility and movement
Impact protection on zipped garments
Shoulder & Collar Bone Protection
The Importance of Fitting