It’s the last lap of the Grand Prix, the battle between the two leaders is intense and the spectators look on in reverent silence. With just a couple of corners to go, the leading rider goes down, leaving his rival to cross the line alone.
You will often find yourself watching a GP on television and holding your breath when a rider falls. Sometimes we see them slide at high speed over quite a distance and we pray that nothing bad happens. The slide goes from the asphalt to the grass and then into the gravel, the speed drops, the rider comes to a halt, checks that he is in one piece and – best case scenario – walks away on his own two feet.
The fact that most of today’s crashes do not cause particular physical harm to riders is down to decades of research that has seen technical equipment reach a level of excellence that was unthinkable until not so long ago. In addition to the back protector and airbag, there are details on the leather suits that may go unnoticed but that make a real difference when necessary.
During a fall, the airbag system takes care of impact absorption, together with the composite protectors hidden inside the suit, at the shoulders, elbows, chest and back. But after cushioning the initial blows, the protectors’ work is not done. At this point, the residual energy owing to the speed needs to be dissipated.
Supporting the slide is the most effective way to prevent further injury. Yes, sliding is a form of protection, since it’s a gentle way of dissipating the energy resulting from a fall. Sliding is the opposite of rolling, the worst of the events that can commonly occur during a fall, as this can cause additional impacts or the dangerous twisting of limbs and joints.
Rolling is, in many cases, caused by a material that does not adequately resist abrasion against the asphalt, thus creating friction and catching on the surface. The solution to the problem lies in the strategic use of materials that don’t deteriorate with the high temperatures produced by friction against the asphalt.
Plastic is a material that, combined with layers of foam rubber, offers excellent energy absorption properties. This is in fact the material used in protectors incorporated in all Dainese track suits and top-of-line jackets and pants for road use. However, it is not the best material to use on the outside of garments.
The reason is simple, as plastic is unable to withstand high-speed rubbing against the asphalt without deteriorating. The high temperatures generated cause a plastic protector to melt, meaning it can no longer perform its role with the same initial effectiveness. Plastic is a material that exerts significant friction against the asphalt, and is therefore a potential trigger for dangerous rolling and twisting.
Placing metal plates on the outside of the suit, at particular points, prevents this from occurring. Metal can withstand heat and has superior abrasion resistance properties. It is therefore more than able to support and encourage sliding.
Dainese uses metal plates at the shoulders, elbows and knees of its top-of-line suits and jackets, shaped to cover an extensive area without interfering with joint movement or weighing the garment down in any way. To this end, the materials used are of the highest quality, such as aluminum and titanium, capable of withstanding extreme stress and promoting ergonomics and performance.
Metal plates can also make a difference due to their ability to dissipate the force of an impact. As we’ve said, this energy is absorbed by the composite plastic protectors, but a metal shield is extremely effective in distributing the force of an impact over a wider area.
Dainese metal plate technology has been developed over almost two decades and put to the test in racing since the early 2000s. As ever, the technology is passed down from professional riders’ suits to the mass-produced products, used on track and road garments such as the more sports-oriented fabric jackets. Titanium and aluminum are not commonly used materials in motorcycle clothing, but when pursuing perfection, it is the details that always make the difference.