D30: Armour doesn’t have to be boring

Author: Iggy Grainger Posted: 15 Jun 2013

D30 armour

Remember making Play-Doh as a kid by mixing flour, oil and water? Well that’s pretty much what is used to protect some of the world’s finest bike racers and also many of us mere mortals out on the road.

How many of you have even thought about specifying what type of armour you want when buying new kit? Not many I expect. Well known companies like Rukka, Furygan, Armadillo, KTM, Triumph, Belstaff and Held already use D30 armour in many of their garments but other than vaguely remembering the name from kit specs do you actually know what it is?

D30 armour

It’s not for kids

D30 in its raw state is bright orange and great fun to play with, it flows through your fingers like molten lava, you can put a lump on your hand and hit yourself with a hammer and it deadens the impact to nothing more than a dull thud, great fun. It can also keep a room full of journalists and a tame British superbike racer quiet for hours… as we found out recently when we visited the D30 Lab in Brighton with Ryuichi Kiyonari. ‘Kiyo’ had recently walked away unscathed from a big crash in BSB, he said: “Back in Japan I have every leather suit I’ve ever raced in. Ten years ago they just had sponge in them, now it’s much better. Thruxton wasn’t a small crash, it still hurt but I walked away.” He puts that down to his quality kit and D30 equipped Hyod race suit.  

D30 armour

Who you calling a dilatant?

So what exactly is D30 and why is it deemed to be so good? In its basic form D30 is a liquid but by combining it with different polymers and some clever chemistry it can be used to form solid (soft and flexible) shapes, which have the properties of both a dilatant and a polymer. A dilatant is a shear thickening fluid, which reacts to shock by thickening and absorbing the force. If your D30 body armour has an impact the shock causes the material to harden momentarily, which reduces the shock massively.

The higher the stress the harder the D30 reacts but it instantly reverts back to its liquid state and can be used over and over again. This makes it a perfect material for use in many applications, from mobile phone cases (as demonstrated at D30 by PR girl Lisa who threw her iPhone at the floor!) to D30 beanie hats, military and police armour, winter sports wear, and other extreme sports applications. The material was invented by British boffin, Richard Palmer and was originally used to protect Canadian and US athletes in the 2006 winter Olympics but the list of potential uses is pretty much endless.

D30 armour


At their HQ in the UK a new product can be developed quite quickly in-house, from design and prototype to sampling, testing and manufacture. D30 Lab have their own AD Engineering drop tower testing rigs and Instron tensometer so they can test armour to meet and exceed the stringent CE standards. Depending on which product you opt for, D30 is level 1 or level 2 CE certified (D30 is also certified to other standards around the world). Tests are carried out at the lab but products are also tested independently. Final production is done in the UK, America and Asia.

Because of its excellent shock-reducing properties D30 doesn’t have to be as thick as conventional armour so it’s more comfortable to wear, isn’t as restrictive and can be used in more applications, like unobtrusive armour in Kevlar jeans for instance. Just 3mm of D30 ST solid transmits 57% less force than a 10mm piece of conventional EVA foam, despite being 60% thinner; 6mm D30 decreases that force by 79%. The substance comes in various forms but D30 ST Mesh, XT Solid and XT Mesh are the three most common types found in bike armour.

D30 Smart Skin is another innovative use for the product, it can be heat bonded to base layers to provide perfectly placed very lightweight armour. One of the most common forms of D30 you’re likely to come into contact with is T5 Evo, which is a range of pre shaped limb protectors used by a number of clothing manufacturers as standard fitment in bike jackets, leathers, trousers and textiles, these sit alongside the Viper range of D30 back protectors. In the future be sure to check that D30 is on the specs before buying your next jacket or trousers, it might just stop what will become a ‘good’ story for your mates in the pub from becoming months of painful rehabilitation.