or Kevlar vs. Real-World Abrasions

Aero Design pioneered abrasion resistant motorcycle riders suits made of advanced technology fabrics. We continue to be the world leader in this field so we're often asked why we choose Cordura nylon, Ballistic Nylon, and Gore Tex laminates for our Roadcrafter and Darien garments. Why not Kevlar?

We'd heard good things about Kevlar's qualities when we started our work, but back then Kevlar simply wasn't available in a useable form, so we chose the most effective materials available. Our rigorous original testing and subsequent experience (as well as our customers') has shown Cordura Nylon's abrasion resistance is not merely sufficient, but it has far surpassed riders' needs and expectations.* We've examined and repaired hundreds of crashed suits, some tested at over 100 mph. Visit our shop sometime and we'll show you actual crash tested suits and our abrasion testing materials and apparatus. Today Kevlar, manufactured in a useable form only by Schoeller Textile Company in Switzerland, and used by other makers of protective riders clothing, is readily available.

We still choose Cordura, not Kevlar. Here's why:
Its advantages don't make up for it's disadvantages. In pure, undiluted form, Kevlar is lighter than Nylon and has greater tensile strength than Nylon. It won't melt like Nylon after touching a hot muffler (or from the friction generated heat of a high speed slide on hot pavement). Unfortunately, it's expensive and difficult to work with, which limits design and construction possibilities. Believe it or not, pure Kevlar fabric actually is much less abrasion resistant than Cordura Nylon. This quality is not important for bulletproof vests. Kevlar fibers have far less elasticity than Cordura Nylon fibers, a crucial handicap. In a crash, even the smoothest pavements have a rough aggregate surface that causes abrasive pulling. Nylon's stretchy fibers will elongate, ride over the surface irregularities, then snap back into the weave (like a tree bending in a strong wind), but Kevlar fibers quickly reach their tensile limit and snap.

To solve these problems, manufacturers blend Kevlar with Lycra and Nylon. In this blend, "Kevlar" is only about one third actual Kevlar. This creates problems: because of the additional Nylon and Lycra, much of its slight weight advantage over Cordura is lost. It also loses its fire-retardant qualities. The blended Kevlar fabric will burn or melt (just like Nylon) when it comes in contact with a flame, hot component, or high frictional heat.

Some Kevlar suits may provide good crash performance because they are specifically designed for competitive roadracing. Roadcrafter suits aren't designed for sanctioned roadracing, but fortunately theyOre designed for everything else, including abrasion resistance at highway speeds. We've tested (and will continue to test) Cordura nylon against the alternatives. Its superior comfort, easy workability and excellent abrasion resistance make it our choice for quality, versatile, high performance rider's clothing. You've got a choice between the Roadcrafter and its proven record of outstanding abrasion performance, and something that costs more and delivers less. Guess what we recommend.

* For detailed information on leather vs. nylon vs. Kevlar, see the September 1989 issue of Cycle. In this cover story, the editors duplicated the Aero Design tests developed for the first Roadcrafter suits. The April 1993 issue of Motorcyclist also has a feature on comparative abrasion resistance of various materials.

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