Kevlar, developed by Du Pont in 1965 to replace nylon and rayon fibres in tyres, has become better known for its bullet-proofing qualities in military protective gear and, more recently, in abrasion-resistant clothing for bikers.
But Kevlar, as a woven or knitted textile, has a limited lifespan. It readily absorbs water, through sweat, humidity and washing, and eventually degrades to the point where it offers no more protection than ordinary cotton denim.
Covec CEO Keith Bloxsome, far right and local bikers model the Bull-It range at the Cape Town launch. Credit: Dave Abrahams
When fire services in the UK discovered they were having to replace their Kevlar protective clothing after an average of 20 washes, they asked Covec Technical Textiles in Birmingham to come up with a liquid-crystal polymer fibre with similar properties that did not retain moisture.
And since Covec CEO Keith Bloxsome is a lifelong biker (he was at one time a professional speedway rider) it wasn’t long before the new fabrics found their way into a range of motorcycle gear, labelled Bull-it, which is now available in South Africa.
Covec have come up with two new fabrics, a woven textile called Laser (because that’s the only practical way to cut it!) and a knit called +7, because that’s how many seconds it takes to abrade through when attacked with an angle-grinder.
The jeans they’ve designed around these fabrics are stylish but understated, with no patchwork seams to announce their protective function, styled by riders for riders, with armoured areas covering all the areas designated Zone 1 and Zone 2 in CE testing, and built-in pockets for hip and knee armour pads.
They’re also lined with what Bloxsome calls a polyester comfort lining - but its primary function is to stick gently to the skin under impact while the Covec fabric slides over it, thus reducing friction burns on your skin.
He’s inordinately proud that Bullit’s top-of-the-range Voloce jeans are the only ones in the world certified to CE Level 2 for abrasion, cut and burst resistance.
Bull-it also has a range of very plain, almost military-style jackets, straight-cut for men and tailored for ladies, with cotton twill on the outside in dark blue or black, over Covec fabric and polyester comfort linings, with pockets for CE armour.
Most protective bikewear looks like what it is, which is great on a Sunday morning ride but less so if you commute on a bike and your job involves dealing with the public. If you want all the protection you can get without looking like Buzz Lightyear, it’s worth a visit to your local dealer.
Jeans and cargo pants in a variety of styles start at R1795, jackets at R2400.