Tech Talk: G-Form protective padding garments respond to collisions
G-Form has created a new way of protecting action sports athletes that lets them move as they wish, but keeps them protected—sometimes without the spectator even knowing—when that movement goes south.
What it is
The G-Form protection layer of thin Poron XRD padding is a flexible layer of protection for everyone from skaters to snowboarders. G-Form has encapsulated its product into physical garments so the protection layer doesn’t absorb sweat or moisture and the garment can get tossed in a regular washing machine.
With the popularity of the product in bike and snow sports, the multi-sport compression shirt spans multiple sports and activities and G-Form has created a bike short, a snow-specific short and knee and elbow pads as they continue to hone in on the action world.
How it works
G-Form uses a proprietary and patented molding rate-dependent technology process to create the protective padding. According to the company's vice president of product, Meg Clough, the molecules in the molded composition slightly repel each other for a soft, wearable feel—at first. When the padding gets hit with a force, the molecules bind together, turning rigid and protecting “in a way a hard shell does.”
When bound together, the molecules redistribute energy from the impact and then as the energy dissipates they return to the soft and flexible state.
“As a user, you don’t notice the chemical reaction,” Clough says. “That chemistry continues to repeat over and over again.”
What athletes are saying
Matt Blank, a wingsuit and base athlete, says having impact protection built into his gear is extremely important. “What I look for most in the performance of my protection is articulation,” he says. “I want to move as naturally as possible and not have my reactions change to suit my padding.”
Pat Casey, a BMX rider, says he also needs the ease of movement, even while he’s constantly falling from “what feels like out of the sky” or taking a pedal to the shin. The flexibility allows him to move easily when trying new tricks.
Having proper protection adds a bit of peace of mind too, says Emily Pross, a downhill skateboarder. “When you fall you still feel it, but you feel it less and it is easier to shake off and get back up immediately,” she says. “Plus, since its built into your gear, its low profile and you don’t have to worry about leaving it at home all the time.”
The athletes also say that they care about the thin nature of the padding for an aesthetics point of view, whether it's Blank, who needs to conceal protection to look as though he is a “regular person” while doing television stunt work, or Casey, who wants to make sure he can slide his jeans over top the padding with ease.
"Aesthetics is huge in skateboarding. Sometimes you get flack for wearing protection, so it’s nice to have something that fits under my jeans and shirts without giving away that I’m padded up from shin to elbow,” Pross says. “Since I don’t have the extra gear on the outside, it is also more aerodynamic so I can go just a little bit faster. However, in the summer months when you can see me rocking my G-Forms, I still look bad-ass in photos because the G-Forms contour to my body and don’t enhance and bulk up odd parts.”
G-Form has already taken on the many different standards of sports—both action and traditional, such as soccer shin guards—to create pads 1/8th of an inch thick up to 3/8ths thick, keeping the padding lightweight and low profile. Clough says G-Form will continue to introduce new product in 2016 and '17 that caters to the action world.
Tim Newcomb covers sports aesthetics—stadiums, sneakers and gear—for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.