Cool riders

A motorcycling jacket using technology borrowed from the space programme has been developed to chill MotoGP riders.

A motorcycling jacket using technology borrowed from the space programme has been developed to chill MotoGP riders racing this weekend in Malaysia and next weekend in Qatar, should the heat require it.

The Anatomic Intercooler System (AIS) jacket was developed by Italian bike clothing company Spidi and was used last year by Spanish rider Sete Gibernau at the world’s hottest motorbike Grand Prix at the Sepang circuit in Qatar.

It keeps the rider cool inside the suit, helping to maintain a low body temperature even in sweltering desert temperatures.

The novel technology used was originally developed for astronauts’ space suits. Internal cooling is needed to allow astronauts to withstand high temperatures occurring during sun exposure in open space.

“The AIS turned out to be very efficient at Qatar last year. It was used by Sete Gibernau in combination with our hydro-back system, making it possible for him to drink while racing,” explained Mattia Vincenzi from Spidi.

The technology was made available for Spidi by ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme (TTP) and the Italian textile research laboratory Grado Zero Espace (GZE).

A schematic view of the Anatomic Intercooler System (AIS) developed by the Italian bike clothing company Spidi and used for the first time by Spain‘s motorcycle rider Sete Gibernau at the Moto Grand Prix race 2004 at the Sepang circuit in Qatar.

“Together with our Italian technology transfer partner D’Appolonia we started the work in 2000-2001 with Italian Grado Zero Espace of transferring cooling technologies from astronauts’ space suits to clothing for people in hot places on Earth,” said Pierre Brisson, Head of ESA’s Technology Transfer and Promotion Office.

“This has led to several other very interesting spin-offs, in addition to the AIS from Spidi.”

A cooling overall was developed for McLaren’s Formula 1 mechanics, and Henri Pescarolo wore a special helmet with a built-in cooling system while racing in the Dakar 2003 Rally. It turned out to be very efficient in the Saharan heat.

The cooling system itself is based on icy-gel-cooled water running through a tube that weaves across the chest and back within a custom-made anatomic vest worn under the suit. An ultra-light battery drives a micro pump to circulate the water.

Wearing the AIS system with the hydro-back system, holding about half a litre of water sufficient for a 40-45 minute race, the rider is guaranteed a comfortable body temperature even in extreme hot weather.

The two systems are now under evaluation by Spidi for commercial motorcycle jackets.