Friday, 14 June 2024

Now Your T-Shirt Can Be As Tough As Your Bike

Hard-core cyclists listen up. You can now get a T-shirt that is every bit as tough as that carbon fiber bike you are so proud of. If you’re willing to pony up the cash, you can get a carbon fiber T-shirt for just over $100. Wear it when you’re biking, when you’re going out for coffee, or whatever.

According to Gear Junkie, the carbon fiber T-shirt comes from a company known for pushing boundaries. London-based Vollebak has apparently released a number of interesting items including a T-shirt with a lifetime gift card hidden inside, work shirts with fake blood stains, and glow-in-the-dark jackets powered by solar energy.

But Why Carbon Fiber?

It would seem as though most of what Vollebak does is about aesthetics. The carbon fiber T-shirt seems to be different. It will certainly get your attention when you understand what is capable of, but it doesn’t look extraordinarily different from any other T-shirt. You would never know it was carbon fiber to look at it. So why make a T-shirt from a carbon fiber fabric?

Vollebak says the big draw is the shirt’s abrasion resistance. Given that it is made entirely from carbon fiber fabric, every inch of it is abrasion resistant. That means it is going to wear very well no matter what you expose it to.

This is apparently appealing to cyclists and outdoor adventurers of all kinds. The shirt will not be bothered by quick brushes with vegetation as you’re careening down a mountainside on your carbon fiber bike. It won’t be bothered by mountain climbing ropes over your shoulder or the backpack straps that normally do a number on cotton and polyester.

But Isn’t It Rigid?

By now your mind is probably racing with questions. For example, you’re probably wondering how someone can make a carbon fiber T-shirt that isn’t rigid. The answer is actually quite simple. For that, we turn to Rock West Composites, a Salt Lake City company that specializes in carbon fiber materials.

Rock West explains that something like a carbon fiber tennis racket is technically a carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). To make the tennis racket, the manufacturer combines carbon fiber fabric with an epoxy resin that cures to create a single, rigid piece. Don’t add the epoxy resin and the carbon fiber fabric will retain its natural properties.

Carbon fiber fabric is woven just like any other fabric. It starts as carbon fiber threads that are created by subjecting carbon molecules to high heat and pressure. The heat and pressure cause them to align along a perpendicular plane to create what is known as carbon fiber tow. The tow is then spun into thread the same way as cotton, flax, etc.

Is It Still Strong?

Most people understand carbon fiber as a material that is stronger than steel. That’s true when you mix a carbon fiber fabric with epoxy resin. The fabric alone is not quite that strong. However, it is still stronger than many other textiles. It is, as Vollebak claims, abrasion resistant. It is also resistant to temperature extremes, moisture, and other environmental factors a T-shirt might be exposed to.

You have a carbon fiber bike and helmet. Now you can complete the package with a carbon fiber T-shirt. For less than you’re probably paying for gas and electric in your home, you can get your hands on a space-age T-shirt that is as tough as your bike. Just don’t try to rip it off in celebration as you cross the finish line of the next race. You might embarrass yourself.