BikeExchange caught up with Hexoskin Ambassador Baden Cooke ahead of the 2015 Santos Tour Down Under.
You might feel like you’ve stepped onto the set of Blade Runner #2 when you hear this news… Your clothes can now read your body metrics.
OK, not exactly just any piece of clothing in your wardrobe, but specifically the Hexoskin, a jaw-droppingly innovative product developed out of Canada, where it’s already had impact at Olympic level sports. And now it’s heading South…
Hexoskin in a nutshell
Perhaps the best way to describe Hexoskin is to say it’s like your own personal, wearable mini Lab. Through the Hexoskin top, which looks like standard but sleek sports work-out apparel, you can measure:
- Heart rate, heart rate variability and heart rate recovery
- Breathing rate and breathing volume
- Activity levels
- Step count
- Feedback on sleeping patterns
How does it do this?
It’s probably now I should confess that science was never my strongest subject. But basically late one night in Montreal some tech entrepreneurs were experimenting with traditional medical sensors when the epiphany occurred – this could be so much more advanced. Their light bulb moment got the nod from the Canadian Space Agency (one of their first clients), which was looking for less cumbersome, more discreet ways to monitor the body metrics of their astronauts when in space.
Developers have been able to integrate activity sensors, heart sensors and respiration sensors throughout Hexoskin’s fabric. Before you start imagining a web of monitoring devices and wires running throughout the top; don’t. The integration is seamless and essentially invisible – to the naked eye this looks (and feels) like any other quality sports garment. This was one of Hexoskin's many challenges, making the shirt as comfortable and easy to wear as any other base layer whilst concealing space grade technology in the textile.
Where does the data go?
A Hexoskin dashboard is accessible on a web portal (enabling retrospective observations for more in-depth analysis of training adaptations), or you can export raw data to your favourite analysis software. There’s also a Hexoskin App that’s compatible to iOS and Android (including some watches).
Besides making a standard HRM seem so last century, what’s the point of Hexoskin?
The product delivers a combination of immediate and longer-term benefits:
Imagine you have a cycling coach who’s training you remotely. If you jump on the saddle wearing Hexoskin under your jersey then your coach can remotely and instantly monitor your key body metrics. So you could be on your favourite local ride and they could be in, say, Europe, and monitor your progress more accurately than if they were riding right alongside you.
Think about pin-pointing precisely where your body was at during a specific training session. You can download all the body metrics available at that exact moment, and compare them to that moment in a similar training session a month prior. Or perhaps compare them to your training buddy’s output at the time so you can find their weak moment in the interval session...!
Look no further than Canadian Dufour-LaPointe sisters and Olympic skiers, who were early adopters of Hexoskin. It became apparent during training for the Sochi Olympics that one of the sisters was not jumping as high as she needed to – using the Hexoskin enabled her trainers to identify that inefficient breathing was compromising her height. They addressed the breathing and – hey presto – suddenly she was clearing an extra three to four inches.
Imagine this technology in an endurance race, like a team 24h MTB challenge. You/ your team members could be monitoring everyone’s performance including signs of fatigue. Based on the data you could be making decisions to help manage someone whose body signs are indicating they’re about to fatigue. Think about the precision data that would go into your constantly-changing race tactics now!
Now this is a comparison that might not sit well with everyone, but think about the modern-day car. Thanks to its computer technology, cars these days will indicate when things start to need attention before they become an issue. Tyres are a classic example – when their pressure goes down, your car lets you know. The result – you get your tyres pumped up before you get caught out.
The Hexoskin is another example of how we’re embracing remote sensing as a preventative measure. It can detect symptoms that might, for example, be indicative of the primary stages of cardiac arrest. When you start considering its wider potential, this Hexoskin is mind-blowing…
- Lightweight, breathable and quick-dry fabric from Italy (made in Canada)
- Smooth seams – no chafe
- Reflective logo for visibility (although personally I’d be wearing this under my jersey – data reading is not compromised)
- Currently the one design is on the market, but come the New Year we’re told we can expect long sleeve shirts, as well as different colours and logos available on order
- Sizes – male and female xsmall through to xxxlarge
You want it yesterday?