A Spectra® Fiber partner
Knox is a UK-based company that produces innovative apparel, gloves and body armor for motorcyclists. We asked Geoff Travell, CEO, and April Travell, Apparel Designer, to give us their take on Knox’s unique partnership with Spectra.
What inspired you to start your company?
Geoff: From 1978 to ’83 I was racing motorbikes and following my dreams of becoming a professional racer. I was also working as furniture maker during this time to help fund my racing. I was fast, but also very accident prone, and unfortunately this resulted in serious injuries, including breaking my back. While recovering in hospital, I started to consider how my injuries might have been prevented. I remembered something Barry Sheene, the most famous British motorcycle racer and two-times world champion, had told me.
He had a horrific accident at the Daytona track in the US, which took all the skin off his back. After that, he put a cushion from his mother’s sofa under his leathers to protect his back. Thinking about this, I had a light bulb moment.
“It’s so nice to be working with a major innovator like Spectra. It gives us a real point of difference in the marketplace.”
Apparel Designer, Knox
As an upholsterer, I used foam to make cushions for furniture. What if I could use it to make protective gear for bikers? As soon as I was discharged from hospital, I called my suppliers and ordered the best packaging foam I could get – the stuff designed to absorb the greatest impact. I used it to create the first ever back protector and limb armor for motorcycle riders. I ended up selling a load down on the track and that’s how Knox began.
What is it that you love about your job on a day-to-day basis?
April: We’re a small company and we’re always working on lots of different products. While that can be really challenging, it helps us to develop more innovative products. We may have an idea for something that can be used on a pair of gloves, for instance, and that idea might also apply to a jacket. It’s all about cross-pollination with different ideas feeding into different products, which is exactly what happened with Spectra.
We stumbled across it when we were developing abrasion-resistant jeans. Then we thought, hang on, we can use this innovative fiber to develop loads more exciting stuff.
Why are the Brooke jeans for ladies so special?
April: Firstly, they look just like regular jeans. Most motorcycle jeans have excessive stitching and garish designs on them. They’re not the kind of thing you’d wear when you’re not on your bike, whereas you can wear our jeans all the time.
Secondly, there’s not a lot of ladies’ motorcycling apparel on the market and most of it tends to have lower levels of protection. As well as looking good and fitting well, the Brooke jeans offer high-performance protection. A huge amount of thought has gone into them and they’re just as good as the men’s version.
What makes the Buxton jeans for men so special?
Geoff: Traditionally, bikers had a kind of uniform. Ten years ago, it was all about speed with sports bikes and one-piece suits. Wearing armor was difficult because it was all fitted from the inside. Taking the armor off meant taking the whole suit off. Today the motorcycle scene in the UK is much more leisure oriented. Bikers want to meet up and when they get off their bikes they don’t want to be walking around in cumbersome gear that’s hard to walk in. They want to look like everyone else and have clothes that are comfier.
So, we develop protective equipment that looks like regular clothing. Not only have we mastered the look, we’ve also transferred the removable protective parts – like knee armor – from the inside to the outside. So, bikers don’t have to undress to remove the armor.
Plus, with the Buxton jeans, there’s all the additional protection provided by Spectra Fiber, which is every bit as protective as leather. It boosts riders’ confidence so they can concentrate on the ride.
Can you tell us more about the new sweaters set for release around April?
April: We soon realized that our customers loved our jeans, and that inspired us to use Spectra in sweaters for ladies and men. We worked out that we could achieve color in different ways and we could work with a certain knitter. But challenges cropped up when we started the knitting process, and that’s when we got in touch with Spectra. The team was delighted to hear from us, and helped us to overcome the issues we’d been having.
There will be a couple of different styles and they all look like everyday sweaters. The real beauty is they offer the same abrasion resistance and protection as a biker jacket. We’re very excited because there’s nothing like this on the market – it’s a worldwide first.
The sweaters, which will officially be called Shield Sweatshirts, offer a single layer of protection and they’ll be great in the heat, because the air passes straight through. Bikers will be able to go out in jeans and a sweater, giving them a lot more freedom to do what they please when they reach their destination. It will be like they’ve arrived in a car.
Why did you choose Spectra as a key ingredient in all these products?
Geoff: When we were developing our jeans, we ran performance tests and Spectra offered much better results compared with competing fibers. We also wanted to create a synergy with a well-known brand. We’re specialists in our area and strive to make incredible products, and we enjoy working with other innovative companies to do so.
April: It’s so nice to be working with a major innovator like Spectra. It gives us a real point of difference in the marketplace.
What are the main benefits for the bikers wearing your products?
April: At Knox, we work on a layering system which means you only ever take or use what you need. In winter you can layer up an armored shirt, a cozy mid-layer and an abrasion resistant jacket, but in summer, you can reduce this to just the protection and outer layers. So, no more bulky jackets, leaving you much more comfortable. The Shield Sweatshirts are going to be especially good in summer as the Spectra fiber has a cooling effect. The whole set is fantastic for bikers who tour; it ultimately reduces the number of clothes they need to pack as they can wear them in all kinds of weather and both on or off the bike.
Do you enjoy collaborating with Spectra to create new products?
Geoff: Yes, we do, and I think they’re just as excited as we are about it. It’s a very interesting time. Everyone’s still working out new applications for Spectra and there are so many potential uses for it in so many different products. There aren’t many finished materials available yet so everything needs to be developed from the ground up. What we’re developing for our market is a first so it’s exciting and new for both of us. It’s definitely a good collaboration.
In short, how does Spectra make your products safer and more reliable?
Ultimately, it gives better abrasion resistance and tensile strength and it’s a fiber we’ve got real confidence in. The synergy of our designs and development with the strength of Spectra Fiber means we’ve created a product that just doesn’t currently exist, giving the users so much more freedom and a much better and safer product than the alternatives available.
Any other future products that you’re working on with Spectra?
April: We have tons of stuff in the pipeline. However, it’s all in the concept or development stages and we don’t want to give too much away right now. What I can tell you is we’re working on some very exciting products that will be truly groundbreaking.