While watching the last MotoGP race at Mugello I saw this device poking out of Nicky Hayden's leathers before the race. We've been seeing them in use for a few years, but it reminded me that'd I'd never figured out exactly what they were or how they worked. Turns out it's an Alpinestars XA cooling device, developed specifically for professional racers and works like a tiny A/C unit.
Designed to plug into the same port in Alpinestars race leathers as a
hydration bladder, the XA is a battery powered fan that pumps 140 cubic
feet of air into the suit every minute. It can do that for up to 45
minutes thanks to a lithium polymer battery that's similar to the latest
technology being used in electric motorcycles.
Sitting on the starting grid just before a race, riders are uniquely
vulnerable to overheating and dehydration. Heat build up from the bikes
and the sun reflecting off the pavement can create enormous temperatures
and the effects of that can dramatically decrease a rider's
The air flowing into the suit is routed around the rider's body by the
internal ventilation already built in (air scoops and ventilation holes
capture cooling air and channel it through a race suit at speed) and
exhaust it through perforations. The high velocity air flow increases
the evaporative cooling effect of sweaty skin, cooling the rider,
Alpinestars claims, instantaneously by 14.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
The XA was originally rolled out in 2005 and is now in its third
revision, it's only available to professional racers.