Chew on a stick of gum sweetened with xylitol and you may just experience a cool sensation. Slip on a pair of Carbon Pro Team shoes from Louis Garneau and you may just get the same feeling. While it's most common use is as a natural sweetener, properties of xylitol make it useful for clothing as well. Xylitol is woven into fabric under the brand name Ice-Fil, which is used in the insoles of the Louis Garneau Carbon Pro Team cycling shoes to help keep athletes cool.
Xylitol is an alcohol-based sugar. Many fruits and vegetables contain the substance, as well as fibrous materials in corn husks and birch bark. It's the birch bark that's most commonly used to process the sweetener. While it's not as well known as sugar and other sweeteners, food manufacturers began using xylitol in the 1960s.
It's a more recent development that the substance is used for fabrics and other materials. A company based in Seoul, Korea called Ventex, produces Ice-Fil as a cooling fabric.
Ice-Fil is able to moderate moisture and temperature. Fibers in the fabric react to perspiration, and then convert that sweat into cool air. The xylitol-infused fabric performs the dual purpose of moderating temperature and moisture. In clothing, it also has UVA- and UVB-blocking abilities.
In addition to the Carbon Pro Team shoe, Louis Garneau uses the fabric for its 76 Montreal Glove, a half-finger cycling glove. The Ice-Fil surface treatment absorbs body heat and converts it - as well as sweat - to a "refrigerant," which cools hands while cycling. Several brands are starting to use the fabric for athletic wear such as arm cooler sleeves, jerseys and caps.
In most cases, the xylitol-infused fabric comes into contact with air, such as when worn as gloves, shirts and hats. The use of Ice-Fil in a shoe insole, such as with the Carbon Pro Team shoe, is in an enclosed space. The shoe's design includes a great deal of ventilation in the sole and uppers, but the insole is still a component of the shoe that would normally trap heat. The Ice-Fil aids in temperature moderation.
Louis Garneau is a sponsor of Team Europcar. The Carbon Pro Team Shoes were tested at the Team Europcar Training Camp. The team will wear the shoes to train and race for the 2012 season, which hits its peak in July during the gruelling Tour de France. Europcar team member Thomas Voeckler finished the Tour de France 2011 in fourth place.
The Carbon Pro Team Shoes are slated for availability in January at a cost of US$329.99.
Source: Bike RumorView gallery - 6 images