Flax takes sports and leisure to new heights

Through its intrinsic technical properties, flax fibre is in demand in the production of composites. It is used in automotive and aerospace applications, and also in sports and leisure equipment, where it helps to improve performance.

Greenboats 100% linen semi-finished products

A new role for flax in sports and leisure equipment

For years, the flax polymer composites industry has been growing exponentially. Research in development and industrial innovation in this market plays an important role in the automotive, aerospace and rail sectors.

At the same time, consumer enthusiasm for sports and leisure is pushing manufacturers of composite materials (such as Safilin, Dehondt Composites, Flaxo) to diversify their applications using European Flax™.

The initial tests and prototypes of lighter and more resistant technical products are intended for high-level sports but also for use in consumer goods, for which there is growing demand.

European flax fibre, with its scientifically proven mechanical properties, is used to reinforce polymer composites used in the manufacture of finished products.

This combination, which is difficult to achieve with a resin or plastic matrix, is one of the sector’s great technical accomplishments.

Casque en lin composite copyright Egide

A technical solution for every field

The involvement of flax industry leaders and the creativity of flax designers have opened the door to multiple fields of application in composite materials. Many extremely innovative projects are underway in sports and outdoor activities: sailing, cycling, skiing, tennis, fishing, padel tennis, kayaking and skateboarding. Some startups, with a commitment to eco-friendly design, are working on the entire manufacturing process of products (life cycle of the material), whereas others opt to improve the qualities of existing products as part of their approach to sustainable development.

Lin composite renforts cycles copyright In Bo

In cycling, it may seem impossible for plant-based materials to be used in the very heart of the structure of a bicycle, and yet… The company In’bô has designed an entirely bio-sourced bike, the Ventoux, which incorporates seven bamboo tubes attached to five aluminium pieces and fittings made of epoxy resin and flax fibre.

A real technological feat, this product blends opposing materials, where flax composite is key in reinforcing the bike (through the addition of the material) rather than acting as a structural element.

While most pleasure boats are made of composites of fossil origin making them difficult to recycle, flax and hemp fibres present a cleaner alternative; they can be used to produce boat hulls (for example, by IDB Marine), pontoons, interior trim and fittings.

A composite material for every innovation

More environmentally friendly flax (and sometimes hemp) fibres are popular in the design of products that meet the needs of the most demanding sports, from downhill skiing to all-terrain biking. Resistance, vibration absorption for protection against shocks, and greater flexibility are some of the advantages of composite materials, which - reinforced with dry flax textiles or impregnated with thermoplastic or thermosetting polymers - play a valuable role as shock absorbers. Adding flax fibres effectively contributes to lightening the composite, which makes the end products easier and more user-friendly.

The properties of this new sports equipment are sought after by experienced competitive athletes and enthusiasts alike. Covering a wide range of activities (from downhill to cross country), the outdoor brand Salomon was able to reduce the weight of its skis by 600 grams each by using a wooden core reinforced by a weave of flax and carbon fibres. 

Skis lin composite copyright Salomon

Similarly, a tennis racquet developed by Artengo and Decathlon dampens vibration using superimposed thin layers of flax fibre (10-25%) and carbon.

As for the bicycle helmet made by Egide for city cycling and racing, it weighs a mere 450 grams! Its streamlined design absorbs shocks due to a biaxial moulded textile in transparent resin. 

As improving performance is the ultimate goal in high-level sports, technical equipment also needs to be adapted for use by athletes in order to mitigate the risk of long-term muscular and joint injuries.

Ergonomics and aesthetics, traditionally near and dear to designers, are becoming just as important as ease of use. 

Raquette tennis lin absorptions vibrations copyright Artengo

Flax and linen, key assets for athletes’ health

A healthy and natural fibre, flax is endowed with scientifically proven qualities associated with well-being, such as thermoregulation and moisture absorption, which are characteristic of linen textiles and clothing.
Guaranteed by European Flax™ certification, European flax gives added value to products used for outdoor exercise, recommended by medical experts, while also aligning itself with the social movement for environmental protection.