If you’re not into MTB or long reads, today may be a little bit Ho Hum for you and also, not a lot of use to the road crew. But, its time for a little DM2 Shredit intermission to cover one of the most important water cooler topics that I know is a burning issue for so many people at the moment:
As I’ve said before, its a never ending, holy grail type pilgrimage to find the ultimate kneepad. I’m not sure when we all started to ride full time in knee pads on trails that for years we didn’t bother with wearing them, but the minute the industry got a sniff we were happy to embrace a new product line into every day use, they piled in like drunk ex-pats at a Thai ping pong exhibition.
The result? More options, models and genre’s of pads that you can shake a grazed knee at. Industry logic dictates that through differentiation they can drive sales volume. Fuck off you can, who the fuck would fall for such an obvious set up? It seems those of us with OCD’s…
Yes, it appears I have a slight issue here… I may have shrugged off my penchant for buying multiple tire patterns and different coloured anodised titanium bolts (SO fucking 1990’s), or too much Rapha kit, but it seems that with my full ENDUROfication, I have replaced this gapping hole in my life with a raging knee pad fetish.
Call me a furry Goldilocks, but I just haven’t been able to find that perfect pad that really does it for me… But it did get me thinking that my experience can be shared to help others avoid Bear and wallet sodomy, so lets get busy providing some low down on a few of the current #sohotrightnow pad products on the market.
For the sake of a reference point, my knee related measurements are:
- 10cm above the midpoint from the kneecap – 48cm
- Around the kneecap – 41cm
- 10cm below the midpoint from the kneecap – 36cm
I know, what a fucking beast right? Eat your heart out Brad Thorne. Anyway… On with this Kneepad orgy then.
Troy Lee Lopes Guard
Starting oldest to newest, admittedly these were an emotional purchase… Yes, it was my second big crash in Whistler all the way back in 2011 and the Garbonzo Zone was fucking with my head, so it was time to armour up with some superior firepower and these more than did the trick. Big, plastic and in a colour that instantly calls you out as Bovine to be slaughtered.
- Size purchased – Medium
- Good for – If your GF has a stormtrooper fetish and your usual suit is at the dry cleaners. Also quite good if you want a Bovine like appearance. Quite handy if you have concerns about sharp rocks, or want to invade a neighbouring country
- Not so good for – Appearing to be cool, yes, these absolutely vote you down in the radness stakes given its the whole knee & shin combo
- Why they’re hot – Aside from the TLD branding and PRO endorsement… Ah, can’t really think of anything other than their MAX protection status… Yes, hard plastic armour covering most of your leg always a bonus if the terrain is epic
- Why they’re not – Faffing: Big armour Velcro attached to neoprene knee covers? Its a slightly annoying arrangement that results in a lot of pulling up of neoprene component and then re-velcro action on the outer armour. Said velcro also likely to catch on the insides of your shorts and drive you insane
- Crash tested? – Ironically no, massively armoured up and then never needed to call it into service, thankfully. They do feel like they could stop a Tank round though, so quite confidence inspiring.
Verdict – Overkill yes, but if you are hitting rocky terrain and don’t give a fuck about pedalling, or need some extra confidence, then these are a good way to go. Also useful if you are new to flats and don’t want to fuck your shins silly as you adapt. They do feel a little dinosaur like in the new age of the ENDURO pad invasion though to be fair.
Sixsixone Rage Knee pad
Let’s call this one the ‘Girl next door’ knee pad. Looks good, works well, not flashy, doesn’t do anything weird and is very adaptable… So, you should be totally happy with it right? Well, yes, but then your attention is taken with a bunch of new slutty and hot pads on the market, but, as the story has been told many times: You suddenly realise perhaps you should have stuck with the GND… Alas, I fell into that very trap here. I thought that these pads weren’t ENDURO enough man, so was silly enough to embark on my knee pad whoring mission…
- Size purchased – Medium
- Good for – Pretty much everything… These things have done Whistler, been pedalled out of Skippers Canyon and gone everywhere in between with no fuss or drama
- Not so good for – Probably not the most optimal all day pedalfest pad around, if you’re into trail riding then they’re probably a little much for that. Don’t get me wrong, they can do all that, but uptight people may find them ever so slightly bulky
- Why they’re hot – Well made with decent material and straps, and when you have them on you get that “I’m covered” feeling, so its set and forget. They also manage to do this without feeling annoying or cooking your caps
- Why they’re not – I foolishly thought they weren’t ENDURO enough, but that’s more of a testament to my weak mind falling for succulent marketing than a reflection of the product. No obvious failings have come up with these things, there was a little bit of rub on the knee, but that’s vaporised over time
- Crash tested? – Yeah…
Verdict – An excellent allrounder and right in the zone if you want one pad to do pretty much everything (DH action and ENDURO) and aren’t frothing about super lightweight. Yes, probably the pad I should have just stayed with the whole way through my #firstworldproblem search for something new…
7IDP Control pad
This product was destined to be the one knee pad to rule them all! It was supposed to bring balance to the collection, not plunge it into discomfort, but that’s exactly where we ended up with the HIGHLY anticipated 7IDP Control pads.
When I set out on the holy grail like search of the ultimate pad, these looked like the sweet cup that I so desperately wanted to drink from… They look like a kneepad is supposed to look, and that carbon hardshell covering is something to behold… High end material, good company and price to match, ridden by a top EWS PRO, frothing, what could go wrong?
Everything – To say they ended up being a disappointment would be a raving, insane and depraved understatement. If you’ve ever dated a super hot person and they’ve ended up being a weird nightmare, then you’ll nod your head with the familiarity of how that could be applied to a set of knee pads…
- Size purchased – Medium… This was after painful and late night inspections of the sizing charts and multiple measurement summits that annoyed people immensely (“Are you sure you’re measuring it right, don’t fuck this up”), but suspect I needed to go large ultimately and tighten them up
- Good for – Making you poor, as they’re not cheap… Also awesome and making you feel like your knees are in Guantanamo Bay and you’re being interrogated at a CIA Black site by people sandpapering your knees/back of your legs/middle of your shin
- Not so good for – Actually riding your bike with any level of comfort…
- Why they’re hot – They look fantastic… As in, these things LOOK like what a knee pad should look like. The material used is awesome, the velcro arrangement is super cool and the carbon on the knee cover it spot on. When you unbox them you feel a strange stirring and attraction that you’ve never felt for another knee pad… However, much like that crazy ex, it all starts to unravel pretty quickly…
- Why they’re not – Where to start? Uncomfortable as fuck which started with rubbing and then escalated into them actually squeaking. What? Yes, squeaking like I had a gerbil strapped to my fork stanchions. They seemed to require constant adjustment and in the end, even started to fall apart structurally after a few rides. In spite of this I still tried to persevere as I didn’t want to be the only person on the internet that didn’t like these pads, in the end even putting plasters on my knees couldn’t save me from the burn. Final nail in the coffin was realising that Fabian Barel didn’t use these pads after all… cunts. #nopronogo
- Crash tested? – No, but they made up for that by wearing some awesome holes in my kneecaps
Verdict – This is the classic “They look so hot, but once I got to know them they were a fucking nightmare” scenario. Confusing, as lots of people rave about these pads, but I found zero to give them a high 5 for. I want to give them a second chance and see if its a prolonged break-in period, but I have a trust issue now… Feeling burned (and more than a bit chafed) by these sexy but violent units. Possibly we need a few days in the bike park to try and wear them in? Ultimately I would steer clear if you’re in the market for new pads.
Dainese Trail Skin knee guard
This pad was a rebound after the 7IDP melt down scenario… I didn’t rush into the relationship though, even though they’re Italian and they wanted to seduce me with their stealth action and epic brand heritage (Its possible that I once wore a full Dainese DH body suit some time in the 90’s, yes, an armoured Onesie), I did painful research via highly verified scientific sources and all those chatrooms confirmed not only were these the business, but I also needed to get a size Large. Until they got wet and had worn in a bit…
- Size purchased – Large, see below as this didn’t ultimately work out that well
- Good for – If you like to feel like you’re not really wearing knee pads at all, they’re extremely svelte and you’ll more than likely continue to wear them in circumstances you shouldn’t as they’re forgettable. Excellent for trail riding that goes on and on…
- Not so good for – Hmmmm… I don’t have proof, but lightness also felt slightly flimsy to me. They can take a solid hit, but as I found, sizing does come into play here, as mine wore in it felt like they would be prone to movement under a BIG impact
- Why they’re hot – You need to ask? They’re Italian FFS… Dainese as a brand is as cool as fuck. This translates into top notch construction, excellent materials and perhaps the least intrusive pad of the lot
- Why they’re not – Not a huge amount of side knee protection, my main issue was when they got wet they suddenly decided to start the ever annoying slide down the leg… Mainly because they didn’t seem to hold their shape too well when soaked and had worn in, so yes, a lot of pulling up going on
- Crash tested? – Oh yeah… the big one at Buller and Rots EWS practice saw to that! They stood up well too, surprisingly given their minimal nature, when you do hit the deck they’re actually rather useful.
Verdict – Honestly having a tough time deciding on these ones… They look as cool as fuck, which is a key part of any kneepads job of course, but mainly I’m confused on their sizing. I suspect I ultimately needed a medium, but the sizing chart said otherwise. Absolutely the most lightweight pad in the quiver, will probably end up in the pack as a back up pair for the EuroENDURO trip. Hit these if you want minimal pedal interference but still want to know there is something there to guard against knee surgery. If they make it on your list, they are a ‘must try on’ unit.
IXS Flow Knee pad
And finally we arrive at the ‘Goldilocks pad’… Yes, this is the pad that my gut told me I should have got from the start, so a good case study in the perils and cost of ignoring your instincts.
Ultimately a ‘got spare time on my hands and I’m in a town rammed with bike shops’ purchase days before EWS in Rotorua, I broke the cardinal rule of debuting new kit just before a big event, but it ultimately turned out to be a good call as these things are right in the knee pad honey hole when it comes to comfort, protection, weight and looks.
Almost straight away when you put them on and pedal out, its that ‘ohhh yeah, this is what we needed’ feeling, I kept waiting for the trick or catch, but it never came… IXS have smashed a walk off home run with these things, so much so I ended up using them in EWS and they’re now sitting in the hot seat as the go to Kneepad. Allow me to elaborate:
- Size purchased – Large: Absolutely check the sizing, as the top gripper band can be a little unforgiving, so don’t fuck it up. Try before you buy, it seemed to me they’re sized a little small perhaps?
- Good for – These things are mega ENDURO… Funny that, given that’s pretty much what they’re designed for. Excellent for all day pedalling and all round trail riding
- Not so good for – Don’t think you’ll see them on my knees in Whistler… Or any bike park to be honest. They have good protection, but still think I would want to go nek level for big stuff on the DH bike
- Why they’re hot – SO comfy… I couldn’t believe how good these things feel on the knees. They have some sort of internal sleeve scenario that means it feels like Jessica Alba is giving your knee caps a tongue massage with every pedal stroke. A seriously well made and comfortable pad, there was no slippage here even with only one velcro attachment – And not a hint of movement under the stage 6 deck hitting moment
- Why they’re not – A little bit of wearing in burn with that top band of silicone, but it settles down pretty quickly. So, side of knee protection isn’t class leading, but then again it doesn’t feel like a massive compromise given how good these things feel generally
- Crash tested? – Absolutely… Not just any crashing either, fucken EWS binning it maaaaaate:
Verdict – If you’re in the market for a pad to ride all day, race in and cover 95% of most people’s riding, then the IXS Flow is the winner in my limited opinion. Save your money and buy these first is my recommendation. If you’re a full bike park shredder they’re probably not your bag, so don’t confuse them with that set up
You wouldn’t initially think so when developing a kneepad fetish, but the holy grail search for the ultimate pad has reinforced some cliche as fuck life lessons as well, yes, its been a microcosm of important things to remember:
- Don’t make critical kneepad decisions when emotional
- What you already have it probably all you need usually
- Just because something is hot doesn’t mean its going to give you what you need
- Beware being seduced by Italians
- Always follow your gut, regardless of noise, its usually right
With that, I’m off to try and ignore my compulsion to buy the TLD T-Bone kneepads that I saw Jared Graves wearing in Rots… Or the new POC ENDURO Pads… Or the Fox ENDURO pads… Or the new Sweet Protection ones…. Gaaaaaaaaaa #padwhore