- 6mm ventilated EVA foam
- Tear resistant mesh
- Double padded under plastic caps and impact areas
- Adjustable D-ring straps and a neoprene dual closure system
Test Locations: Mammoth, Whistler
If you’re a downhiller, some sort of knee protection is part of your entourage of “stuff” that you bring with you to ride bikes. With all the focus these days on bike parts, tires, and construction materials of frames and components (and color coordinating your racin’ suit), pads aren’t really something that seem to get discussed a whole lot. It seems like the entire world just bought a pair of SixSixOne Strait knee pads and called it good a few years ago.
Some of us live in pretty dry, rocky, and gravely places, though, and have the scars to prove that sometimes it’s just worth it to keep those shins protected, too. If your knees are hitting the ground, your shins aren’t exactly in another county. If that happens around any sort of uneven terrain (in mountain biking? yeah, right!) it’s not just your knees that need cover. I can’t count how many times I’ve had friends rip up their shins right underneath their totally fashionable knee pads on something that a good knee/shin guard would have prevented.
Coming from the world of vert skateboarding, I know what dialed knee pads feel like. They’re not only for royal screw-ups in that sport, they’re just something you use—all the time. They have to be functional. When I started downhilling about 10 years ago, I was pretty much appalled at how shoddy most of the mtb armor was (and still is, to be honest).
Pads are far too often just made to look good and be light, not to keep you out of the E.R. for stitches. I actually bought a burly sewing machine years ago because literally every single pair of pads I bought needed modifications to work worth a damn. I still have scars from eight years ago on the top of my knees that were acquired with pads on. What’s the point?
From that weird mesh crap that Dianese thought constituted some sort of retention system, to all the silly pad companies that rely on one flimsy elastic strap over your calf to keep a pad in place when you auger your knee into some rocks at 20mph, there’s been a lot of garbage sold as knee protection. I’d pretty much given up.
Troy Lee Designs made some of their combat pads with a rigid calf strap, and you know what? The damn things stayed in place. The odd, overly spherical knee cups cracked and lost a lot of their protective qualities once that happened, but, still, they stayed in place.
Then I guess they saw some cheapo product in a catalog and they decided to copy it, because their later models dropped that essential non-elastic calf strap. So I spent a few years sewing non-elastic calf straps onto other pads because none of the companies out there seems to get it.
Seriously, pad companies: most of you suck. I harbor resentment toward your ancestors and whatever educators you’ve had in your lives.
I mean, we operate in a sport where these things are one of the most successful pads out there:
Why? Well it sure ain’t because of that slick strap system. (By “system” I mean four flimsy elastic straps that you can only get tight if you’ve either got Schwarzenegger legs or you are a complete lard ass.)
Once “affixed,” you can literally sit there and flick the top of the pad and get it to come off your knees. And I don’t know about yours, but my flick finger doesn’t create nearly as much impact force as ragdolling your legs into a rock garden.
You know what keeps those things in place? The fact that they’re so long they literally sit on top of your foot. No joke. The only reason they work is because your foot is in the way, keeping them from sliding off. You know, technical “engineering.” They’re irritating to wear because of this, but, yeah, that’s how they function. I’m not gonna lie, it actually does kind of work… so long as you hit your knee head on. Hit something sideways (especially backward) and say hi to the anesthesiologist for me. It’s happened to me with them on, and I’ve seen it happen to buddies (just last week). But that’s the world we live in.
So, yeah, I got opinions about knee pads because I’ve had so many that come so close but blow it on something important, and I’ve had so many crashes in a 10-year time span between dirtjumping and downhilling that I’ve often wondered what the point is in blowing 80 bucks for the honor of getting my legs torn up anyway. It’s a touchy subject for me because, year after year, some of the same crap ideas—and even some monumentally idiotic new ones—continue to make it into bike shops. It gets annoying.