Alpinestars Alps Kevlar Knee Guard
Duration of Test: 4 months
Locations: Whitefish, MT; Hurricane, Moab, UT; Whistler, BC.
Intended Use: Saving your knees when you screw up
Reviewer Info: 5’9” 150lbs
The Alps Kevlar is a mid-length knee guard that provides a nice amount of protection, while also remaining pretty flexible and comfortable. In this way, it sits somewhere between a lightweight, flexible knee pad (like the G-Form PRO-X), and a hard plastic knee/shin guard like Alpinestars’ Moab.
But even though the Alps Kevlar provides some of the benefits of a lighter weight pad, l don’t hesitate to wear it in nasty terrain and situations where I’m expecting my knees to take some blows.
The Alps’ primary, outermost layer of protection is a stiff “thermo formed” patella cover that extends down to the upper shin. It’s not made out of hard plastic, but rather a very dense, slightly squishy foam material that’s about 1cm thick. This is not the “hardens on impact”-type of foam that is used in some knee pads, but it’s a little bit more flexible than plastic, and definitely offers more protection than some lightweight knee pads.
The entire front of the Alps, including the main portion of protective foam, is covered by fabric. Some argue that this is a drawback because a hard plastic knee pad will slide a bit better (especially on surfaces like concrete), while a fabric covered pad will tend to grab and pitch you forward—assuming your crash was controlled enough so that you weren’t already pitched forward. For me, the Alp’s fabric cover isn’t a huge deal. When I crash, it’s usually on loose dirt where a fabric covered pad will slide just fine.
The bottom edge and sides of the pad have some soft foam panels that provide a little bit of extra protection. I wouldn’t count on these to do anything significant in a bad crash, but they don’t interfere with the Alps’ comfort or range of motion at all.
The Alps attach with two straps – one large one at the top, and a small one closer the bottom. The back also has an elastic mesh across most of it that keeps helps keep the pad situated. The mesh across the back has a hole immediately behind the knee, presumably to allow for breathability and range of motion. The mesh is cut at the bottom in a way that makes it perch at the top of your calf. The pads also have a strip of silicone at the top and bottom that helps keep it from slipping down.
Protection & Performance
I haven’t suffered any serious crashes in the Alps, but the pads have provided great protection against everything I’ve thrown at them. I never felt like I was underprotected in them, and the little extra bit of coverage they have down the shin was nice for the occasional pedal strike or errant rock.
Between the straps and the elastic mesh, the pads stay put very well. I’d adjust them occasionally, but I’d say they stay put as well as any other pad I’ve worn (and significantly better than some). Even on pedal-y rides, the pads didn’t work themselves down. One time I did accidentally put them on the wrong leg (i.e. right pad on the left leg), and they definitely didn’t stay put very well, so I suppose that means that Alpinestars has their biomechanics figured out, since the Alps work great when you actually get them on the correct leg.
The pads were comfortable throughout my time in them; there weren’t any weird seam rubs, and the straps were comfortable because elastic mesh kept them from rubbing me wrong, even on longer rides with lots of pedaling.
The form of the Alps lends itself to more aggressive riding, so they’re most comfortable with a fairly bent knee. Standing in them with my knee locked, it’s clear that they don’t want to be in that position. When I first tried them on, I thought that would mean that they would be uncomfortable to pedal in, but I was pleasantly surprised—even with my seat at full height, the Alps are perfectly comfortable.
While these aren’t the hottest pads I’ve ever worn, they provide a fair amount of coverage, and in turn, trap in a fair amount of heat. I thought they were pretty comfortable to pedal in as far as the ergonomics go, but on a warm day, they’d get sweaty pretty quickly.
The Alps also don’t have a fully openable back, meaning that you have to take your shoes off to put them on. Most of the pads I’ve tried that allowed for shoes-on installation didn’t stay put on my leg that well, so I’m personally ok with this tradeoff. I’m primarily using the Alps for lift-served riding where I’m not taking them on and off very often.
In my time with these pads, they’ve held up well. No seams are coming apart, and none of the minor off-bike adventures I’ve had have produced any noteworthy damage to the pads. So far so good on the durability front.
I tested the Alpinestars Alps Kevlar in a S/M size, which worked well for me. I pretty much wear a size medium in everything, and the Alps feel true to size.
The Alpinestars Alps Kevlar knee guards are relatively comfortable to pedal in, while still offering a good amount of protection.
The knee pad market is a crowded one these days, but the Alps offer a solid middle-of-the-road option (at a reasonable price) between heavy duty plastic knee/shinguards, and lightweight, flexible knee pads.