Race Face Ambush Knee Pads & Indy Shorts

Tom Collier reviews the Race Face Ambush knee pads, Blister Gear Review
Race Face Ambush Knee Pads

Race Face Ambush Knee Pads

Size: Medium

Color: Black

MSRP: $54

Days Tested: 10

Locations Tested: Whistler, BC; Park City, UT


  • Open-back construction
  • Featuring D30 high performance shock absorbing foam
  • D30 high performance shock absorbing foam
  • Perforated Neoprene enhances venting and moisture control
  • Terry lined for wicking and comfort
  • Open-back construction; no shoe removal necessary
  • Foam padded side walls offer additional coverage
  • Branded rubber grab tabs

Knee pads are always a tradeoff. It’s great to have protection, but it usually comes at the cost of discomfort and overheated knees. I’m always looking to find those magic knee pads that I allow me to forget that I’m wearing them.

The Race Face Ambush Knee pads are on the lighter side of downhill knee pads and the heavier side of enduro knee pads.

They use D3O foam to absorb shocks on the kneecap and standard foam pads along the side. Unlike many knee pads that are attached to closed sleeves, the Ambush pads wrap around your knee like a burrito, and close with two velcro flaps and over straps; there is one strap above the knee, one is below the knee, and there is also a velcro tab on the side of the knee. This means you no longer have to worry about putting on your shoes and realizing you forgot your knee pads. Since they are quick to put on, you can easily throw the Ambush pads in your pack and wait until the top of a run to put them on. You will need a decent amount of extra space in your pack, though.

I only crashed in the Ambush pads a couple of times—good for me, not so good for this review. But both times, I came away without any damage to either knee. I had to adjust the pads a bit after each crash, but they stayed in place well enough to protect me each time.

Tom Collier reviews the Race Face Ambush knee pads, Blister Gear Review
Tom in the Race Face Ambush Knee Pads and Indy Shorts.

The velcro is arranged so that the loops are on the straps facing in toward the leg, and the hooks are on the fixed panels facing out from the leg. This means that unless your leg is the exact right girth, the velcro hooks are exposed, and have a tendency to catch the inside of shorts. This problem will probably affect most riders, as the straps are sized for relatively skinny legs, which isn’t a trait known to be all that common among cyclists.

The Ambush pads flex well enough to allow pedaling, but I found them to be a bit hot to wear for the duration of a long ride. I could comfortably do a short climb in the middle of a descent, but if I knew I were going to be climbing for longer than 5 minutes or so in temperatures higher than 60ºF, I’d be inclined to take them off and then put them back on at the top. The velcro wrap closure makes it really quick and easy to take the pads off and put them back on. If you are looking for pads to pedal in, Race Face also offers the Indy Knee and Charge Leg pads. The Indy also has a D3O knee pad like the Ambush, but places it on a mesh sleeve without any side padding and with only one strap at the top. The Charge Leg guards are very minimal with a thin, soft pad on the front sewn onto a lightweight mesh sleeve with no velcro straps. The Charge is essentially a cooler, beefed-up knee warmer.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the 661 Tomcat knee pads and the Troy Lee 5450 knee pads. The Tomcat is definitely burlier, and I felt that it fit a bit better than the Ambush. However, the Ambush is more comfortable to pedal in, and I really liked that it could be removed so easily. The 5450 knee pads fit really well and are easy to pedal in. While the 5450 pads have pretty comparable ventilation to the Ambush pads, the Ambush offers more protection and I appreciated being able to put on or take off the pads without removing my shoes.

Bottom Line

If you often find yourself wanting to swap your knee pads during a ride and are looking for a soft knee pad that provides a medium level of protection, the Race Face Ambush should be on your short list.



Tom Collier reviews the Race Face Indy Shorts, Blister Gear Review
Race Face Indy Shorts

Race Face Indy Shorts

Size: Medium

Color: Black

MSRP: $70

Days Tested: 20

Locations Tested: Whistler, BC; Park City, UT


  • Zippered front fly with dual snap closure and velcro reinforcement
  • Branded grab tab
  • Deep hand pockets
  • Inner waistband adjustment system
  • Brushed inner waistband
  • Raised back panel for additional coverage while in riding position has zip stash pocket
  • 3D Mesh side and back panels
  • Seamless Crotch Gusset
  • Double reinforced seams throughout
  • Branded zipper pullers throughout for ease of use with gloves
  • Inner lower leg opening features ‘slip panel’ designed to glide over protection


  • Retract Fabric
  • 3-way stretch-woven; 92% Polyester, 8% Spandex
  • DWR treated, anti-pill, abrasion resist

I’m always on the lookout for new riding shorts, since finding shorts that fit well and are light enough to ride in all day has always been a challenge for me. The Race Face Indy Shorts are simple, medium-weight shorts that are burly enough to see a bit of downhill action, but light enough to pedal in all day. I was excited to see if they’d meet my needs.

The Indy shorts are quite stylish; they’re all black with a curved mesh panel running up one leg, across the butt, and down the other leg. The back of the shorts is tall and has a small zippered pocket. There is a slash pocket on each side of the shorts, big enough to hold my iPhone or a wallet and keys.

The zippered pocket on the back is ideal for stashing keys or a multitool, but could fit a phone or wallet in a pinch, so long as you don’t mind your phone or wallet getting very, very sweaty. The shorts don’t sag too much with a few things in the pockets, but it is noticeable.

Race Face nailed the fit on the Indy shorts. I found the fit to be similar, but just a bit baggier, than the 2013 Troy Lee Designs Skyline Shorts (the 2014 shorts are stretchier and a bit bigger in my experience). I never needed to adjust the shorts while riding, and never felt like they got in the way. Too many shorts miss the mark on the fit, so I’ve been quite impressed with the Indy. The leg inseam is 15”, which for most people means the bottom of the shorts will hit at or slightly above the knee. The knee openings are large enough to fit any Race Face knee pads and most others.

I didn’t notice much benefit from the mesh vent panel, but the shorts were adequately cool for weather up to about 80ºF. Any temps above that, I’d prefer an ultrathin over short.

Inside the top of the knee opening there is a silky liner to prevent the shorts from catching on the knee pad’s velcro. These silky patches were of great help when paired with Race Face Ambush Knee pads. The velcro on the pads caught on my Troy Lee Skyline and Sprint shorts, but slid smoothly across the knees on the Indy shorts.

The shorts close with a zipper and two snaps that are backed by velcro. The waist has belt loops, but the waist’s tension can also be adjusted with some hidden inside velcro stretch pulls. The adjustment tabs worked well, though occasionally the velcro would catch on my liner shorts. I would prefer to see this adjustment placed on the outside of the shorts. The shorts come without a liner and don’t include any inner loops for attaching one.

Since I’ve been wearing the Indy shorts, most of the reflective logos have peeled off and a few of the stitches along the mesh panel have started to come out. This hasn’t been a huge  deal, but I’d like to see the quality improved just a bit so that the shorts could get an additional season of use. The Indy shorts will probably serve me well for two hard seasons before wearing out.

Bottom Line

The Race Face Indy shorts are a great option for just about every kind of mountain biking. The fit is excellent and the styling is clean and on the slightly bigger, baggier side. With a couple of minor improvements to finish quality and the addition of some other colors (they currently are offered in black and red), I would seriously consider picking up multiple pairs of these.


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