Bikes are getting more capable and terrain is getting more challenging. We’ve tried the old ‘hard plastic’ pads and they’re only good for a day at the bike park or local shuttle runs. The industry is here to the rescue though with lightweight pads! The most exciting category of protection seems to be targeted to folks ‘who wouldn’t wear pads otherwise’ and ‘who need to show up to work on Monday.’ There’s a huge market for armor and protection if compromises in climbing, ventilation and comfort are minimized.
So here is a promising new crop of products that seem best suited to address this market where folks need to pedal up the mountain too. Special attention has been given towards low weight, good articulation, comfort and ventilation. Take note that these pads were chosen because they pass the EN1621 Protection certification and they vent and pedal pretty well for all day riding.
Alpinestars Paragon Pads
These pads are Alpinestars’ offering to those that want light duty protection, but don’t want to be bothered by pads. They are a very lightweight material with an elastic slip-on fit that is held in place with silicone printing on the inside of the pads. The Paragon pads are reinforced in key areas to improve durability and perforated in places to aid in ventilation. The fabric and the protector pad are pre-formed to improve the fit and comfort of the pads. These 300 gram knee pads are a real bargain and they stay in place comfortably. $40
Dainese Trail Skins
The Dainese Trail Skins knee pad has both a front and side padding protection. The main pad is made of Pro-Shape, which is a 6mm thick honeycomb structure by Dainese. With Pro-Shape, the pads articulate and vent very well. The pads are held in place on the top and bottom by Velcro straps and with silicone gripper bands. The shape is not the most ergonomic or contoured to the knee. But they are comfortable enough and they ventilate well. 292 grams. $70
Leatt Airflex Pads
The Leatt Airflex pads feature a vented/dimpled design to help dissipate impact energy and improve ventilation. They also employed a strapless retention system to improve ease of use. The pads’ low profile and light weight, make them appealing for longer days in the saddle. For protection, the Airflex pads utilize a highly malleable 6mm of Armourgel material that hardens on impact. They use MoistureCool wicking fabric as well to improve cooling and ventilation. These are similar to the the G-Form pads in terms of weight and unobtrusive use. The big difference it vents very well front and back and these actually pass the EN1621 certification test for protection. 220 grams. $100
iXS Flow Pads
The Flow pads are iXS‘s lightweight, single-strap solution to the rider who wants to descend as well as climb. Their KneeGusset helps prevent unwanted twisting while spreading the impact force and their X-Matter softshell pads are constructed with a slow-rebound foam to dissipate impact energy. LoopLock fasteners and silicon non-slip grips will keep the pads in place. These Flow pads are not lightweight or low profile, but it does have a strap and it has a pretty generous protection pad. The strap is useful for those with small calves, as it can be cinched down to give it a good anchor above the calf and prevent it from slipping down. $70
POC VDP Air Knee and Elbow Pads
These lightweight VDP Air pads from POC are less bulky and more breathable than traditional MTB body armor, making them a great choice for your All Mountain rides. This pad is much shorter and lighter than their VPD 2.0 pads, so there is less coverage but they focus the protection on the critical joint area. Their polygiene fabric wicks moisture away from the skin to improve ventilation. This pad also uses just one strap at the bottom of the pad to hold it in place. $80