Knee protectors are a delicate topic for trail bikers. Just like our bikes, the ideal knee protector is all about compromise. Everyone is looking for maximum protection on downhills, but maximum comfort and freedom of movement are equally as important– especially on the uphills. With a bewildering range of protectors now available, the degree of compromise is shrinking as manufacturers develop innovative and clever solutions to offer both protection and comfort!
The core requirement of every protector is, still, its protective function. In order to test them, we took them to an elaborate laboratory facility at Sas-Tec in a small German town called Markgröningen. We then tested every single knee protector for their actual protective effect, cutting through the marketing hype we used a standardized test setup with reproducible results and encountered some extremely revealing and unexpected test results!
Today’s range of protectors is immense. When looking at our test selection, one trend becomes obvious: With the exception of the new iXS Dagger, there are no knee protectors with a hard plastic shell in our selection. This is not a result of our selection criteria for the test, but rather due to a general transition towards lighter and more flexible protection. The appearance of protectors has gone through a radical change during the past years, not least because of medical and physical examinations.
Nevertheless: the fallacy that hard plastic protectors, like the ones from Dainese, offer the greatest protective effect (especially on sharp stones) still prevails! This assumption of a pads function is fundamentally wrong. The major problem of hard plastic protectors is that they are not equipped with a crumple zone (merely a comfort-padding) and, in comparison with flexible foam protectors, transmit a considerable amount of energy to the body. Under certain circumstances, the hard plastic protector might simply break instead of solidifying like a flexible foam protector.
The test candidates include the most exciting and up-to-date models on the protector market, including the Bliss ARG, iXS Carve- and Dagger series, ION K_Pact, Scott Grenade Pro 2, Sweet Protection Bearsuit, 661 Evo Knee or the POC Joint VPD 2.0 Knee. On top of that, the test includes the winners of the Design & Innovation Award 2014 – Bliss Arg Minimalist and O’Neal AMX Zipper Knee Pad.
Fact is: Trail bikers and Enduro racers are always looking for the ideal compromise between comfort and protective function. Preferably lightweight and preferably safe. There are different concepts to test these characteristics: of course, we tested the protectors in a laboratory but we also took them out on the trails to put them to the acid test in practice by experienced test riders!
How to put on the protector? What is the generation of heat like on longer rides? How is the hold and comfort? And which protector is suitable for which field of application?
Exiting questions that we will answer in the upcoming issue #009! Issue #009 will be published in late February. In the meantime check out the current issue – as usual it’s free & only digital: Issue #008.
Photo: Fabian Rapp / Christoph Bayer
Text: Robin Schmitt/ Lisa Gretemeier / Trevor Worsey
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