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!

Update April 2016: We’ve got a more recent knee pad group test with 14 protectors in comparison

Diplom-Ingenieur Holger Hertneck notiert die Ergebnisse.
Holger Hartneck, qualified engineer, is taking notes of the laboratory test results.

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!

Die 12 interessantesten Protektoren des Marktes - welcher kann am meisten überzeugen?
The 12 most interesting protectors on the market – which one can convince most?

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.

Absorbtionskurve eine getesteten Protektors.
Absorption curve of a tested protector.

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.

Keine Gnade! Um die Qualität jedes einzelnen Pads zu analysieren schnitten wir die Protektoren auf.
No mercy! In order to analyze the quality of each pad, we cut open all protectors.

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 2014Bliss Arg Minimalist and O’Neal AMX Zipper Knee Pad.

Robin Schmitt auf dem Focus SAM 2.0 in der "ENDURO-Edition" in feinstem blau!
Robin Schmitt on the Focus SAM 2.0 in the “ENDURO-Edition” in a neat blue color!

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!

Auf die Verarbeitungsqualität kommt es an! In diesem Fall gibt es Belüftungslöcher, die durch eine fehlende Nachbearbeitung vollkommen funktionslos geworden sind. In der Mitte sieht man, dass die Löcher mit Materialresten gefüllt sind.
It is all about the build quality! In this case, we have air vents, which have become completely functionless due to missing post-processing. In the middle, you can see, that the holes are filled with material residues.
Die Knautschzone eines Protektors ist ein elementares Element um die Energie gut und möglichst langsam zu absorbieren.
The crumple zone of a protector is a fundamental element for absorbing energy well and as slowly as possible.
Die Norm EN-1621-1 regelt, dass die durchschnittliche Restkraft bei Gelenkprotektoren maximal 35 kN betragen darf. Bei Gelenkprotektoren gibt es zudem eine Kategorisierung des Protektors nach Einsatzbereich, welcher nach der Schutzfläche berechnet wird. Im Bild sieht man die Schablone für Knie, Typ B.
The standard EN-1621-1 regulates the average residual force of joint protectors with a maximum of 35 kN. For joint protectors, there is also a categorization of the protector depending on its field of application, which is classified by its actual protective surface area. The photo shows a stencil for knee, type B.
Bei der Labormessung trifft  ein Fallgewicht mit einer Aufprallenergie von 50 Joule auf den Protektor.
For the laboratory measurement, a falling weight with impact energy of 50 joule hits the protector.
Markierung der jeweils drei Prüfpunkte pro Protektor.
Mark of the three test points on each protector.
Die Diagramme ergaben tiefe Einblicke in die Qualität und Effektivität der Weichschaum-Pads.
The diagrams revealed insight in quality and effectiveness of the flexible foam pads.
Besprechung und Auswertung der Laborergebnisse mit Diplom-Ingenieur Holger Hertneck.
ENDURO editor Aaron Steinke and the qualified engineer Holger Hartneck are discussing and analyzing the test results.
Die Auswertung der Diagramme brachte einige sehr interessante Ergebnisse hervor!
The evaluation of the test results revealed some very interesting conclusions!
Der iXS Dagger Knie Protektor im Testeinsatz.
The iXS Dagger knee protector in practical use.

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?

Update April 2016: We’ve got a more recent knee pad group test with 14 protectors in comparison

Photo: Fabian Rapp / Christoph Bayer

Text: Robin Schmitt/ Lisa Gretemeier / Trevor Worsey