It fair to say that 2015 was the year of the minimalist knee pad, wafer thin pads made from neoprene or ultrathin protective foam that offered ‘hardly there’ comfort and almost no protection in a big crash. This is all well and good for easy trail riding, but when you are smashing out park laps you need something more burly. BMX specialists FUSE Protection have brought out a new Fuse Echo range aimed at MTB and they pack some serious padding.
FUSE Echo 75 Knee/Shin Combo Pad
The €89.00 new FUSE Echo 75 Knee and Shin combo pads certainly feel substantial; featuring a SAS-TEC impact protector in the knee and a removable hard plastic shield with a soft dual layer foam backing to protect the shin. The stitching and build quality is very impressive and they inspire great confidence. A perforated neoprene body allows the pad to breath and provides some welcome stretch while a Sharkskin neoprene layer on the inside of the pad helps to keep them in position. The outer is made from Cordura and Duratex and looks well capable of taking some big knocks.
Riding the FUSE Echo Knee/Shin Pads
The FUSE Echo pads feel a lot more substantial than a lot of the more slimline competition, but the well-designed shape and articulation mean that they are not restrictive on the bike. The level of protection they offer is simply huge, with a burly SAS-TEC knee pad and hard plate on the shins, and extensive side protection you feel ready for anything. In use, the pads were very comfortable for such burly units, with no hard spots or bagginess. On very long climbs there was no bunching behind the knee, but we did notice a tiny amount of rubbing on the front of our knees (it never broke the skin); as such we would certainly say that these pads are more suited to those with more a gravity focus. For rides where you only need knee protection, the shin guard is removable, and we found that the top strap kept the pad in position well and the two shaped velcro closures on the lower leg were surprisingly comfortable. We had one huge crash while wearing the pads and they soaked up the impact exceptionally well with only slight scuffing to the Cordura outer.
FUSE Elbow pads
Elbow pads seem to me disappearing from the trail bikers protection inventory, but the new €59.00 FUSE Echo may change that, Featuring the same SAS-TEC protection and durable Cordura and Duratex outer layer they provide a lot of protection in a slimline package. The pads are lined with an Air Plush material for comfort with a Sharkskin neoprene gripper to keep the pad firmly in position. The pads are held in place with an adjustable strap while a stretchy lycra back stops them from restricting movement.
Riding with the FUSE Echo Elbow Pads
When we initially tried on the elbow pads the pre-bent shape felt a little restrictive, but as soon as we started riding the bike it all made sense. The pre-bent shape is perfect when in an aggressive position and they did not hinder dynamic movement at all. The SAS-Tech impact absorbing pad is thick enough to offer serious protection and softens up well when you start getting warm. The pads boast the same tough feeling Cordura construction as the knee pads that really boosts confidence, and the lycra expansion panel allows your arms to swell like Popeye when you are pulling hard on the brakes, minimising arm pump. The cinch strap keeps the pads in place effectively and on long rides, we forgot that we were wearing them, which is exactly as it should be.
FUSE is a new player in the highly competitive MTB protection sector and their new Echo range marks a great entry. Their long experience in BMX is demonstrated by the exceptional build quality, and the Echo pads are both comfortable and offer rugged protection. For most riders they will be a bit too much for general trail riding, but if you are looking for the highest levels of protection for bike park or lift assisted riding the FUSE Echo range is built to take the knocks.
For more information on the FUSE range, check out their website
Words: Trev Worsey Photos: Trev Worsey and Catherine Smith
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