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Digital Subscriptions > Singletrack > 112 > PADS FOR PEDALLING

PADS FOR PEDALLING

Wil and the test team have been throwing themselves down the trail for the last few months in the name of science and they’re here to tell you which knee pads you need.

Let’s clear up something right away. Knee protection probably isn’t the sexiest thing in the world. Next to electronic shifting, pretty anodised stems and buzzy freehub mechanisms, it’s unlikely that you’ll find knee pads sitting on display inside the bling cabinet at your local bike shop.

You know what’s less sexy than knee pads though? Splitting your knee open on a rock because you weren’t wearing knee pads. Or cracking your patella into several pieces. Or causing serious damage to a cruciate ligament that forces you off the bike for six months.

Without doubt, smashing your knees up in a preventable situation is seriously lame. Because when it boils down to it, we only have two knees and they’re kinda important to the whole cycling thing.

Fortunately, knee pads have become a lot more popular over the last few years. Thanks to advancements in materials and construction techniques, knee pads are becoming more flexible, more shock absorbent and much lighter in weight.

Most importantly, they’re becoming more comfortable too.

There are a lot of good knee pads on the market, so we went to 14 different brands to see what they had to offer in their latest range of mountain bike protection.

The premise was simple: pads for pedalling. Not necessarily the most protective knee pads, but pads that would be comfortable for an all-day epic in the hills. Pads that would be flexible enough that you’d forget you were wearing them. And pads that would be breathable enough so as to not cause pain-inducing chafing.

But at the same time, pads that would provide an effective shield between your precious knees and the harsh environment around them. Because no matter how hard you try, at some point you’re going to take a tumble where your knee will be sliding over a rock or thumping into a tree trunk. Or it might just be a casual jab of a shifter paddle, or a wayward whack on the top tube. Whatever the source, it really doesn’t take that much to leave you holding back the tears while stinging pain sears through your thinly skinned kneecap. And wearing a knee pad might allow you to totally avoid that lame scenario in the first place.

Of the 14 knee pads we tested, we created four categories to assess each knee pad under. Those categories were comfort, breathability, protection, and value. With the exception of one pad, all were ordered in a Medium size and tested on a range of riders to evaluate comparative fit and adjustability. We’ve spent the last six months putting all of the pads (and our knees) to the test, to see which we’d recommend for all-day pedalling.

THE EVOLUTION OF BODY ARMOUR

First, we must go back in time. Back to a time when handlebars measured 500mm wide, suspension forks topped out at 63mm travel, and brakes were more of a decorative add-on for most riders.

In the early 90s, mountain biking was proper ’ardcore. The bikes were janky and flat-out dangerous, but that was kind of the point. There were no wanky slow-motion video edits with folk music backing tracks and dramatic voiceover commentary drawing long metaphoric bows. And there were no high-sheen Instagram filters bathing photographed riders in the golden sepia glow of their own highly curated smugness.

Instead, mountain biking was purely about going downhill as fast as possible while putting oneself in the path of grievous bodily harm as much as possible. All to a soundtrack of hectic punk rock and thrash metal. Effortless cool be damned.

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Editorial – Chipps wonders where all the mountain bike heroes will go. Room 101 – a couple of things that really get us wound up. But are they enough to be condemned to the Room? International Adventure: Morocco Blues – a look at the Morocco that tourists rarely get to see. Trail Hunter: The Wayfarer. Berwyn Mountains – these oft-overlooked mountains in north Wales hold some tasty promises. International Adventure: Riding Romania – it’s accessible, seldom visited and beautiful. Here’s a road trip through the best of it. Column: Jason Miles – it seems you don’t get to be a winning 24 hour solo racer without getting annoyed about stuff. Biketest: Zombie Apocalypse Bikes – it’s the near future and society has broken down. A bike means freedom. But which one? We look at three British bikes from BTR, Olsen and Shand. Classic Ride: Cannock Chase – Barney finds fun and challenges in this popular area that locals love and which non-locals often forget about. Grouptest: Pads for Pedalling – now that pads are all-day comfortable, there’s a huge choice of what to wear. We recommend the best ones for each job. Singletrack Recommended – What the Singletrack team believe to be the cream of the crop when it comes to test products. Kit Bag – Our new feature delves into the bags of mountain bike riders of every discipline. This issue, Chipps shows us exactly what he needs to carry in his pack as a qualified BC Level-2 Guide. Oddball – Our random series of ‘just another thing’ begins with 6 mouth watering cheeses to celebrate great riding spots of the UK. UK Adventure: Three Peaks (The Wrong Way) – Nick Craig and Sanny take on an impossible circuit of the Lake District in a (long) day. Which one broke first? International Adventure: Danny MacAskill and Hans Rey take on Mt Kilimanjaro – two of the world’s best known stunt riders take on a huge mountain challenge. Column: Roly – Roly Lambert vows to stop being ‘that guy' again.
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