In Issue #112 of Singletrack Magazine, we put 14 different knee pads through the grinder as part of our ‘Pads For Pedalling’ group test.
With the latest generation of knee and elbow pads, manufacturers have been able to draw on new materials, new profiles, and refined construction techniques in order to create lighter and more flexible pads that are targeted towards riders who don’t rely on a chairlift or a shuttle van to get to the top of the hill. Traditionally, body armour has been of the inflexible and awkward hardshell plastic variety – the sort of pads that you’d avoid pedalling with at all costs, instead stowing in your backpack until you reached the start of a long and worthy descent. But not every mountain biker rides like that. I don’t know about you, but most of my trail rides involve numerous pinch climbs and techy descents that would have me stopping every 5 minutes just to remove and refit pads. No thanks.
Just as dropper posts have transformed the way we ride trail bikes, so too have lightweight body armour products. In short, both innovations allow us to ride more challenging terrain with more confidence and less disruption to flow. All good things right?
Swiss brand iXS is one such protective wear brand with a strong range of lightweight body armour targeted towards a broad range of different rider types, having specialised in mountain biking apparel and protective wear since 2001. Over the past 16 years, the iXS protective wear range has grown to encompass products not just for Monster-drinking, flat cap-wearing park rats, but for everyday trail riders too. The Hack EVO knee pads slot into the trail riding category, using a soft-shell pad with a slip-on sleeve style construction. They’re available in five different sizes, and iXS offers the same design in an elbow pad option too.
“The Hack series is our beginner version of the soft protectors. They combine the characteristics of the Flow and Carve series cost-effectively. The Hack models also manage without hard shells and are therefore light and extremely comfortable to wear. The iXS protector meets European safety standard EN1621-1 and EN1621-2 respectively” – From iXS.
iXS Hack EVO Knee Pad Features
- Tough soft shell sleeve-style knee pad
- Dual Velcro strap retention
- Internal silicone gripper detailing
- Lightweight and breathable AeroMesh backing
- Anti-microbial treatment
- QMatter protective padding
- Aramid fibre external fabric
- Sizes: X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
- RRP: £47.99
Alongside the other 13 sets of knee pads in our Pads For Pedalling group test, the iXS Hack EVO pads sit on the more substantial side with the Dakine Slayers and ION K_Lite R pads. They still use a modern sleeve-style construction like some of the really minimalist pads on test, and that makes the Hack EVO’s easy to slip on and off each leg. The front of the sleeve is made from a thick neoprene fabric for comfort and protection, while the rear of the tube is all lightweight mesh for breathability.
Helping with adjustability for different shaped legs, the Hack EVO pads feature an adjustable velcro strap at both the top and bottom of the knee pad. These elastic straps have a generously wide profile to help distribute pressure, and the large velcro panels afford plenty of surface area to keep the straps locked in place where you left them. The straps are also offset away from the bike, so there’s no chance of a wayward flap catching annoyingly on your frame as you pedal.
Although iXS’ higher end knee pads make use of the clever XMatter material that shares similar properties to D3O and POC’s VPD, the cheaper Hack EVOs feature a slightly less sophisticated material it calls QMatter. This is more like a high-density foam pad that is quite springy and firm to press with your thumb. The pad is heavily articulated, and cups your knee cap well with a pre-curved shape that extends down the top of your shin, and a reasonable way around each side of the knee.
Lining the front of the QMatter panel on the front of the knee is a layer of reinforced aramid fibre. This is a really tough and durable fabric that has proven to be highly effective at shrugging of hits and scrapes that would tear open lesser fabrics. Indeed the rest of the Hack EVO knee pad is constructed to a similarly high quality, with reinforced seams and well hidden stitching that’ll keep them from getting wrecked when you have a wreck.
On The Trail
The iXS Hack EVO knee pads were no doubt some of the best we had on test. Their performance is well rounded – they’re highly comfortable, secure, easy to adjust, and the mesh backing does well to wick away sweat. The cumulative effect is a knee pad that you soon forget you’re wearing, which is the exact end goal for a pad designed for pedalling. As for protection? They’re really impressive. While not as fancy as more expensive materials, the QMatter pad was also one of the toughest and most effective shields during the frypan-to-knee cap test, with the firm padding doing very well to distribute load impacts. However, that firm pad and aramid fibre coating also works well to protect the delicate skin underneath from external damage from rock abrasions and sharp pointy things.
Narrowly being pipped by the excellent POC VPD Air knee pads, the iXS Hack EVOs only lost out in the ‘Best Protection’ category due to the lack of padding around the side of each knee – a rather delicate area that can often bang the ground or frame before the kneecap itself does. Although iXS offer more substantial pads for those wanting greater protection, we’d love to see some discreet side pads on the Hack EVOs to take them to the next level.
If you’re looking for a tough and well-made knee pad that’s priced well, it would be hard to go past the Hack EVOs. They’re super durable despite the multiple collisions they’ve experienced with mother nature over the past four months, and the articulated design makes them really comfortable to wear too.
They weren’t the most breathable or flexible option in our Pads For Pedalling group test, though if that’s your priority, it may be worth considering the pricier iXS Flow pads if you’re chasing the more minimalist style. Likewise, they didn’t offer the most protection, and again, iXS produce burlier options for that purpose. But for a goldilocks style knee pad, the Hack EVOs are darn good for less than fifty quid.
|Product:||Hack EVO Knee Pads|
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 4 months|