Ion K-Pact Zip review: knee pads when you need ’em

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Body armour is always a compromise between comfort and protection, and these Ion K-Pact Zip knee pads are a take on a time-honoured solution to this dilemma: pads you can take off on the climbs and don for the descents.

I wear knee protection on well over 90% of my rides these days, but it’s generally of the lightweight variety – the sort of thing that stops cuts and grazes in low-speed crashes, but might meet its match in a proper high-speed off on pointy rocks.

First things first, these are proper chunky things, with 10mm of shock-absorbing material covering your precious patellae. The pads are certified to EN 1621-1, Level 2, which is the higher of two standards for motorcycle body armour, and the SAS-TEC inner material is even made by a company whose main line of business is motorbike protective gear. The inner padding can be removed for washing and they also have an anti-bacterial treatment to stop them stinking out the uplift truck.

In order to get the K-Pact Zips on and off, there’s – spoiler alert – a zip, which runs up the outside edge of each pad, plus a couple of stretchy hook-and-loop straps to make extra sure they stay in place. The sleeve of the pads is made from perforated neoprene, apart from a little cut-out behind the knee which is just thin mesh The main pad is augmented with a couple of extra plates to absorb any side impacts, and there are silicon gripper strips inside to stop any excess movement when pedalling.

The pads are available in three colours, including our test pair’s tasteful blue-grey. When a desperate Sunday supplement does a list of ten mountain bike knee pads that you can wear to the office, I fully expect these to be in there. The pads are available in a wide range of sizes from XS to XL, but the sizing runs a bit on the small side – try a pair on if you can. If that’s not posisble, there’s a size guide on Ion’s website. They have less coverage than some sleeve-style pads, with a fairly generous shorts length needed to avoid peekaboo thighs. Should you want more coverage lower down your leg, Ion make separate shin pads too.

Getting the pads on is a bit fiddly, but quick once you get the hang of it – I’ve timed myself at 90 seconds to don both, which is probably faster than taking my shoes off and sliding some sleeve-style knee pads on. There’s also the added bonus that I didn’t have to get my socks muddy or stand on anything sharp. The zip has a baffle behind it, so you won’t epilate your legs as you put the pads on. When they’re on, the zipper tucks into a neat little garage and then the lower strap covers it completely, meaning there’s no chance of catching it on some undergrowth as you swish past.

In use the pads are bulky and hot, even with the venting, but they have enough flex to make pedalling relatively comfortable, and there’s a bit of airflow through the sleeve and the knee cap. They’re definitely not my first choice for trail riding, but I’ve done longer rides in them without feeling like my knees were being microwaved. The fit is incredibly secure and they don’t move at all, which is definitely what you want from a set of pads like these.

As far as longevity goes, the front of the pads is covered with an ultra-tough abrasion-resistant material, and there have been no issues with this, but the mesh at the back has ripped already. The hook and loop fastenings have also pulled out some little tufts of fluff from the elastic straps, but the damage only seems to be cosmetic. The zips are curved which means there’s some extra stress at the apex, but they’re also fairly chunky bits of hardware and should be able to take some punishment.


As a set of pads for full-on scary riding, these are confidence-inspiring, but not so impractical that pedalling is off the menu. If I was doing an uplift day or sessioning mad rocky stuff, I’d have no hesitation about strapping them to the outside of my pack. Check the sizing, make sure your shorts can cope with the bulk, and these are a good set of knee pads for when things get properly gnarly.

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Review Info

Brand: Ion
Product: K-Pact Zip knee pads
Price: £94.99
Tested: by Antony de Heveningham for 6 months
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Antony was a latecomer to the joys of riding off-road, and he’s continued to be a late adopter of many of his favourite things, including full suspension, dropper posts, 29ers, and adult responsibility. At some point he decided to compensate for his lack of natural riding talent by organising maintenance days on his local trails. This led, inadvertently, to writing for Singletrack, after one of his online rants about lazy, spoilt mountain bikers who never fix trails was spotted and reprinted on this website during a particularly slow news week. Now based just up the road from the magazine in West Yorkshire, he’s expanded his remit to include reviews and features as well as rants. He’s also moved on from filling holes in the woods to campaigning for changes to the UK’s antiquated land access laws, and probing the relationship between mountain biking and the places we ride. He’s a firm believer in bringing mountain biking to the people, whether that’s through affordable bikes, accessible trails, enabling technology, or supportive networks. He’s also studied sustainable transport, and will happily explain to anyone who’ll listen why the UK is a terrible place for everyday utility cycling, even though it shouldn’t be. If that all sounds a bit worthy, he’s also happy to share tales of rides gone awry, or delicate bike parts burst asunder by ham-fisted maintenance. Because ultimately, there are enough talented professionals in mountain bike journalism, and it needs more rank amateurs.

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  • Ion K-Pact Zip review: knee pads when you need ’em
  • fahzure
    Full Member

    I like the on-off functionality but have found, like other visco-elastic/polymer dough (D3O) materials, they transfer lots of force upon impact. It’s like the difference between falling on a mattress vs. falling on a futon. Older school foam pads may be bulkier, but sure are kinder on impact.

    Full Member

    @fahzure, I get what you mean about the feel in a crash, but they meet the same shock absorption standards as EVA pads and they’re probably more comfortable to wear for most people.

    Full Member

    If you google “MTB ginocchiere 10 modelli a confronto”, there’s a PDF with lab test graphs of how various types of pads (including these, and hard ones) transmit shock.

    No waaay, I fibd that makes complete sense Fahz moving away from Dainese FR pads to Scott d30 slipons.

    These do intrigue me…

    Maybe I should start crashing to justify getting a set.

    Free Member

    I’ve used the normal non-zip k-pact knee pads for a fair few years now and they’re great and saved my knee’s on multiple occasions.

    Did look at the zip ones and tried a pair, but found them less comfortable than the non zip versions and just couldn’t see myself taking them on & off during rides – likelihood is I take them off, not be arsed to put them back on for ‘this short downhill’ and then crash! The normal ones are plenty comfortable to pedal in for a fair few hours even in the heat.

    The “D3O” inserts are made by SAS-Tec who’s main market is making the inserts for motorcycle leathers, so they give great protection. Find their miracle foam stuff lighter, more comfortable and more mailable when cool than D3O and some others I’ve tried

    Full Member

    I’m still using a pair of Race Face Ambush(?) pads that use Velcro straps instead of the zip. They’re a bit bulky (newer ones might be slimmer) but very comfy to ride long distances in and saved my knees quite a few times. They’re no 661 Kyle Strait pads but being able to remove them without taking shoes off is just brilliant

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