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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|Product:||K-Pact Zip knee pads|
|Tested:||by Antony de Heveningham for 6 months|
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