Knee & elbow pad search - 661, Fox, TLD, POC
I decided it was time to get some knee and elbow pads, but none of the shops around here stock them, so picking out the right ones for me online has been a pain. I'm still not done my search. Below is what I've learned so far, and I'll update this thread when I've learned more. If you're able to try all these on in person in a store, don't bother reading this, but hopefully this will be helpful to folks like me trying to figure this out without having to buy every one.
My riding is east coast rocky/rooty XC/trail, with logovers and modest drops. Hills tend be short (by western stds) and technical. I just want some pads with decent protection that are comfortable enough that I'll wear them regularly, so I'm willing to sacrifice maximum protection to get more comfort and I'd prefer softshell. I've never worn pads for riding before, so I'm no expert on the subject, just a guy who's read reviews and tried a few on. I have zero loyalty/affinity for any of the brands or sellers here. I'm 6-4, 175 lbs.
The main options I looked at online were 661 Evo d30, 661 Evo XC lite, POC Joint VPD, and Troy Lee (TLD) KG5500. I was learning towards the 661s, either Evo or Evo XC.
The first ones I ordered were the Evo (size m) and POC (m). I also ordered the TLD 5500s. My impressions out of the box:
661 Evo Hate 'em, to my surprise. Two main problems. First, they're way too stiff, they don't want to bend at the elbow, so when they do the leave big gaps both top and bottom. Second, they seem like they would start falling apart on the 2nd ride. The stitching is far less solid than any of the other pads I've looked at, which is lame given how expensive they are. Also the fit was poor for me, they were too loose around my wimpy biceps but I doubt a size small would have improved matters overall. On the plus side, they're not too bulky and have good padding coverage. I decided to return them without wearing them on a ride, so I can't comment on how well they stay up or breathe.
POC VPD Like 'em. Comfortable, not too stiff, nice coverage. I don't like the huge white "POC" lettering on them. Appear much better constructed than the Evos. Have worn them out on one ride, and they stayed up fine, were comfortable, and weren't too hot. So far so good.
TLD 5500 Like 'em. Very different from the other two, less bulky. Remind me of lycra shorts, with gripper elastic and flatlock seams and lycra. Quite comfortable. Appear to be nice quality and durable, although they'd take less abuse than the POCs and also would provide less protection. Depending on your perspective, these either look more cool or more juvenile than the POCs -- three TLDs on each pad, "Speed Equipment" and "X-Fit" on the inside and "Shock Doctor" on the outside. Not over the top, but mildly flamboyant.
Verdict: TBD. I decided against ordering the other 661 pads I'd been considering after trying the Evos. So it came down to the POCs or the TLDs, both of which I liked. I decided to go with the TLDs. They seemed like they would be a little less hot in the summer, and I think they'll provide all the protection I need for most rides. They're also $50 cheaper, which wasn't a big factor in my decision but a nice plus. They don't have the fancy VPD foam (similar to 661 Evo), but that also means no fussiness using them when its colder. I will post my impressions after I've had them out for a few rides.
The options I looked at include 661 Kyle Straits, 661 Evo, 661 Evo XC, 661 Veggie, Fox Launch Pro, TLD KG5400, and POC VPD. I was leaning towards the Kyles.
The first ones I ordered were the Kyles (L) and the Foxes (sm/med). I decided against ordering the TLD's because no one has them in stock for a couple weeks and they don't have any padding on the sides. I decided against ordering the other 661s after trying the Evo elbow pads. Impressions:
661 Kyle Straits: hated these too. Really big, felt like I had big marshmallow bags tied around my knees. Like the Evo pads, they were very stiff and resisted bending at the joint (source of their name?) and wouldn't stay snug with knee bent. The opening on the back of the knee was small and had rough stitching, so I found them very uncomfortable on the back of my knees after just a couple minutes in my living room. An XL might have worked better, I don't know. On the plus side, protection seemed good (even without any inner hard shell or fancy EVO/VPD foam), side coverage excellent, and quality seemed excellent with none of the stitching durability issues I saw on the Evo elbow pads. Here again, I chose not to try these out on the trail because I realized I wasn't keeping them.
Fox Launch Pro Liked these, but I'm not sure I have the right size yet. Bulky, but less bulky than the Kyles. Easier to bend at the knee, less uncomfortable in the back of the knee. Only two sizes. Internal hard shell suggests good rock protection, plus padding on the sides. Seem well made. Haven't taken them out to try.
Verdict: TBD. After liking the POC elbow pads I ordered a set of the knee pads to try also, even though the huge white letters would make me look like a Team-POC-wannabe megadork if I ended up with both sets of pads. ("Yes, hello, POC design department? I have a suggestion.") When they arrive, will decide between the Foxes and the POCs.
Where to buy online Wherever you like, obviously, but hucknroll is the only place I know of that stocks pads and accepts returns of used items, meaning you can try them out on the trail. That's a big, big plus for pads, in my book. (REI and Performance take used returns but don't carry pads.) Plus HNR does free basic shipping above $50 and is informally willing to pricematch. And when I placed one order with them they gave me a coupon code for 20% off apparel (including pads) in my next order, which is great because some of these are hard to find discounted anywhere. Another place worth a look is Art's Cyclery because they have free return shipping (in addition to free 2day ship above $175), but their pad selection is limited and returns have to be in new condition like everyone else.
Last edited by OldManBike; 05-25-2011 at 02:55 PM.
This is great...keep the updates coming.
I picked up recently a set of the Fox Launch elbow pads and I could not be happier.
I picked them up xsportsprotective.com
real fast shipping, and they have coupon codes for 10 off $50 orders and $20 off for $100 orders.
if you liked s/m launch pros you really should form an opinion when you try the correct sized 661 ks pads. also, like any knee pad, you have to know how to wear them.
I bought a set of the TLD 5450 knee/shin pads from a local shop the other day. I'm still leery of trying to wear pads on long rides because I think I'll get super hot in them, but once I use them I'll let you guys know.
Gotta get up to get down.
I love my POC knee pads, they stay in place and once the doughy material warms up they are very comfortable so I don't notice them while riding. I notice them being sweaty when i take them off but I'm not really noticing any uncomfortable warming/sweating while riding.
Love my Race Face elbow pads, they've saved me a few dings for sure. Stable, no slipping and not too warm.
Specialized Rocca knee/shin are the shiznits and are on sale (big discount) on the S website right now.
Nice idea. I'm not consumer reports, though, so I'm not ordering another size of pads I've already decided against keeping. Lots of people out there are happy users of Kyles, that's why they were my initial first choice, so if folks with more experience with them want to offer input, I'm sure many would appreciate it. For the record, I did pick the right size according to the 661 size chart.
Originally Posted by b-kul
Does the fact that I don't know what you're talking about suggest I don't know how to wear knee pads?
Originally Posted by b-kul
im not saying go back and re order them just that to post and say they were crap seems unfair when you seem to have tried on a size too big. looking at what fox and 661 say if you are a s/m in their pads a medium would be a good fit in the 661s. by the last part i just meant you have to experiment with where you wear them. for example i have to wear my knee pads higher than i intially thought to get them to stay put and move with me.
I received the TLD elbow pads today and updated my original post with my impressions.
I got a set of the TLD 5450 knee/shin and 5550 elbow/forearms a couple of weeks ago and have worn the knee/shins on every ride since (managed to squeeze in 4 of them between the rains so far). I've only worn the elbow/forearms a couple of times for the rockier portions of the trails.
Both the knee and elbow sets are very comfortable in size medium for me (which is what the hard to find size chart pointed me at after doing the required measurements) and I have zero issues w/ slippage except for the top sleeve portion of the right knee. The knee cup still stays pretty well in place w/o issue but it's kind of an annoying feeling like they want to keep migrating but don't.
I have tested the knee/shin pad a couple times in the rocks in OTB incidents and they seemed to do a good job. No bruises, broken bits, abrasions, or lacerations in the area they cover and no sign of the impact on the pads. Didn't move a bit in the process either. Unfortunately I wasn't wearing the elbow/forearms at the time of these adventures (probably would have saved me some good amount of blood and new scars) and I haven't bailed while wearing them yet.
While they aren't quite like wearing nothing from a heat perspective, they have definitely been pretty sweat drenched when taking them off after 10-15 mile rides in 80-85F w/ 70-80% humidity, they seem far cooler and less bulky than the 661 2x4 and 4x4 combo I would sometimes use prior to getting the TLDs. Definitely more comfortable to wear all around and repeated washing hasn't seemed to cause any damage to the knee/shin pads so far.
While they do have quite a few logos on them, I don't find any of them overly obnoxious or garish. The only ones that are really visible while riding are the "tld" ones right above the knee/elbow cap.
I don't have anything other than the 2x4s/4x4s to compare them to, but the TLDs kick the hell out of them as far as a set of pads I don't mind wearing all the time, seem to provide pretty decent protection, and have seemed to be pretty durable so far.
Last edited by Sid Nitzerglobin; 05-25-2011 at 05:22 PM.
Nice review. I may yet order the TLD knee pads when come off backorder. My wife thinks I've lost my mind.
I'm 6' 4", 190 and wear a small in the 661 KS. I find them to be comfy, they stay put, and provide excellent protection, I wear them all the time. I'm pretty sure a large is to big for you since you're skinnier than me, they will also stretch as they break in.
Elbow pads first ride
I had my first ride tonight with the TLD KG 5500 elbow pads, size mediums. Pretty good test of comfort, it was over 90 degrees and way too humid. A 3.5 hour ride, which is long for me, on a course with a lot of rocks and logovers. No crashes, so no big insights to offer there yet.
Anyway, I am pleased so far, and I'd tentatively recommend them, but I'm keeping an open mind. They were not the slightest bit restrictive when it came to elbow bending. No chafing or rubbing seams or whatever. They were comfortable in the heat, noticeable but at no point was I tempted to take them off and put them in my pack. They stayed in place well, but not perfectly. I had to pull one up 2 or 3 times over the course of the ride. I was soaked in sweat, so maybe they'll be flawless on more moderate rides. Then again, they're brand new, so maybe they'll stretch out over time and stop staying up acceptably.
I'll update down the road once I have more experience with them.
Knee pad update
Finding a pair of every-ride elbow pads was pretty easy for me. I found two different options (TLD and POC) that were well-made and comfortable enough to use even on hot days.
But finding good knee pads has proven to be a harder. Previously, I tried the Kyles, which I didn't like, and the Fox Launch Pros, which I ordered the wrong size. Today, I received the Fox in the correct size (L/XL) and the POC VPD Joint knee pads (L).
Not having tried either on a ride yet (so take all of this with a big grain of salt), I can say the Fox and the POCs are similar in several respects. Both have good front and side coverage. Both seem like they would stay up well. Neither resists knee-bending. I wore them both for half an hour in un-airconditioned heat, and didn't notice any difference in warmth -- both were sweaty but easily bearable. Both seemed to be really nicely constructed and high quality.
There are some differences.
The Fox is a covered hard shell, while the POC is the new softshell that goes rigid on impact. I didn't notice any comfort advantage from the fancy (and more fussy) foam in the POCs. I tried giving my knee a good whack to simulate a rock strike. (My methods were not scientific.) The Fox did a noticeably better job of absorbing the impact.
The Fox has an open back, the POC is closed (meaning the back of the knee is covered not exposed). To my surprise, the backs of my knees were more comfortable in the POCs. The seams around the open knee on the Fox seemed to chafe every time I bent my knee. Both were somewhat uncomfortable (maybe I have sensitive knees, or maybe I'm just a whiner) but the POC were slightly better.
Aesthetically, the POC is noticeably slimmer looking. The Fox looks a little poofy to me. On the other hand, the POC logos are huge on their knee pads. The Fox are much more understated.
Overall, I suspect neither of these would be comfortable enough that I'd want to wear them every ride, at least not in the summer. I'm going to try the TLDs (which I expect to be more comfortable but less protective) and maybe the super-ugly G-Forms. I may keep one of these two (probably the Fox, because it seems to have better impact protection and I don't have to worry about storing them inside or wearing them when its too cold out) for gnarlier rides when I'm willing to sacrifice more comfort.
I'll update this thread once I get some trail experience with them.
Last edited by OldManBike; 06-01-2011 at 04:43 PM.
i love my Evo Lite XC's, i wouldn't write them off just because you didn't like the bulkier, heavier normal ones. the stitching quality appears top notch, i've had mine for over 9 months and have taken lots of roughing up and been fine. they are great for pedaling comfort while not being lightweight and not hot. i had one bad spill when i wasn't wearing the elbow pads and really regretted it, especially since they were in my pack...
i am 5'11'' 160lbs and the mediums fit me well. sometimes the elbows slip a little but i have skinny arms, and only if i didn't put them on correctly at first. and i love how the knee pads are not slip-on. i usually leave them in my pack for the slow extended climbs and its easy to slap them on for the descents.
i would hate for people to shy away from these because of one unhappy camper. that said, i haven't tried too many other pads so i guess i don't know what i'm missing.
Definitely agree. If its an option for you, checking out the various options yourself is a much better way to choose than reading what others say, esp. others with limited basis for their opinions like me. Choosing pads isn't like choosing a handlebar, I think the comfort and fit are very individual and it may be that the quality varies a lot within the same product.
Originally Posted by donkeykong0
I really like the 661 Kyle's. I've rode 15-20 miles with them without any issues. They do feel a little bulky at first, but I don't notice it once I start riding. I mainly wear them on the more technical trails or if I know I'll be doing a lot of jumping. For more XC type stuff I like to wear Muzuno MzO slider knee pads. They are designed for baseball, but they are very low profile, flexible and have just enough padding to keep your skin intact if you go down. They also do a great job protecting your knees from brush/blackberry bushes.
Working on my Drops
Have you tried the Kali pads?
No, I'm too old to ride around with skulls on my knees, so I didn't order them. They seem to get decent reviews.
Originally Posted by MTBAlex
But you are closer to being a skeleton...
Originally Posted by OldManBike
Besides, protection is more about...protection than looks. Better pink pads than no pads when they are needed.
That being said, thank you for the somewhat comprehensive write-up of your time spent wearing and researching these pads.
TLD elbow pad issue; Fox knee pad ride
Have 4 or 5 rides on the TLD elbow pads. I still haven't managed to crash test them.
The left pad has started falling down on rocky downhills (which is pretty much exactly when I need them in place). On trail/xc rides, it was a few times a ride and annoying but I was ignoring it. But today I wore them at a freeride park and the pad was sliding down my arm constantly. Every time I hit a rocky section, bam, its off my elbow and creeping down my forearm.
The other one stays up flawlessly, so it seems like a quality issue not a design issue. It appears that some of the stitching on the top elastic of the left pad is coming out already, which may be the cause of it.
Its a drag to be having problems after one week. I plan to contact TLD, hopefully they'll make it right. Will report.
Fox Launch Pro knee
I also rode today with the Fox knee pads. It wasn't hot, I wasn't pedaling very much, and I didn't fall, so not much of a torture test. But they were super comfortable the whole 3 hrs I wore them.
Now the left is falling down regularly on my XC rides and the right is starting to creep on rocky sections too.
Originally Posted by OldManBike
I called TLD, and the first thing they said was that I must have ordered the wrong size (as if I was the one who made up their size chart). Then they suggested I try taking them to a seamstress to have them resized smaller at the top and shore up where the stitching is coming out already. They said if I want I can send them in for them to look at to decide whether its a warranty issue. I think their bottom-line response was reasonable, if not especially loyalty-inspiring.
I haven't decided what to do. I'm starting to think that the design may be the issue after all, that without any way to tighten the top of the pad they're doomed to loosen up over time. Hard to know whether a smaller size would work long-term either. Also thinking I may steer my future business towards folks who take a more aggressive approach to standing behind their product.
Can anyone else out there offer an 'after a dozen rides' review of these pads?
+1 For fox launchs..comfort venting and can pedal in them all day!
Wish Alpinestars sold here in the States, their knee pads rock!