Review by David Howell // Photos by Brandon Turman, Lear Miller and Colin Meagher
With trails getting faster and trail/all-mountain/enduro bikes becoming increasingly capable, more of us are looking for lightweight, yet protective knee pads that can comfortably be worn in any situation, including a good pedal. The POC Joint VPD Air Knee pad steps up to fill the gap between a clunky downhill pad and one that offers nothing but looks.
POC Joint VPD Air Knee Highlights
- Lightweight and impact absorbing VPD compound
- Neoprene anti-slip panels inside
- Reinforced stretch fabric
- Elastic strap for a comfortable fit
- Designed with a low profile
- Polygiene odor control technology
- Sizes Small, Medium, and Large
- $80.00 MSRP
Available in both knee and elbow pads, the VPD Air uses the same VPD 2.0 (Visco-Elastic Polymer Dough) material as their burlier pads, but in a lighter, more breathable package. The pad material is said to be "highly impact absorbent" while being "comfortable and adapt[ing] to create an individual fit." The material transitions from soft to hard during an impact, so it can offer both safety and flexibility, at least in theory.
Straight out of the packaging, I couldn’t wait to get the VPD Air knee pads from POC out on the trail. The pads feature clean lines and a subdued look to go with its lightweight and quality feeling materials. The fabric is sturdy, yet stretchy, and feels substantial enough to give the pad its structure without hindering movement. Neoprene anti slip panels provide ample grip across the top and bottom of the pad to keep it firmly in place while an elastic band helps firmly anchor the top of the pad across the thigh. The VPD compound padding is indeed very malleable when warm, which should easily fit a large range of knee and leg shapes comfortably while remaining flexible while pedaling and moving around on the bike.
On The Trail
Many of us that ride trail with knee pads know that pads always seem to move around, offer too little protection or just get in the way and distract from the ride. The POC VPD Air has found a perfect balance of staying in place, comfort and protection. Compared to other knee pads I have tried, I found the sizing of the large pad (biggest size offered) to be a bit too small in the thigh initially, though the pads still proved to be comfortable. Even on the longest rides, the VPD Air pads stayed in place – just where I put them at the start of the ride. If you're wondering, no, the neoprene strips at the top and bottom inside of the pad does not typically pull leg hair.
While the pads are thin, they have good coverage of the sides of the knee in addition to the front and top of the kneecap. For those of us who need a bit of plastic courage to try that new line we have been eyeballing, POC built the pads to be substantial feeling enough to give you the confidence you need. The pad material is actually pretty thick, and the outer fabric seems sufficiently resistant to tearing or punctures. While I have not put the pads through a big crash, they have more than held up to small crashes, high speed slide-outs, shift levers, bushes and abuse of downhill days while remaining looking like new after a hit from the hose at a bike wash station and a few times through the washing machine. They are still very comfortable after several months of use, and the neoprene is still soft/grippy to the touch.
It should be noted that the packaging the pads come in talk a bit about the temperature limitations of the VPD padding material. The first time I tried on the pads the ambient temperature was in the low 40 degree Fahrenheit range and they felt stiff, though once they warmed up the pads felt supple and flexible. POC warns that usage of the pads in extreme cold could result in the VPD material becoming brittle and potentially breaking – though most of us will probably have the pads packed away for the winter when it is that cold.
Integrated Polygiene odor control technology means you can toss the pads in your trunk or riding bag at the end of the day and not worry about them developing that locker room smell we are all too aware of and try to avoid.
Things That Could Be Improved
Behind the knee, the pads are constructed with a soft yet solid panel of fabric that is two layers thick. While not overly hot, the double layer of fabric seemed to hold in some heat and make the pad feel a little bit clunkier than a lightweight pad should. Overall, I found the pads to be quite comfortable while pedaling, though the backing of the pad would occasionally bunch up behind my knee in certain situations. A reduction in the material in the back of the pad or some added venting would be a welcome improvement.
What’s The Bottom Line?
If you are in the market for a low profile, lightweight knee pad that stays in place, the POC Joint VPD Air Knee is the knee pad for you. They have proved perfect for both dirt jump and trail use, as well as a lightweight downhill pad if you can't afford a burlier pair. They truly are an outstanding product.
Visit www.pocsports.com for more details.
About The Reviewer
David Howell has been riding bikes for the last 12 years, with the majority of that being downhill and trail riding. He raced some downhill in Colorado, but now prefers dirt jumping, trail riding or downhilling with his friends. Working in shops for six years fueled his passion for riding all styles of bikes and has provided an in-depth knowledge of current parts and trends in the industry. His favorite trails are fast and have a good mixture of rough, rocky sections mixed with smoother flowy sections – natural jumps and berms just add to the fun. With a plow riding style and tipping the scales at 235-pounds, he puts the hurt on even the beefiest components.