Review by Johan Hjord // Photos by Nils Hjord and Johan Hjord
7iDP’s range of protection keeps growing, and the latest addition to the family slots right into the line-up to cater to the ever-growing group of riders looking for lighter weight, pedal-friendly pads that are still up for some abuse. How much abuse is up to you, you will never catch 7iDP overselling the capabilities of their protective gear, but it sits in the middle of their range which gives some indication of design priorities. No better place than the trail to find out what’s what though, so that’s just where we’ve been testing the Flex knee pad over the last couple of months. Read on to find out how we got along.
7iDP Flex Knee Main Features
- X-Profile cap for narrow profile fit
- Low weight, high strength 1mm cap for superior fit and pedal motion
- Double layer polygon perforated custom foam to increase air flow and reduce weight
- Upper calf muscle supports to prevent pad from slipping
- Center adjustment strap provides even tension above calf muscle and around top of pad
- Fabric flex supports protect the knee in conjunction with the X-Profile knee cap
- Custom iDP polygon neoprene is light and offers great ventilation
- Designed beyond CE EN 1621/1 standards to ensure maximum protection
- Sizes – S/M/L/XL
- MSRP: $64.95
As with other 7iDP gear, packaging is a fairly classy affaire, and pulling the Flex pads out of the box reveals more of the same regarding the product itself. 7iDP takes R&D very seriously, and the Flex pad is an elaborate piece of kit, despite its price which is resolutely reasonable. A multitude of different materials were used to put the Flex together, and the result is a pad that looks very sleek and modern, and feels particularly light compared to other pads in this category.
The Flex features a thin hard shell cap coupled with layers of foam, covered in a sturdy outer fabric. The cut of the pad is called “X-profile”, which gives the Flex an aggressive pre-curved shape meant to provide a snug, low-profile fit while accommodating the pedaling motion on the bike. The strap system is innovative, featuring 2-sided adjustment both on the top strap as well as the lower calf strap – this is meant to help ensure a balanced fit. Silicone grippers around the top and bottom openings help hold the pad in place as well.
The foam padding extends to the side of the knee, not quite to the extent you would expect to find on a DH-type pad, but it’s there. The back of the pad is open in the knee area, and the 2-way stretch material employed around the back is very thin and well-ventilated. These 2 aspects help ensure maximum breathability in an area that requires little in terms of protection.
On The Trail
Pulling the Flex pads on for the first time revealed a snug fit. It’s not quite to the point of calling it a half-size, but definitely consider sizing up if you are typically between sizes. The second point we noticed immediately is that the fit is indeed optimized for pedaling – the pad sort of sticks out awkwardly when you stand around with straight legs or walk around the parking lot.
The design of the 2-way adjustable straps is awesome, not because they allow for a “balanced fit” but because they provide a very wide range of adjustability, while helping to hold the pads in place AND not offering your shorts anything to snag on. Bonus points right there. Placing the calf strap above the calf muscle is also a particularly smart move, since this is the ideal location to cinch a pad down if you want to avoid it sliding down your leg.
Our honey moon was not all rosy. The Flex pad mocked its own name by being stubbornly snug and causing some mild irritation behind the knee. It took longer than average for this pad to break in, which is perhaps ultimately not a bad thing – stick with it, and eventually you’ll be rewarded with a pad that becomes more comfortable but that doesn’t stretch to the point of becoming useless. We also found that the Flex is sensitive to how you place it on the knee. Make sure the rear opening is in the exact right spot, and that the fabric didn’t bunch up when you slipped the pads on (particularly if you were already sweating by that time), and you’re good to go.
The X-profile cut is anything but just marketing speak. The Flex pad works really well for long days in the saddle with lots of pedaling on the menu. The pre-curved shape comes into its own once you are on the bike, and the fabrics and materials used remain comfortable on the skin as the day goes by. We noticed a small amount of rubbing noise from within the pad as the layers move against each other, but it is minimal and not a nuisance (and not unusual either).
When it comes to getting dirty, we’ve taken full advantage of very dusty and slippery summer conditions to perform multiple advanced crash dummy tests with the Flex. Several comedy wipe-outs and one nasty high speed get-off saw the Flex sail through with full marks, keeping our knees safe despite going down straight onto the pads. Only a particularly graceful attempt at burrowing through the inside of a turn managed to eventually displace the Flex pad, leaving our knee exposed and a bit worse for wear. A pad with a hard outer shell might well have kept sliding in this scenario, instead of biting into the ground and eventually twisting out of position, but that is a choice you make when opting for more pedal-friendly protection, and not something we hold against the Flex. Quite to the contrary, as the snug profile and excellent retention features of this pad helped it hold on during several crashes where we would not have been surprised to find it around the ankle post-carnage. High marks for the Flex in this category of protection.
With time, the Flex became very comfortable, to the point of making it our go-to pad for all kinds of riding. If you frequently hit the park or the shuttles you would certainly go for a burlier knee pad, but for all other types of fun, the Flex cuts it. And it comes in at a great price point too, especially considering how many features 7iDP have packed into it.
Things That Could Be Improved
The thread used to stitch the thin strip of fabric that closes off the edges of the opening at the back of the knee seems to be the culprit for the chafing we experienced early on in the test. It is less flexible than the rest of the material in this area. The opening could thus be made more flexible and comfortable without sacrificing the retention capabilities, assured by the calf strap. Design-wise, that is the only thing we would look at changing on the Flex.
Long Term Durability
As previous stated, we’ve developed a nasty habit of failing to keep the rubber side down recently, and as a result, the Flex has seen a lot of action. And after about 2.5 months of intensive testing, the pad is still going strong. The stitching around the edges of the rear opening has come undone in a couple of spots on one of the pads, we’d put that down to the thread used here, which is a little bit less flexible than the surrounding material. For the rest, no tears, no loosening straps, and the general state of the pads is pretty good even though they’ve been subjected to copious amounts of sweating and a distinct lack of regular washing. Crucially, the front of the pad is still in one piece, despite being used as landing gear every so often. Unless you are crashing in rock gardens or bailing at the dirt jumps daily, these pads should give you at least a season of intensive riding if not more.
What’s The Bottom Line?
The Flex knee pad was designed to offer proper protection in a lightweight and pedal-friendly package. 7iDP scores high marks on all counts, and we have no trouble trusting this pad to see us through long days in the saddle with plenty of drama along the way. The cut is perfect, and the innovative straps help give these pads a very secure fit. They take a little longer to break in, but they will reward you with lasting performance and comfort in the knowledge that they will be there when you need them. Add in the competitive price point, and you’re looking at a serious contender, well worthy of your attention and a place on your shortlist.
More information at www.7protection.com.
About The Reviewer
Johan Hjord loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 200-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.