Along with helmets, knee pads may be the most important piece of protection for riding a mountain bike. Those complicated joints in your legs are worth protecting, whether you're downhilling, jumping, skateparking or even riding XC.
While personal preference reigns supreme, I have found that most serious riders prefer a knee pad only to a knee-shin combo and I am in agreement. Sure, it's a bummer when your shin gets spiked, but in general, the security compromise of a knee-shin pad isn't worth the knee-wrecking potential. A gashed shin is usually cosmetic and possibly annoying, but a damaged knee can end your riding experience for a prolonged period of time.Familiar Design?
Enter the 2010 Fox Racing Launch Knee Pad. These pads may have a "familiar" look and design to them. The material and look is reminiscent of a pad from a different manufacturer that most of us know well. In fact, that other pad is what I used during the 2009 season, with very little complaint. Looks are deceiving, however and the Launch pads take the cake for one reason...FIT.How do they feel?
My first experience with the Launch pads was at the Trek Ultimate Ride in Moab a few days ago. On the Hazzard County and Porcupine Rim trails, I broke in the pads while riding over 20 miles, climbing about 1000 feet and descending over four times that amount. I put on the pads at the beginning of the ride and forgot about them, even on the climbs. The only thing that reminded me I had the pads on was another rider on the trail with knee-shin pads that were halfway down his leg, leaving his knees wide open. Decline's tech editor, Mark Jordan, knows
who I'm referring to. I looked at "knee-shin guy" nervously, then remembered I had knee pads on too. The Launch pads had hardly moved and had not limited my movement or pedaling. This was a huge surprise to me as the other pads I was used to would commonly slide out of position. 4 hours later, at the end of the ride, I was in one piece and the pads were sitting just fine. Sure there were times for small adjustments, but I never felt like the pads were out of place or compromising my knees, which is why we wear pads in the first place.Why don't they move?
Comparing the Fox Launch pads with the other pads, you can see that the Launches have a bigger ergonomic "pre-bend" and deeper knee cup to them. When we ride (especially descend), our legs are usually pretty bent at the knee and the Launch pads take this into consideration, while the other pads seem a little less bent. I noticed that when standing around (legs straight), the Launch pads look a little awkward, as the "pre-bend" gets gathered up above the knee cup and the knee cup protrudes. Does that matter? No. I don't wear knee pads for standing around. On pedaling portions of the Moab ride, I did not feel the pads were obstructing or gathering. In fact, I almost wore them on the following day's XC ride. because they were that comfortable.Riding Conditions
I did not take a major impact in the Launch pads, but the plastic knee cup feels comparable to other models. It's flexible, but seems sufficient for most hard impacts. The weather on the ride was between 60 and 70 degrees, so a real heat test wasn't possible, but the large holes in the back and the perforations in the material lead me to believe they will be just fine in most situations.
So what's the verdict? If you've read all of this, you can probably see that I'm stoked on these pads. Retail is $59.95, so they're a little spendier than the competitors, but the fit seems worth the price of admission. I would recommend these for shredding all day.
Here's all the official info from Fox Racing. The pads will be available in the next couple days from your
. Official specs below...
The Launch Pro Knee Pad is the next
evolution in knee protection from Fox- hard shell knee protection with an
ergonomic, soft shell fit. The Kevlar front knee panel covers a
flexible plastic knee cup, and the perforated neoprene body forms to
your leg, providing optimum comfort and a high degree of impact
protection in critical zones. The Launch Pro delivers comfortable,
stay-put coverage throughout the entire range of pedaling motion- so
you can stay focused on the ride ahead.