by Kevin Shiramizu
Dainese is no stranger to the safety game. They’ve got plenty of experience making very high end protection for people who do stuff arguably more dangerous than pedaling bikes. So where have they been lately? Back when I started taking riding more seriously, the Viking knee/shin bib was default uniform kit-wear for anyone who knew what was up. If you wanted to look the part of a pro, you wore Dainese. After a few years of lagging in attention to mountain biking, they seem to be making a push to reclaim some turf. Let's see how their latest mountain bike specific offering stacks up...
Trail Skins Knee Guard Highlights
- Main pad material: Pro Shape coupled with Crash Absorb, approximately 7mm thick
- Certified according to the standard EN 1621.1
- Sizes: S, M, L, XL
- Colors:Black, Black/Red, Black/Yellow-Fluo, Cyan, Purple
- Supporting System with Soft Biaxial Elasticated Fabric
- Knee Fastening System with Straps and Elastic Bands
- Silicone Elastic Bands
- Perforated Pro-Shape
- Breathable Biaxial Elasticated Fabric
- MSRP:$69.95 USD
I’m a big fan of simple packaging so having these knee guards come attached to a cardboard sheet was a good first impression. Call me a damn hippie but less plastic for stupid retail presentation is appreciated. The build quality of these guards seems above average for bike gear. There are no loose strings in the stitching; everything is straight and lined up, and nothing about the materials cries out “cheap.” The fit was true to the size chart in my experience so the medium I measured up for the order fit like a charm.
The perforated main pad catches your eye immediately, this is not something we're used to seeing in a piece of protection. Dainese calls this "Pro-Shape", it's essentially a sandwich composed of an outer layer of polymer bonded to an inner layer of polyethylene foam intended to be both strong and flexible. The perforated structure also ensures the correct ventilation of the area for greater riding comfort.I suspect this orientation also helps the hexagons structurally under impacts. Think of how a straw is pretty stiff along length of the tube but not so much from the side. I’ve had little luck with D3o type material pads in the past when they are just a chunk of that material over a joint, but it seems like the way materials are blended here is making use of each kind of materials’ strengths to make the pad better overall.
On The Trail
The vertical layup of the foam hexagons that make up the majority of the knee cup do a very good job of providing ventilation at moderate trail speed. You’ll feel fresh little whispers of wind on your sweaty knees as you get up to speed. These knee guards are not going to stand up to full on world cup downhill ragdoll crashes but to be honest, that’s rarely the kind of riding any of us are up to. For the (often too) smooth bike park flow trails and your multi-use public trails out there, these guards will provide you with some impact protection and will do a good job of reducing or eliminating abrasions. A lot of my stupid little knee injuries come from my own bike, bashing into shifter paddles, stem bolts, top tubes, etc. and these guards are perfect for taking the edge off that kind of annoying stuff. The silicone strips on the thighs and calves do a good job of keeping the guard in place without having to velcro it on so tight that you’re hindering circulation to your leg. The inclusion of smaller pads around the main kneecap area to protect around the side of the knee is a very welcome treat.
Things That Could Be Improved
I have no beef with these pads and it’s a struggle to come up with something that needs to be improved upon. When climbing with the Trail Skins, they will heat up but not as bad as I've experienced with other knee guards. You could also ask for a bit stronger protection but that’s another product and another intended use. There is some floating feeling to the main knee cup when pedaling and that seems to be accentuated when running a lower saddle height for descents but it was never enough to chafe my knee. Reducing that float would be the only thing I would change about these guards, but not at the cost of protection.
Long Term Durability
Knock on wood but I have yet to take any huge crashes in these pads so I don’t know how well they will hold up in a heinous wreck. But in the minor wipes that I’ve had so far, washing out in turns and other spills like that, they have held up very well with no rips in the seams or the pad material. The velcro looks to be going strong so far and considering how easily those patches could be replaced by a tailoring shop for a few bucks, I don’t think any velcro issues would be the end of these pads in any case. The pads do get crusty with sweat on long rides so they have also been through the wash many times and have shown no real signs of wear from that either.
What's The Bottom Line?
Dainese has made exactly what I have been looking for in a set of lightweight knee guards that I can have in my pack, ready to go whenever a descent is going to get rough. The subtle branding is a nice touch. The pads are comfortable. And while they are not going to save your knees from total destruction, they are going to take the edge off a lot of the most common spills you take. Less scabs, less recovery time, less sticking to your sheets, more riding, great build quality, and all of this at a totally reasonable price makes these pads real winners.
Visit www.dainese.com for more details.
About The Reviewer
Kevin Shiramizu has been riding mountain bikes for over 15 years. During that time he accumulated multiple state championships in Colorado for XC and trials riding, a junior national champ title in trials, and went to Worlds to get his ass kicked by euros in 2003. His riding favors flat corners and sneaky lines. After a doozy of a head injury, he hung up the downhill bike for good in early 2010 and now foolishly rides a very capable trail bike with less protection and crashes just as hard as ever. He likes rough, technical trails at high elevation, but usually settles for dry, dusty, and blown out. He spent five good years of his youth working in bike shops and pitched in efforts over the years with Decline, LitterMag, Dirt, and Vital MTB. He also helped develop frames and tires during his time as a guy who occasionally gets paid to ride his bike in a fancy way in front of big crowds of people.