Review by Fred Robinson // Photos by Ian Collins
While the current trend among downhillers is minimal padding and trail riders are asking for more protection, knee guards/pads have staked their claim in both disciplines and are pretty much a staple now. Aside from helmets and gloves, knee guards are very likely the next most used piece of protection. The amount of protection can vary from knee guard to knee guard, which can make it hard to find a pad suitable for your specific application. As avid trail riders and downhillers, we're always on the hunt for that perfect pair of pads. Positioning themselves somewhere in the all-mountain/Enduro/DH spectrum, One Industries recently introduced the Enemy Knee Guards. At just $45 they looked very appealing, so we took to the dirt to find out how well they work on the trail and who they're best suited to.
Enemy Knee Pad Highlights
- Impact protection thru removable polypropelene knee insert cap and integrate EVA foam
- Uncompromised fit with pre-curved chassis
- Abrasion resistance and durability with Ballistic Nylon chassis contruction
- Stays secure with adjustable elastic straps and velcro closure
- Pre-curved perforated Neoprene
- CE EN 1621-1
- Rubber 50%, EVA 20%, PP 9%, Nylon 12%, Polyester 9%
- Sizes S, M, L, XL
- MSRP $45
A quick inspection of the One Industries Enemy Knee Guards tells you that these are for the rider seeking minimalist protection. Coverage includes your kneecap with some extension above and below it - typical of a variety of similarly minimal pads.
The padding is made up of two distinct layers - a soft foam material that composes the base-layer of the pad that runs from top to bottom, and a thin but hard outer shell made of polypropylene (plastic) that centers over your kneecap for added impact protection. To give you an idea of how big the actual padded portion of the Enemy Knee Guard is, we measured it. From the center of the knee the pad extends 4.5-inches upwards, 7-inches down, and is a total of 7-inches wide (measured at the center). The pad itself is about a half-inch thick as well. All this is wrapped in an abrasion resistant Ballistic Nylon which is sewn to the elastic straps that secure the pad to you.
One Industries recommends the following sizing:
Measuring 20-inches at the thigh and 17-inches at the calf, we opted for the size Large guards.The fit was on the snug side, so consider sizing up if you're in the upper range of the recommended sizing.
On The Trail
Fortunately for you, we actually tested the level of protection offered by these pads a few times. Unfortunately for us, that level of protection wasn't quite as high as we would have liked. The One Enemy Knee Guards offer no protection on the sides of the knee, and even the padding over the knee proved to be less than ample in a few situations. They did still offer some level of protection with direct hits, stayed in place during most crashes, and did save some skin more than once, however.
We tested the Enemy Knee Guards while downhilling, trail riding, dirt jumping and on the pump track. This gave us a pretty good feel for overall fit, breathablilty and comfort. Despite being a bit snug and stiff, the fit was fine for pretty much all situations, including some rather hot and long trail rides. Unfortunately the pads don't breath super well, which proved to be a little hot for extended pedals and hike-a-bikes. Descending is definitely where they felt best since you hardly notice them on you.
Things That Could Be Improved
One Industries is headed in the right direction with the Enemy Knee Guards, but a few things need to be improved to make them a hit. If done right, adding side protection to the equation would hardly bulk things up or stiffen the pad further. As is, the guards seemed to give us false confidence. There are other guards on the market that utilize side padding and have proven to be just as comfortable and pedal-able. Perhaps a different foam material or thicker layer of polypropylene would also increase their effectiveness.
Additionally, we're a little confused why One Industries chose to use two different types of straps - a solid one-piece lower strap and velcro upper strap. Why they didn't choose to do velcro for both straps is a mystery, and it's a bit of a disappointment to have to remove your shoes to put these pads on. This often comes into play on trail rides when you pedal up then pad-up at the top before the descent.
What's The Bottom Line?
Knee pads and protection in general is difficult to review. Users want everything out of a pair of guards - lightweight, breathable, flexible, comfortable, and at the same time protective, tough, and secure. Unfortunately no pad out there can satisfy every one of these requirements perfectly, at least that we've found. Each pair has its strong points and weak points, determining which genre they're best suited to. The Enemy Knee Guards fall somewhere in-between the aggressive riding styles, but has yet to really settle in anywhere super well. It's a bit stiff and hot for trail, and a bit under-powered for true downhill protection. They might be a good choice for the racer type who likes minimal padding. Despite being a bit underwhelming protection-wise, they did soften the blow from direct impacts.
For more details, visit www.oneindustries.com.
About The Reviewer
Fred Robinson, a.k.a. "Derf," has been on two wheels since he was two years old. He picked up a mountain bike in 2004 and started racing downhill in 2006. He has seen moderate success racing CAT 1 but focuses his efforts on building, maintaining and riding his local trails. He's deceptively quick for a bigger guy and likes steep, fast trails where he can hang it off the back of the bike. As a SoCal native he mostly rides trails covered with loose, traction-less turns and sharp, immovable rocks. Besides downhill, he rides trail bikes, road, and also enjoys the occasional dirt jump session. Currently, he is a student at UCSD and a wrench at a local bike shop.