by Lee Trumpore
iXS has answered the call of the growing all-mountain, adventure, and enduro crowds with the new ultra-light Flow Knee Pad. Developed at the request of Hans Rey, the Flow Knee Pads take minimal protection to a whole new level weighing in at about 300 grams per pair, but still have enough padding for serious abuse.
Flow Knee Pad Highlights
- Designed in collaboration with Hans Rey
- Ideal for trail riding and enduro racing
- Super lightweight and super compact design (+/- 300g pair)
- "X-Matter" - high impact absorption, energy absorbing, open cell, slow rebound foam compound
- 360° all-around, breathable, moisture wicking, anti-bacterial"AeroMesh" material
- Tear resistant and stretchable Kevlar knee cover
- "KneeGusset" integrated horse shoe formed pad to prevent rolling and to spread impact force
- "LoopLock" fasteners for maximum security, adjustability, and quick decompression
- Silicone cuffs for a non-slip, no creep fit
- MSRP $70
It’s immediately obvious that the Flow Knee Pads were designed with the bare minimum in mind. Any material that was not deemed absolutely essential was removed, leaving a light, soft, and flexible pad that can be rolled up and stored almost anywhere. They're so compact, in fact, that we often travel with ours stuffed in our shoes. At first we thought they might be a bit too soft for serious impacts because the squishy padding material is highly pliable and flexible when compared to traditional rigid knee cups. However, banging the X-Matter foam on the ground elicited a loud, almost plastic sound as the material firms up considerably when struck hard. Wearing the pads and hitting them a few times with our pedal wrench, we never would have known otherwise that there wasn’t some sort of rigid material over our knees. Lightweight but packing a seemingly heavyweight punch, we felt a lot more confident taking these out on serious trails after a little experimentation.
On The Trail
There is no side or upper-leg padding on the Flow Knee Pads, and the material in these areas has been reduced to the lowest possible practical level. While they will never offer as much protection as iXS’s other pads, such as the Carve or Dagger, they are far lighter and more comfortable. So much so that they quickly became our go-to pads as the Spring and Summer temperatures pushed well into the 90’s. Even on primarily XC rides where we’d usually debate bringing pads or not, we almost always chose to wear the Flow Knee Pads.
The fit is fantastic and the light, breathable design never left us overheating or pushing them awkwardly down to my ankles like some of our bulkier pads. They stayed in place both while riding and occasionally crashing, with the latter never leaving us wishing for more pad coverage. That said, these are not DH pads, and there certainly comes a point where the available protection gets questionable. Ultimately that’s a decision for the end user. Bump up to a traditional knee cup for added security or use the Flow Knee Pads for an almost-not-there fit at the expense of all-out protection. For us, we’ve opted for the Flows almost exclusively as the padding that is there is in the most important spot and is impressively capable of taking care of severe impact - pointy, blunt, or otherwise. We're currently on an eight week trip in the Alps covering the World Cup and Enduro World Series while getting in as much riding as possible, and these are the only pads we packed.
Things That Could Be Improved
As much as we love the fit, feel, and ventilation of the Flow Knee Pads, we found it annoying that we still have to remove our shoes to take them on and off. For their intended purpose, the Flows are well on their way to 5-star material, but we think a pad aimed straight at the heart of the enduro/all-mountain movement really needs to be able to be taken on and off quickly while still wearing our shoes.
Long Term Durability
We’ve used these almost exclusively for three months and they really do look as good-as-knew. The seams are still tight and the LoopLock straps grip securely with no obvious signs of wear or fraying despite frequent washings. The knee cup portion of the Flow Knee Pads utilizes a slightly tougher Kevlar material that has done a good job preventing abrasions and tears despite our best efforts to destroy them while crawling around rocks on our knees taking photos between the inevitable crash or two. Despite their lightweight appearances, these pads are built to take some abuse.
What’s The Bottom Line?
If you're in the market for a minimalist knee pad with protective qualities on a similar level as traditional knee cups, but with far less bulk and weight, we’d suggest giving the iXS Flow Knee Pads a serious look. For the all-mountain warrior, aspiring Hans Rey style adventurer, hardcore enduro racer, or skinny jean dirt jumper, these pads are right on the money.
For more info, visit www.ixs-sportsdivision.com.
About The Reviewer
Lee Trumpore has been riding bikes for more than 20 years on just about every material and technology the bike industry has come up with. In more than a decade of professional DH racing, Lee won a Collegiate National Championship and was a mainstay at major North American races as well as occasionally snagging a last page result in the World Cup series. Testing prototype components and suspension setups was common during his racing days. He has a smooth, light style on the bike even while holding it wide open. An East Coast native, his favorite trails are fast and flowing technical descents with as many corners as possible and just enough moisture to keep things interesting. Nowadays, rather than racing the clock, he'd rather enjoy a rad descent after a hard pedal to the top. A closet nerd with a Master's degree in education policy Lee currently lives in Taipei, Taiwan where he splits his time teaching mathematics to the next generation of computer geniuses and behind the lens as a photo mercenary for VitalMTB and other industry clients.