Vital Tests the All-New Range of Protection from 100% 2

With innovative features and cutting edge design, 100%'s entry into the mountain bike protection market has a lot going for it.

Vital Tests the All-New Range of Protection from 100%

From humble beginnings making simple accessories for MX, 100% has grown into a global vision player with its goggles found on the heads of many a successful racer, but it has more recently also become a well-established apparel and helmet supplier in the mountain bike world. For 2019, the brand continues to grow with the introduction of a line of knee and elbow protectors designed specifically for mountain biking. Intrigued by what looked like some innovative designs, we’ve put a couple of the first offerings to the test. Read on to find out what gives.

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Lightweight, hi-tech materials
  • Breathable and comfortable
  • Great cut for pedaling/on-the-bike position
  • Convenient on-off design (Fortis)
  • Innovative “elastic flex joint” design (Fortis)
  • Good level of protection
  • Competitive pricing
  • Only two sizes and limited adjustment range means Fortis won’t fit every rider
  • Teratec lacks some lateral protection

100% Fortis Knee Highlights

100% Teratec Knee Highlights

  • Perforated neoprene chassis for breathability
  • Strategically placed perimeter embossed foam padding with ventilation
  • Dense forward facing chassis for shield protection
  • Internal elastic flex joint maintains chassis compression during pedaling
  • Tacky silicone elastic webbing to prevent slippage
  • Hook and loop thigh and calf closures with security cinch
  • Pre-curved chassis for attack position
  • Fortified injection molded plastic shields
  • CE EN 1621-1:2012 Level 1
  • MSRP: $89 USD
  • Sleek slip on sleeves
  • Pre-curved chassis for attack position
  • Moderately padded with nylon anti-abrasion outer skin
  • Tacky silicone elastic webbing to prevent slippage
  • Fully ventilated rear mesh for maximum cooling
  • Impacted Tested with Level 1 Protection
  • CE EN 1621-1:2012 Level 1
  • MSRP: $69 USD

Initial Impressions

Some brands take a catalog approach to getting into a new market, i.e. they buy an existing product from an OE supplier and slap their logo on it. That is clearly not how 100% does things, as is evidenced by the distinctly different and novel impression the Fortis protector makes when unboxed. The materials used appear highly technical, and there are several features that set this protector apart from others in the market.

The main chassis is constructed from perforated neoprene, but it differs from a lot of similarly constructed pads out there in that it has a fabric-like surface. This protector employs an open back design, with two wide straps responsible for cinching it down on your leg. The straps are equipped with Velcro closures of the latest generation, the kind that where the “hook” side will only grab onto the designed “loop” side and not most other types of fabrics. The lower portion of the protector features an additional strap around the calf area to help tighten things up and hold the protector in place.

The main kneecap and the top section are connected by what 100% calls an “elastic flex joint”, which allows for a degree of freedom of movement between these two parts of the protector. It’s like an articulated joint constructed from neoprene and spandex. The front part of the protector features an internal soft pad and a stitched-on, external hard plastic cap. There are generous auxiliary pads found on the outboard side of the protector, while the inboard side is covered only by the neoprene shell. The general level of workmanship on display here appears very high.

The Teratec is a simpler, slip-on sleeve with just the one protective element. It is constructed from nylon with a more abrasive-resistant fabric around the front, which houses a soft and flexible pad that hardens under impact to dissipate impact energy. There are silicone grip strips inside both the top and the bottom hems, and the protective pad can be removed for ease of washing. Much like the Fortis, the Teratec protector is certified CE 1621-1, level 1.

On The Trail

The Fortis protector is easy to get in and out of, thanks to the open back design you don’t have to remove your shoes before putting it on or taking it off. The internal surface of the protector is super comfortable on the skin, and the whole design breathes surprisingly well for such a sturdy item. The articulated “flex joint” is a really good idea, it allows for a very high degree of movement despite the hard shell nature of the main kneepad. The ample auxiliary pads along the outboard side of the knee are reassuring and provide an extra feeling of security – one that we wish 100% would have replicated on the inboard side as well. As it stands, only a thin layer of neoprene sits between you and a potential top tube smack.

In terms of the overall architecture of the protector, the Fortis puts in a convincing performance in all but one aspect: sizing. Because it’s inherently adjustable, 100% decided to only make the Fortis in two sizes. However, the range of adjustment on offer is not actually all that wide, due to the design of the straps. This is particularly obvious when it comes to the small, extra strap above the calf area. The Velcro offers very little actual overlap here, which means that you can’t really use this strap to take up any slack in sizing. For this tester, who runs a size L in 90% of the kneepads out there, the size L/XL offered by 100% was far too big in the lower part to offer a perfect fit. Now, despite not being able to cinch down the straps as needed, the protector stayed surprisingly stable in use, which speaks volume for the merits of the design in itself. If it fits you, it might be the best hard shell pad you ever tried. If it doesn’t, chances are you’ll have to pass, since there is not enough adjustability on offer to tweak it to your particular measurements. This aspect makes comparing the Fortis to other leading protectors a tricky proposition – the design has what it takes to challenge for the top spots, but the sizing means it’s not for everyone (note: we’ve not yet been able to test the level-2 certified Surpass, which borrows some aspects of the Fortis design but is offered in four sizes instead of just two).

The Teratec is offered in four sizes, and the size L provided a perfect fit for this tester. The sleeve is super comfortable in use, and the overall stability of this protector is excellent. It’s got a generous cut with enough sleeve up top to ensure it always stays in place and never leaves you at risk of exposing the dreaded knee pad gap.

As you would expect from such a lightweight design, the breathability of the Teratec is excellent, and the protector remains comfortable even if you spend the whole day wearing it. The protective pad works as advertised, soft and flexible enough to follow your every movement, but sturdy enough to do its job when you crash on it. Both the comfort and the pricing are on par with the better options on the market today, but to really challenge for the top spots we think the main protective pad could be made a little bigger, or a couple of auxiliary pads could be placed around the sides of the knee to up the level of protection a little bit.

Things That Could Be Improved

As we mentioned in the previous section, sizing is an issue with the Fortis. To make sure it will fit a wider range of rider proportions, 100% needs to either make the Fortis in more sizes or improve the effective range of the adjustments. As for the Teratec, it ticks all the boxes but could do with a little bit more padding around the sides of the knee.

Long Term Durability

This is just a First Ride type of review, so we don’t have enough miles on the trails behind us to provide a definitive opinion on the longevity aspects of the new 100% protection range. Judging by the materials used and the quality of the workmanship on display, we would be surprised to see them not go the distance. We’ll keep testing and report back should we discover anything untoward further down the line.

What’s The Bottom Line?

There is no lack of excellent mountain bike protection options today, but much to 100%’s credit, they have not tried to play the copycat for their entry into the market. They’ve taken a long hard look at what’s possible, and as a result the Fortis benefits from a novel design that really works well on the trail. Because it’s only available in two sizes, it will not fit every rider out there, but if it happens to fit you, you would do well to put it on your short list. As for the Teratec, if you’re looking for something light, minimalist, and very pedal friendly, it fits the bill perfectly. All in all, we think 100% is on the right track in the protection market, and we look forward to testing more of their products down the line.

More information at: www.ride100percent.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord - Age: 46 // Years Riding MTB: 14 // Weight: 190-pounds (87-kg) // Height: 6'0" (1.84m)

Johan 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.

Photos by Johan Hjord

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