7iDP Sam Hill Knee Pad

Average User Rating: (Excellent) Vital Rating: (Spectacular)
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The Champ’s New Pads: We Ride Sam Hill’s Signature 7iDP Knee Protectors

7iDP aims to come up with the perfect trail/enduro pad - and they nail it.

Rating: Vital Review
The Champ’s New Pads: We Ride Sam Hill’s Signature 7iDP Knee Protectors

After the helmet, a good pair of knee protectors is probably the most essential piece of protection for any serious mountain bike rider. Not only is falling on your knees painful, but even small injuries to this critical joint can leave you off the bike for a while, which is of course way worse than the actual getting hurt part. When it comes to racing enduro, the demands placed on this particular item of apparel increase exponentially: not only should it be able to deal with crashes on tracks worthy of a World Cup DH race, but it must also be comfortable enough to be worn for full days in the saddle involving long miles and often grueling climbs. 7iDP’s classic Transition knee sleeve was always comfortable, but according to a certain Mr. Sam Hill, it lacked a bit of protection - and so,

After the helmet, a good pair of knee protectors is probably the most essential piece of protection for any serious mountain bike rider. Not only is falling on your knees painful, but even small injuries to this critical joint can leave you off the bike for a while, which is of course way worse than the actual getting hurt part. When it comes to racing enduro, the demands placed on this particular item of apparel increase exponentially: not only should it be able to deal with crashes on tracks worthy of a World Cup DH race, but it must also be comfortable enough to be worn for full days in the saddle involving long miles and often grueling climbs. 7iDP’s classic Transition knee sleeve was always comfortable, but according to a certain Mr. Sam Hill, it lacked a bit of protection - and so, his new signature knee protector was born. It’s just about to hit the market, but we managed to sneak ahead of the queue for testing so here we are to tell you all about it. Read on, this one is worth checking out!

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Very comfortable
  • Compression fit increases stability
  • Does not move around when riding
  • CE-certified knee cap protection
  • Highly breathable
  • Easy to clean, quick to dry
  • Durable
  • So comfortable you’ll want to wear it all the time!

7iDP Sam Hill Knee Protector Highlights

  • Top and bottom internal silicone gripper print
  • External silicone logo print to grip on to lycra shorts silicone gripper print
  • Light compression fit main body tube
  • Durable Abrasion resistant knee cap fabric
  • Easily stowable minimal design
  • High ride tube main body for secure fit all day long
  • Breathable 4 way stretch spandex fabric
  • Exceeds CE1621 safety standards
  • Padding around the knee cap offers more protection for the femur, tibia and ligaments.
  • Upper shin coverage
  • Precurved fit to eliminate side of knee fabric bunching
  • Sizes S, M, L, XL
  • MSRP: $79.99 USD

Initial Impressions

Knee pads can be a bit of a love/hate thing. Love not cutting your knees to pieces in every stupid little crash, hate having to wear the things all day. In order to maximize the love and cut down on the hate, there are several categories of knee pads to choose from to make sure your protection matches how and what you ride. Traditionally, knee pads fall into one of two major categories: the full-on, heavier pads often seen in bike parks, and the lighter, more pedal-friendly options that people tend to wear for trail riding or longer, back country epics. Now, “trail riding” has come a long way in the last few years, which increasingly means that people are looking for protection that can do both - the enduro racing format is obviously also to blame here. And on that topic, Sam Hill told 7iDP he loved the comfort of their Transition pad, but could they add a bit more protection to the sides?

To answer to Sam’s request for slightly more protection, the new protector was also equipped with an extra set of foam pads that extend all around the main kneecap pad, which sets it apart from the regular Transition protector.

The Sam Hill is a “tube-style” knee sleeve featuring a viscoelastic kneecap pad (made by Sas-Tec, it can easily be removed for washing the protector). To answer to Sam’s request for slightly more protection, the new protector was also equipped with an extra set of foam pads that extend all around the main kneecap pad, which sets it apart from the regular Transition protector. Other than that, it also extends further up the thigh area than most other protectors on the market, and it is preformed to follow the movements of the knee as it bends, which 7iDP says helps ensure it doesn’t move around as you do.

The main material of the sleeve is elastic and soft to the touch. The rear of the sleeve is made of a mesh fabric that is equally soft to the touch, but which also offers a bit more ventilation. The kneecap area and side foam pads sit behind a much tougher, abrasion-resistant fabric. There are silicone grippers along the top and bottom hems, and a silicone logo print around the outside of the top hem, which 7iDP put there to interlock with your lycra short liner.

On The Trail

Pulling the Sam Hill on for the first time, we were struck by just how comfortable it is. Yes, we’ve used many other protectors that are similar in their general construction, but this new version just gets the shape right. It rides higher up the thigh than most other protectors, which can feel a little weird at first if you’re not used to it – it soon becomes second nature though, leaving you to just appreciate how secure the fit is.

The way it is able to wrap actual, meaningful protection around your whole knee area without feeling bulky in the process is quite impressive.

The second standout aspect of the Sam Hill is the extra foam padding added around the main kneecap pad. Not only does that add that extra bit of security, knowing that you can slam your knee sideways into your top tube for example, but it also gives the protector exemplary stability in use. The way it is able to wrap actual, meaningful protection around the whole knee area without feeling bulky in the process is quite impressive.

The main job of a knee protector is obviously to protect your knees. The principal kneecap pad of the Sam Hill is made from Sas-Tec, a viscoelastic material that is soft and malleable in its resting state, but which stiffens up under impact to absorb and redirect the impact energy. The Sam Hill is rated EN1621-1, the basic energy transmission standard that all knee protectors must conform to (although 7iDP claim that their pads actually test beyond this standard as well). We’ve yet to take a major digger with this knee protector, but some basic “tumbling tests” point to good results. On that topic, previous experience with Sas-Tec or other similar materials has proven them to be fully up to the task even for major stacks, and we've taken enough hits with the classic version of the Transition protector to know that it does the job (although we should obviously point out that when you select such a pedal-friendly, soft-cap knee protector there is of course a trade-off when compared to a bulkier, more heavy-duty items).

The materials used in the Sam Hill breathe well, and wick away sweat quite effectively. The Sas-Tec kneecap pad also features holes to allow a certain degree of airflow through the main padded area as well. We initially thought the compression fit might get a bit claustrophobic when the protector gets warm, but that has turned out not to be the case. All in all, the Sam Hill is definitely among the class leaders when it comes to comfort, both on and off the bike. An instant favorite!

We tested the Sam Hill in size L. For reference, here are relevant leg measurements of this tester: Thigh circumference (measured 15cms above the knee): 470mm, calf circumference (measured 10cms below the knee): 380mm.

Things That Could Be Improved

We literally have no suggestions or ideas for how to improve the Sam Hill Knee protector. Our only gripe now is that we find this protector so comfortable and confidence-inspiring that we want to wear it all the time, and we’re afraid we’ll find the level of protection lacking some day in some bike park somewhere – it’s just a “trail” pad, after all.

Long Term Durability

The Sam Hill is brand new, and we’ve only had about a month of trail time with these pads so far – not enough to offer any definitive observations regarding longevity. We will say that we have had good results with previous 7iDP protectors, notably the Flex Knee which features the same abrasion-resistant fabric on the front of the kneepad – our sample has seen many crashes over almost two years of use and is still going strong. Similarly, the general construction of the Sam Hill inspires confidence so far, with flatlock double stitching used throughout. The lighter materials used around the back of the protector are a bit more susceptible to potential tears and such, but that is the name of the game for such lightweight and breathable items.

What’s The Bottom Line?

If you spend all your time ragdolling through rockgardens at high speed, or sliding down landings on your knees after failing to stick your cork sevens, you should probably be looking for a heavy-duty, hard-shell knee protector of some kind. However, if you earn your turns and want a comfortable protector that will stay put for long hours in the saddle, and still be up for playing rough when the trail gets rowdy, it’s hard to do better than the 7iDP Sam Hill Knee. Ultra-comfortable, stable, and with protection that extends beyond the norm for this type of pad, we think of it quite simply as the new benchmark in the category.

More information at: www.7protection.com.


About The Reviewer

Johan Hjord - Age: 44 // Years Riding MTB: 12 // Weight: 200-pounds (90.7kg) // 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 Nils Hjord and Johan Hjord

Initial impressions

Rating:
The Good:

Pretty comfortable (can easily be pedalled in all day, IMO). Extra long for some shin protection. Breathable aka not /too/ hot. Stay in place quite well. Sizing seems pretty spot on.

The Bad:

Warmer than a knee warmer. Some bunching behind the knee. RIDICULOUSLY expensive for what they are (but hey I'm the sucker who bought 'em). Concerns about level of protection with EN level 1.

Overall Review:

I took the plunge on these (a very spendy, especially for me, 90 plunge) after trying a couple of contenders to start with;

I started with a pair of Alpinestars Paragon knees as they were the cheapest. I really liked them as they were really breathable, as well as being pretty damn comfy. So much so that it almost felt like riding padless. The problem was that the silicone grippers started to fall off after a week of use. Sent them back and got a full refund. In their defense this could have easily been a one off, so don't discount these. On the other hand I've heard they don't protect as well as some others, anyway on to the next...

Next up ION K-Lite: These were ok, except for being really warm for a "light" pad. I found myself sweating more than normal (and that is a lot) which was a no

Overall Review:

I took the plunge on these (a very spendy, especially for me, 90€ plunge) after trying a couple of contenders to start with;

I started with a pair of Alpinestars Paragon knees as they were the cheapest. I really liked them as they were really breathable, as well as being pretty damn comfy. So much so that it almost felt like riding padless. The problem was that the silicone grippers started to fall off after a week of use. Sent them back and got a full refund. In their defense this could have easily been a one off, so don't discount these. On the other hand I've heard they don't protect as well as some others, anyway on to the next...

Next up ION K-Lite: These were ok, except for being really warm for a "light" pad. I found myself sweating more than normal (and that is a lot) which was a no go for me. I guess I could have lived with that but aside from the heat they were too big for me... away they went.

So here I am with a very expensive set of "pedalable" pads with Sam Hill's name on them. Yeah, they are comfortable. They do breath pretty well too. In fact I would say that out of what I've tried so far these are probably the best of most worlds. They're breathable like the Alpinestars but have more side protection. They're hotter than the aforementioned but much cooler than the ION's. All in all I'd say these are a good compromise pad for riders looking for a little more than just a knee cap. Oh, and the recommended large fit me pretty well too (lower silicone bands are somewhat loose but ok).

The downsides are definitely:

1. Price. 90€ for what is essentially a set of knee-warmers with a certified cap and some extra foam is pretty brutal. I get that new products cost money to produce, especially for smaller companies, but 90€ is a pretty damn big number. These better last a really long time.

2. The question of protection... for sure there's the EN1621-1 (or "beyond?" as stated on the 7idp website) standard that these adhere to, but that's just the cap on the knee. Granted it covers the seemingly most vulnerable area. My impression was that with how high up the pad goes on the leg (mid thigh!), chances of slipping are pretty slim, which was comforting. That being said having really torched my knee a couple years back landing with all my weight on a pointy rock, as well as having had an injury to the top of the knee (weird goo-sack up there, can't recommend), the results of which could have cost me my leg, I have to question the stability and protective abilities of this ("light duty") pad. I guess I'll find out the first time I eat sh*t.

Just as an aside, the EN1621-1 certification allows a residual force of 3.5 tonnes (presumably over any amount of surface area? I couldn't find more info so please let me know what's up). That's still quite a bit.

So these are just my initial impressions as I've noticed there aren't a lot of user reviews out there. The only annoying issue I had on my initial 3 hour really pedally ride was a bit of bunching behind the knee's which caused a bit of pinching. I felt like once the pad settled and stretched a bit that this problem diminished to a degree.

I give them 4 out of 5. This is my initial review, so there's room to move up or down. I was on the verge of 3.5, but so far my biggest complaint is the price, so minus one star.

I'd be putting on something burlier for the rare occasion where I participate in park riding or shuttles, but overall I can recommend these pads as a fairly pedal friendly alternative that'll hopefully be able to stand up to bigger offs.

Specifications

Product 7iDP Sam Hill Knee Pad
Riding Type Cross Country, Dirt Jump / Slopestyle, Downhill, Freeride / Bike Park, Trail
Pad Type Soft Shell
Material
Knee/Shin Coverage Knee Only
Size S, M, L, and XL
Color Black
Miscellaneous Designed with valuable feedback from the legend himself, the new Sam Hill signature knee pad builds off of our popular Transition knee pad to be the ultimate lightweight knee pad for trail riding to Enduro racing. Light enough to be worn all day long. The Sam Hill knee pads mold with body heat to provide maximum comfort with a breathable mesh back panel to wick moisture away from the skin.
Price $79.99
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