Alpinestars Alps 2 Knee Pad

Vital Rating: (OK)
Views:
Alpinestars Alps 2 Knee Pad
Create New Tag

Compare to other Knee/Shin Pads

Need more info? View our MTB Knee/Shin Pads buyer's guides.

Tested: Alpinestars Alps 2 Knee Pad

Rating: Vital Review

Review by AJ Barlas // Product Photos by AJ Barlas, Riding Photos by Lear Miller

Knee pads in the bike industry have come some way since the early Dainese or Qrank knee/shin, robo-legs of the early days. Softer materials and the use of 'tech foams' are the most obvious changes and have resulted in what often resembles more of a big neoprene knee warmer than leg armour. Despite their soft appearance, there are a number that still meet the stringent CE standards put forth in Europe and the Alpinestars Alps 2 is one of them.

Aimed at the more aggressive rider, the Alps 2 was designed to be a "flexible and lightweight knee guard", which we interpret to mean "aimed at the rider looking for solid protection in a more pedal friendly, comfortable package." Does the Alps 2 live up to its ambitions

Review by AJ Barlas // Product Photos by AJ Barlas, Riding Photos by Lear Miller

Knee pads in the bike industry have come some way since the early Dainese or Qrank knee/shin, robo-legs of the early days. Softer materials and the use of 'tech foams' are the most obvious changes and have resulted in what often resembles more of a big neoprene knee warmer than leg armour. Despite their soft appearance, there are a number that still meet the stringent CE standards put forth in Europe and the Alpinestars Alps 2 is one of them.

Aimed at the more aggressive rider, the Alps 2 was designed to be a "flexible and lightweight knee guard", which we interpret to mean "aimed at the rider looking for solid protection in a more pedal friendly, comfortable package." Does the Alps 2 live up to its ambitions in the real world? We've been ripping about the trails in a pair since December in order to find out!

Alpinestars Alps 2 Knee Pad Highlights

  • Breathable laminated rip-stop, PE foam and poly mesh
  • Integrated soft shell, PE patella piece
  • Abrasion resistant and durable external fabric
  • Snug design offers compression fit and soft tissue support
  • Velcro elastic straps top and bottom
  • Silicone ribs on the inner of the openings to prevent displacement while riding
  • CE Certified
  • Size: S/M and M/L
  • MSRP: $64.95 USD

Initial Impressions

The Alps 2 showed up in the usual mesh bag that armour tends to arrive in these days. Upon initial inspection we were pleased to find the pads offer protection on the sides of the knee, in addition to the main pad that covers the patella and extends partway down the shin. We think the length of the Alps 2 is bang on, not all the way down the shin, but far enough to offer ample coverage. All the protective pieces are soft PE foams, rather than the firm shell variety.

The pads are designed with a pre-curve to them, in an effort to help with ergonomics while on the bike. They feature the commonly seen opening in the back of the knee as well as a mesh sock that encloses the leg in the pad completely - these are of the slip on slip off variety, and require removal of ones footwear to put on and take off. The velcro straps, one above the knee and the other below (resting atop the calf), are there to do most of the work when it comes to holding the pads in place.

Putting them on for the first time, we were taken aback by the silicone ribs that are there to help hold the pad in place, as they ripped at the hair and skin on our legs. For obvious reasons this had us a little wary of how they would feel when riding, but we gave them the benefit of the doubt, setting out to see how they performed in the real world.

On The Trail

New pads often feel a little alien hanging onto your knees in their previously packaged shape, unable to decide how best to conform to the new owner's leg. With this in mind we ignored the initial, odd feeling of the pad and the nagging bites from the silicon ribs, opting to stay focused on the trail ahead. However, after a couple of hours in the pads we could no longer ignore the discomfort. Attempting to adjust the pad only irritated the skin more and had we been wearing a pack, they most certainly would have been removed completely and placed in solitary confinement for the remainder of that first ride.

Completely open minded to the whole 'break-in' process that appears to be common with a number of available pads, we tried again, only this time with a lightweight knee-warmer between the pads and our skin, in an effort to curb the discomfort caused by the silicone until they broke in. This worked in our favor to some degree, but before the ride was over we were again experiencing some discomfort, this time in the back of the knee. As a result we were forced to forego the knee warmer, and went through the break-in process in the normal sense. After months of riding in the Alps 2, the silicon ribbing has mostly stopped bugging us, but the chaffing in behind the knee remains - it's not as drastic as when the pads were new, but if out riding for any longer than an hour or so, it will begin to irritate the skin.

This, for obvious reasons, is one of the motives behind riders placing pads around their ankles when climbing, and while this keeps the knees cool and unirritated, many would no doubt prefer to have a pad that can be put on and left alone until the ride is over. Where the Alps 2 are concerned, the silicon ribbing is enough to pretty much exclude the idea of moving them up and down, at least during the initial break-in period. They're not the lightest of pads thanks to the use of PE foams throughout, which also makes for a somewhat stuffy environment inside. The mesh backing helps to some degree, but our knees still sweat a good amount when riding in them, even during the winter testing period, so being able to comfortably wear them around the ankles would have been helpful.

So where do the Alps 2 pads fit in then? Given the poor comfort when pedalling in them, which we did on rides that were anywhere from 1–6 hours during testing, perhaps they are more well suited to shuttling and park laps? While standing and descending is definitely when they were noticed the least, we're not sure we would recommend them for park use. Yes, they pass CE (level 1, the lower tier), which is more than a number of pads currently on the market, but personally, we're wary of using soft foam pads for aggressive DH riding. Add to that the shifts in pad placement we experienced during small scuffles while testing, and we're sure they would struggle to stay in place in a larger spill.

Things That Could Be Improved

We quite enjoyed the full wrap of the pad as well as the compression fit of the mesh around the back of the leg and over the top of the calf. The pads stayed in place well when descending average length descents (a couple minutes max) and the strap at the top of the calf is a clever piece that contributes to this aspect. Unfortunately, due to the lack of flexibility required to accommodate the anatomical movements of the knee when pedalling, the pad would slowly work its way down the leg - never completely off, but to the point of requiring adjustments a number of times per ride. This could have been improved with a more well thought out construction around the sides of the knee, and more suitable materials to improve this aspect of the pad's functionality.

Better flexibility would no doubt improve the comfort of the opening behind the knee as well, as the seams here contribute to the chaffing in this area. With the current design, the bunching up of the Alps 2 would wear on the skin more as the ride progressed.

Long Term Durability

If one were able to put up with the ergonomical nuances of the Alps 2 pad, and didn't crash often, they could last a while. Given that after a couple of admittedly small spills there is already a pulled thread or two on the front of the test pad, it's safe to say that they would likely tear up quickly with a lot of use. Unlike some pads of the past, the velcro straps didn't get caught up on the pad too often, though considerable care is required to make sure they are strapped up when packed, in order to really prevent this from becoming an issue. General construction of the pads appears to be pretty good, with the majority of the seams remaining intact to date.

What's The Bottom Line?

We really wanted to like the Alpinestars Alps 2 pads. Their shape is solid, the coverage good and for a soft pad design, they feature materials with decent shock absorption capabilities. Unfortunately the lack of comfort experienced in use means that unless explicitly seeking a lighter weight downhill knee pad, riders may want to look elsewhere. Couple that with a fabric on the front of the pad that is prone to catching on objects and tearing in the event of a crash, and it's hard to recommend the pad for any serious, prolonged use on the trail.

These pads were designed for all mountain riding, but we'd caveat that by saying that in order to enjoy them, you 'll need to be ready to remove them for the longer climbs. Of course, doing so also requires removal of your footwear each time, so make sure time is on your side if you choose to go this way.

For more visit www.alpinestarscycling.com.


About The Reviewer

AJ Barlas started riding as most do, bashing about dirt mounds and popping off street curbs. Not much has changed, really. These days the dirt mounds have become mountains and the street curbs, while still getting sessioned, are more often features on the trail. He began as a shop monkey racing downhill since day zero, only to go 'backwards' and start riding and racing BMX later on. He then came full circle once moving to Whistler. AJ loves riding everything from 8 hour mountain pass epics (bonking) to lap after lap in the park and 20 minute pumptrack sessions at sunset. Driven by his passion for biking and exposing people to the great equipment we ride, AJ started and maintains the Straightshot MTB blog. So long as wheels are involved, and preferably dirt (the drier and dustier the better), life is good.

Specifications

Product Alpinestars Alps 2 Knee Pad
Riding Type Trail, Freeride / Bike Park, Downhill
Pad Type Soft Shell
Material • Highly flexible and lightweight knee guard constructed from breathable laminated rip-stop, PE foam and poly-mesh.
• Integrated soft shell, PE patella piece is covered with durable fabric made from aramidic fiber for abrasion and impact protection.
• Liner offers progressive protection while providing a soft contact against the skin.
• Velcro top and bottom elastic straps to help keep the protection in place.
• Silicone printing on the inner liner also prevents the guard being displaced while riding.
• Stretch mesh panel for better stability of the guard while riding.
• Snug design offers a firm compression fit and soft tissue support for all styles of riding.
• Alps 2 Knee Guard is CE Certified.
Knee/Shin Coverage Knee Only
Size S/M, L/XL
Color Black/white/red
Miscellaneous The Alps 2 Knee Pad provides impact and abrasion protection via a snug design, laminated rip-stop and PE foam. The integrated soft shell is covered with durable fabric made from aramidic fiber for maximum abrasion and impact protection. With added silicone printing on the inner liner to keep the guards from slipping, the Velcro top and bottom elastic straps also properly secure the Alps 2 Knee Guards.
Price $69.95
More Info

www.alpinestars.com

More Products