The Six Six One Evo pads are probably the most well known pads on the market. With World Cup racing and Red Bull Rampage appearances; it’s hard not to notice what many of these riders are wearing. It’s pretty simple. They’re streamlined, look good on about any rider and pretty high-tech.
The thing with pads or body armor is they need to fit and stay put or else they won’t do their job — which is to keep you riding instead of being layed up on the couch watching Oprah. I’ve been wearing them now for about 3-6 weeks and have worn them out on my usual rides which include trail and freeriding. When considering protective gear there are 4 things I look for:
1. Sizing and fit
2. Comfort / Materials
3. Function & Performance
SIZING & FIT
This is really an important thing that all the other criteria is dependent upon. Duh right? You would think? The thing is, if you get this right, all the other criteria stuff should fall in line for you.
I found the EVOs to run larger than expected. I typically wear a medium for most of my gear but these nearly fell off me when I tried them on. In the Small, at first they felt snug and firm but not uncomfortable – there’s a reason for that, they break in after your first ride and will fit just right. So its better that they start off snug. Since the neoprene and Velcro straps will stretch and break in.
Suggestion: Buy one size smaller
COMFORT / MATERIALS
With a good fit, you should improve your chances of having comfort. But comfort can be measured on a couple basic levels. How’s it feel wearing them and are the materials used in construction play a role in that?
Both the elbow and knee pads use neoprene wetsuit material, elastic mesh, what feels like a soft internal liner along with the famous D30 foam that serves as the space-age shock absorbing material. When you marry these things together, the feel is plush (think nice golf bag) and it allows the pads to be ultra flexible. The protection comes from the D30 Foam, under impact it hardens up and provides an almost impenetrable shield. The easiest way to think of it is like water; it’s pliable and penetrable when diving into it. But from a higher height and moving at a high rate of speed, hitting water is comparable to hitting concrete. It’s that tough! You can cover your hand with it, then have one of your buddies take a rubber mallet and smack it hard, your hand will be protected (I didn’t try it myself, but saw a demonstration of it at a bike event LOL). To cap it all off, vented kevlar is used on the front panel to protect from abrasion (so it doesn’t snag on shrubs).
While I’m impressed with the design and form factor, the grey elastic mesh on the rear doesn’t hold up as well as I’d like. When putting them on or taking them off, the velcro straps tend to grab onto the elastic meshing and eventually will turn it from a smooth surface to one that looks a little fuzzy. The other thing that happens is the material will appear to be stretched and distressed with use. After my 3rd ride I began to notice it.
Sidebar: These pads are like a high-end wetsuit. They offer all the creature comforts you’d want but start to show wear and tear at the end of winter. Like a set of tires, they wear out. If I can get through 6 months with them, I think I’ll be happy.
FUNCTION & PERFORMANCE
The elbow and knee pads both use a double elastic velcro strap, one on top and one on the bottom. There’s a belt loop design for the straps to keep them from flailing around; which makes it easy to get them on and off.
The elbows are easy enough to figure out. They are labeled with a L and R so you know which side to put them on. They slide on and you’ll feel it when they are in place and it’s a matter of synching down the strap to where you like them (same with the knees).
The knees oddly enough aren’t labeled with a L and R. But they do have a left and a right knee specific pad. You just want to make sure that the end of the straps come up from the inside of your legs and wrap around to the outside. One minor inconvenience is that you can’t slip them on while wearing your shoes but it’s a small tradeoff considering that they provide good all the way around protection and additional support for your knees.
So, how do these things work? I was very pleased with how easy it is to move with them on. No binding sensation from the straps. The notched opening where your elbows and knees bend doesn’t have any material bunching, so movement is not impeded. Once you throw your leg over the bike and go, you literally forget they are on. Pedaling with them is a breeze and they stay in place. After a while, you might need to adjust them a little – no pad will stay in the same position throughout the day. Although there’s ample amount of venting holes, you do sweat in these but that is to be expected with any pads you wear.
The Elbows on the other hand, I have mixed feelings about. They do slide down your arms more so than the knees – and this is really more about your body shape. With the knee, the lower straps wrest firmly in place just above your calf muscle and so the bulge in your calves will help keep the pads up. But on your arms, unless you’re blessed with Popeye forearms, you don’t have that dramatic bulge in the forearm muscle to keep the straps from moving down. Obviously, depending on your arm shape, you might have better luck than I did. That all said though, I can live with it because they fit snugly and I like the support.
How do they protect during a crash? I was unlucky enough to have a couple opportunities to experience them for myself. My first crash, I went over the bars and landed forearm first, doing a full forward roll and landing on my stomach. I ended up with a bruised AC joint (shoulder). I didn’t slide much, it was more of an impact crash. My knees were perfectly fine. Elbows, not a scratch. The pads stayed in place and did their job.
On my second crash, I hucked a decent hip and went up about 7 -8 ft in the air, over-cranked a whip and was coming down fast on a fade away landing. The landing couldn’t accommodate that altitude and I wasn’t able to fully straighten out the bike. When I landed, I fully compressed and slammed (felt like hitting a wall). As a result, I bounced off the bike to the bottom of the landing. I landed on my back and left side, the momentum rolled me forward and then I came to a stop. Luckily I had my trusty helmet on to save me from a big headache. As I stood up to do a injury check, the pads were still in place, albeit dirty, but not a scratch on me. I got lucky, it could have been a bad fall.
Do I trust them? After two good falls (I’m still recuperating from the soreness of the second one), I think my confidence is more shaken than my fear that the pads will not work. Performance wise, they work as advertised and they’re one of the most comfortable pads I’ve worn (compared to Troy Lee, Fox, Roach and Dainese). Sometimes, I worry about getting a pedal to the shin and would prefer to wear a knee/shin guard but “knock on wood” I haven’t slipped a pedal since I’ve converted to the Five Ten shoes a little more than a year ago.
This could be debated whether it’s something you’d even follow through on because pretty much it’s guaranteed that you’re going to abuse the product. That said, 661 has an awesome warranty reputation and is tops in the industry. They have an incredible crash replacement program for their helmets. Depending on the nature of the product failure, you pretty much can get anything replaced. Find them on the web at sixsixone.com or call toll free 888.520.4888.
GOOD: Quality construction and comfort. Flexible, no biding and pedals great. Offers additional support to elbows and knees. Overall form factor and design looks great.
BAD: The elbows need more fudging and if you have wimpy arms, you may need to do more of it. They could be warm for summer time riding as they are made from wetsuit material. As like a good wetsuit, if you use them a lot, they won’t last more than a season.
Reviewed by Qwan Pham