Swedish protection for pedaling

POC VPD2.0 Elbow and Knee Pads Review

At first glance POC products are going to throw your expectations off from what you would typically see from companies that make protective gear. An obvious reaction would be WTF is POC? You can make up your own definition depending on what you think of them… after you’ve had a chance to give them a go of course. But if you must know, here’s what they have on their website.

“POC is a Swedish company, built on a strong mission; to do everything we can to possibly save lives and to reduce consequences of accidents, for gravity sports athletes, by developing and renewing what personal protection is all about… “

This makes me think of another swedish company that built their reputation around safety — Volvo!

Needless to say, it doesn’t take much to convince me to forgo my bias for what bike gear should look like to give these pads a try and it’s a good thing I did!

Product Tested: POC Joint VPD2.0 Elbow and Knee Pads
Weight: Elbows 280g, Knees 460g (size Medium)
Recommended Use: AM / FR
Retail Price: Elbows $109.95, Knees $119.95

– 3D molded VPD 2.0 protection perforated for air flow
– Resistant aramid reinforced stretch fabric sleeve
– The construction and shape are designed to secure position
– Optional elastic strap rests on calf muscle to give extra firm and secure fit

There’s 3 important criteria you should have when buying pads 1. Fit   2. Comfort    3. Protection.

Let’s talk about Fit first: This is critical to how effective the pads will satisfy criteria #2 and #3. “Too tight” – it’s going to make your riding uncomfortable (not to mention possibly cutting off circulation) and “Too loose” –  they just slide down your limbs and be useless. So if there’s one thing to get right, get the FIT right and you’ll get comfort and protection covered. POC’s  sizing caters to the euro audience, which means that you’ll want to buy one size up if you’re ordering online, but it’s best to buy pads from your LBS to rule out any doubt. For reference, I am 5’5″ tall and 165 geared up and the mediums fit me snuggly — that’s another dimension of fit to consider is how snug the fit is; since most fabric will stretch to some extent and form to your body shape over time, you’d want to make sure to factor that in.

Comfort: The POC pads go on smoothly and feel plush and silky against your skin. I can’t say that for all the pads I’ve owned, these feel like the extra cost was worth it (when I first pulled them on). It’s funny but I would describe it like wearing a nice watch, you can feel the quality. Both the elbows and knees are designed with a contoured shape with anatomically positioned straps to keep the pads in place with little movement. The other great quality of the pads is their lack of restriction while pedaling. In late summer 2012, I took a trip to the Moab area and did three 12-15 mile rides where there wasn’t a moment where I thought they were uncomfortable to ride with. They required a little adjustment over the course of a long ride, but not to an extent where it was noticeable and fussy. They breathe better than neoprene pads and were much appreciated when temps started to climb.

Radial Head Replaced

My surgically repaired elbow

Protection: In the 9 months I’ve owned the pads, I’ve been very conscientious and protective of my surgically repaired elbow; so having the best protection I can find is critical in maintaining my health and longevity. The POC pads have given me the confidence to get back in the saddle after a long rehab period and I continue to ride with them assured that I’ve done all I can to prolong my love for riding mountain bikes. I have had slide outs and run ins with cactus where they have literally saved my hide (and obviously that’s their job) and I’m thankful for having them when they were needed. I admit that I no longer push the limits anymore on big DH bikes so I can’t comment on their efficacy for the gnar but for aggressive trail riding, these have been superb.

Where most companies would turn to neoprene (wetsuit) materials, POC uses a combination of Kevlar reinforced stretch fabric and a stretchy lycra inner sleeve to provide a form fitting low-profile silhouette for both the elbow and knee pads. They easily fit under your jersey, jacket and short. The elbows inner sleeve is designed to create an upward motion that works against gravity and vibration and helps to secure it in place; and the knees accomplishes this through it’s shape and a strap positioned above the calf muscle (most good pads make use of this design).

The fabric is durable and cleans up nicely in the washing machine. I’ve washed them a half dozen times and leave them out to dry overnight. The fabric has not frayed or become fuzzy and the color is still a true black. The velcro straps are still strong and holding firmly. My one tip if you sweat like me, is to wash them regularly. They will develop a chalky white residue from your dried sweat, but no biggie, just throw them in the washer and they’re as good as new.

Having owned them all this time, I’ve come to rely on them and think of them as my “pads of care”. 👍

GOOD: Superb construction, breathes well, fits snugly and comfortable for long rides with climbing. Stays in place, excellent protection for branches, rocks and flying debris while flying down your favorite trails.

BAD: Not much bad I can say. Just the sizing – Go up one size and you’re good. Cost depending how you look at it.

Reviewed by Qwan Pham