Royal Racing 2010 Race Jersey & Short Review
At first glance, the overall design of the gear is striking and nice to the touch. Paired together, the jersey and short is an attention getter — whether you’re ripping down a trail or standing on the podium. The large logos placed in visible spots along with the herringbone graphics makes for a very moto feel. You’d no doubt feel like a king while waiting for your race to begin or when you’re ruling the race course. The race kits come in 3 color ways. They’re available in a black/gray/white set. A red/gray/white set. And the purple/gray/white set that was tested. The “Race” kit is aimed at downhill and freeride riders, however, Royal also offers gear for all riding disciplines in a full range of sizes to accommodate most rider types.
FIT, FINISH & PERFORMANCE
The fit is accurate and true to size as well as being very comfortable (see royal sizing guide). The jersey drapes nicely and is not excessively baggy nor form fitting. For a regular build person like myself, I was able to move around freely. The finish is first-class. The race jersey is designed for great looks and performance. I would compare them to horse-racing silks amongst the moto inspired gear that are out there. I especially appreciated the large vents down both sides that run from the arm pit to the bottom hem of the jersey. This comes in handy when the thermostat starts to heat up and air flow is highly prized. The sleeves have sewn in elbow pads that offer a little protection for those occasional spills but you shouldn’t rely on them to save your skin. One thing I noticed was that they made my arms feel warmer compared to the rest of the jersey.
The shorts can be dialed to provide a custom fit by using the velcro tabs on either side. You can adjust them as snug as you like. The shorts have ample amount of room without being droopy, this addresses the issue of them getting snagged on a seat. They never felt too tight or bunched up and were always just right. They are well vented with lots of mesh and vents for airflow. Stretch panels are used in places you’d expect to help with easy movement while pedaling. Although these are race shorts, they do come with 2 functional front mesh pockets with zipper closures. Perfect for carrying an energy bar in one pocket and a Rockstar in the other while cruising the pits. My only dislike was that the leg opening was bigger than I felt it needed to be, it seemed like there was extra fabric there. Overall I really like these shorts, they’re good fitting and feel comfortable on.
CONSTRUCTION & DURABILITY
The Race Jersey is made from a light, high-quality polyester. It feels lighter than a typical short sleeve T-shirt. The thin material is intended to provide better venting as well as suppleness for easy movement. I did not get a chance to test its durability as I did not crash (who wants to?). Looking at the fabric, they wouldn’t hold up too well in a crash. The high sheen finish might also be prone to snagging. All that said, race jerseys are designed to enhance the performance of the rider and offer some protection. No gear is rip-proof though. If you’re going crash during a race, tearing the jersey would be the least of your concerns. Most riders who want to ride with armor under the jersey will find these to work perfectly fine.
Like the jersey, the shorts needs to do the same job… fit comfortably, move easily, keep you cool and most importantly, protect your hide. What’s noticeable about the shorts is the light weight. Compared to my Troy Lee Moto’s, these were significantly lighter and had better airflow while not sacrificing durability or protection. The material was thick and felt like it would hold up well in a crash and take some abuse. The build quality is spot on. Other than the leg opening being a bit big for me, I liked the shorts a lot.
ABOUT ROYAL RACING
Made famous by riding legend Steve Peat, the Royal Racing brand was inspired and designed specifically for downhill racers in 2000. It became an instant success with it’s bold designs and attention to detail that cater to the DH community. For complete product lineup information, visit royalracing.com.
GOOD: Quality Construction. Progressive design/looks. Light weight. Vents well. Good fitting and comfortable. Helps bring photos to life.
BAD: Thin jersey material. Leg opening bigger than it needs to be.
Reviewed by Brian Roark
Continental Der Kaiser DH Tire Review
Der Kaiser means “The Emperor” a sovereign ruler of great power and rank. One ruling an empire. Think about that. These being DH specific tires, that’s a huge claim and it also conjures up a lot of characteristics you’d expect to benefit from. So let’s see how they did…
DESIGN & FUNCTION
The thing that appealed to me with the Continental DKs was the aggressive looking tread, the reported 1,000 gram weight (1190 actual) and that they work well in a lot of conditions. They also have a striking sidewall design and graphics. Something about German design, they always pull it off nicely.
The DKs come in 26 x 2.5 size. They are true to size and have a fair amount of volume to them. Noticeably bigger than the Maxxis Minions in a similar size. They’d actually be more comparable to the 2.7 width in the Minions. They are available with a wire bead only but I was able to run them tubeless with Mavic 823 rims and Stan’s sealant. They went on with a little coaxing with a little help of water around the bead. I used a compressor to inflate them and they seated almost immediately with the customary shake and bake. They stayed aired up really well and I rarely had to check the tire pressure. I ran them at about 25 psi and I never experienced a flat in the 5 months I had them on my bike (I weigh 165 geared up).
The blocky tread pattern is DH inspired with big center blocks and ample spacing in between. This allows dirt/debris/mud to get in between the blocks where they easily get dispersed, letting the big sticky blocks do their job holding you on your line. Being bigger and sticky, they also throw up more dirt and debris when riding. I noticed I’d always be dirtier when riding these tires compared to others.
Where these tires shined for me was on hard packed with loose and sandy DG trails. They were gummy and sticky and were more confident-inspiring than the 2.5 minions Super Tacky. On rocks and rough terrain, they would wrap themselves around little cracks and splinters in the rocks and provide a noticeably quiet ride. The compound is so soft that you can literally pull up on the rubber leftover dingleberries and it’d stretch and slowly reshape (kind of like taffy with memory).
These tires do grip really well. BUT, they come with a big tradeoff. Compared to Minion tires, they felt sluggish and slow, as though the tire needed more air. I loved how they gripped but in sections where the trail flattens out some or where I might have to pedal up a little, I found myself having to pedal harder to get through those sections. I ended up pulling off the rear tire and ran a Minion 3C in the rear. This became a nice combination for me and I ran it this way for about the last 2 months.
GOOD: Soft compound. Grippy and tracks predictably. Works well in a lot of conditions.
BAD: Expensive at $75 retail per tire. Weight is closer to 1200g and not 1,000 as reported. Slow and sluggish, not a fast tire. Wears quickly.
Reviewed by Qwan Pham
Chumba XCL Freeride Edition Review
This is an addendum to a previous frame review on the Chumba XCL I did back in February, where I reviewed the different ride characteristics of 3 different builds.
This time around, I went for a light freeride build. I call it my Freeride L edition. There’s not much more about the frame I wanted to review, but more on how the recent upgrades have increased the riding potential of an already capable bike. In building up this version, the “be all you can be” Army recruiting slogan rang true as motivation for what I could get out of this bike. I wanted this bike to be the ultimate trail and light freeride ripper.
So what were the upgrades? (see items in bold)
Freeride L Build:
Frame: Chumba XCL Black Ano (small)
Shock: Cane Creek Double Barrel w/ Ti Coil (700g)
Fork: Fox 36 Talas 160mm
Crankset: Shimano Deore XT 175mm, Dual Ring + E13 DRS + TurboCharger Bash
Pedals: NC17 Suds Pin III Pedals
Shifters: Shimano Deore XT F/R
Front Deraileur: Shimano XTR
Rear Deraileur: Shimano Deore XT Shadow Medium Cage
Seatpost: Thompson Elite
Seat: WTB Devo Carbon / Ti
Clamp: Chumba Racing
Stem: Chromag 50mm
Headset: Cane Creek
Handlebar: Sunline V-One 711mm width, 19mm rise
Brakes: Shimano M775 XT 180 F/R
Wheelset: Mavic Crossmax SX
Casette: Shimano XT 11 – 34T
Chain: Shimano XTR
Front Tire: Maxxis Minion DHF ST 26 x 2.35 – Tubeless
Rear Tire: Larsen TT ST 26 x 2.35 – Tubeless
Approximate Weight: 31.25 lbs
At a hair over 31 lbs, this is an impressive build with a coil shock. Chumba recently partnered with Cane Creek where the shocks are tuned for the XCL suspension. As the XCL suspension is very linear, it makes for a nice even stroke through the travel. I am running a spring rate that is 50lbs heavier (450 vs 400) than I would on my other bike. This is necessary for 1) they’re different bikes and suspension types and 2) it would provide a balance between good pedaling efficiency and the ability to soak up big bumps. Surprisingly even with a coil shock, it pedals beautifully. It climbs well out of the saddle, chugs up technical sections and sprints over rocks with ease. All this with hardly a noticeable bob.
What I love most about the addition of the CCDB is the compression and rebound adjustments for both low and high speed. I’ve been running the shock in the neutral position for low and high speed compression. For rebound, I have been running more HSR and in the middle for LSR. Most of my riding is done in more aggressive trails mixed in with stunts and jumps, which makes the shock a blast to ride because of what it can accommodate. Having 160mm fork with the CCDB shock provides a new level of confidence and has definitely boosted my stoke. It’s now even more fun than I would have imagined. It’s still a fun jumper and predictable in the air, however, now I am more easily tempted to do more. After taking a few warm up runs, I gave myself the green light to let it rip.
The shock and other components such as wheels, tires, handlebars and brakes have been a welcomed change to the riding characteristics of the bike. In its previous life, I wouldn’t have been comfortable in pushing it as hard. I was pleasantly surprised that it could handle all the stuff I would normally reserve for my 6.5″ freeride bike.
As outstanding as it is as a jumper, it is even more enjoyable now in how well it can eat up challenging terrain. The jarring rock sections can be pedaled without the sensation of being bucked off. The former RP23 shock had a higher pitch noise going over rocks and I could feel it in my legs and joints. With the CCDB, it’s a low volume, thud, thud, thud sensation; all I notice is my legs working and powering. These sections are now a blast to do. It feels like I have a throttle and I can just turn it to speed through. brrrapppp!!!
Overall the bike feels tighter, more solid and responsive. I attribute this to switching out the carbon bars for the Sunline V-One bars as well as adding the stiffer Mavic Crossmax SX wheels with soft compound tires. This makes perfect sense when you think about the inputs the bike takes from your hands and how it transfers those inputs through the bike and its relationship with the ground. I feel good about saying that the upgrades have surpassed my expectations.
Chumba is a small bike company and is super responsive. Their technical support and customer service is friendly and easy to work with. You can often find Alan answering questions directly on the Chumba forum at MTBR. You can also find more info at chumbaracing.com or call them directly with your questions 714.986.9100.
GOOD: More capable and versatile for 5″ travel bike. Net benefit: Improved performance. Enhanced riding enjoyment. Trails can be ridden with renewed amptitude.
BAD: A little chain slap on some of the burlier stuff. A future component consideration would be a 36T chainring vs. 34T as the big chainring has been removed for the bash guard.
Reviewed by Qwan Pham
Evolution Carbon Nouveau Review
For 2010 the Evolution carbon helmet goes Fast Times at Ridgemont High (80s retro movie for you youngsters). Think checkered Vans, OP shorts and lightning bolt polos. Hey dude, let’s party!
The new paint scheme is a sharp departure from the 09 model where it was more like tribal organic lines meets hotrod pin striping. This paint scheme is a throwback to the 80s graphic style done in a new and improved fresh look. I dig it.
The design of the helmet from 09 to 10 has not changed. Still easy on the eyes with it’s elegant curves and edges at the back of the helmet. Vent holes are all in the same places and provide adequate ventilation. It’s offered in 2 paint schemes, black/grey/cyan and if you’re bold enough, go for the black/purple/pink version – just make sure you have matching pink gloves and shoes to complete the look.
The padding can be removed for washing like most helmets these days. A good tip I’ve come across to avoid washing is to wear a skull cap. Essentially, this is a sock for your head.
FIT & COMFORT
It goes without saying that fit is important and for two very good reasons. 1. You don’t want it to move on you while riding because it’ll effect how you can see out of the helmet. 2. Safety. If it doesn’t fit, it won’t protect you. Depending on the shape of your head, helmets fit differently so it’s always smart to try them on at a local bike shop if you decide to buy one online (that’s where the best deals are).
I have tried on 5 brands. Giro, Troy Lee, Bell, THE and 661. All good quality helmets. I really wanted the TLD but my head would not fit in one of those. My head is round and wide, out of the five brands, the Bell, THE and 661 offered the best fit. If you have a long oval-shaped head (meaning long and narrow), any of the brands would work. But if you have a round and wide head like mine, you’ll be limited.
When you think about comfort in a helmet, most of them use really nice materials inside. This helmet has soft and supple lining. I almost dreaded the fact that I was going to sweat in it. What I like about this helmet is that it has an all around good fit without any weird pressure points. Even with my wide face, I didn’t feel like my cheeks were being pushed in. Just like a shoe, you want to make sure you get the right width or you’ll feel like there’s a vice on your head.
FUNCTION & DURABILITY
The main thing with a full face is how quickly can you put it on and take it off without thinking about it. It should be like putting on a t-shirt; this is what I like about this helmet. Even with gloves on, I can easily toss it on, put the chin strap through the double metal loops and secure the loose end to a snap button. As mundane as this action is, I’ve had other helmets that required a little more effort to don. The visor is easy to tilt up and down by loosening the center bolt under the visor. I suggest once you find a good position, tighten it down good and use a quarter to tighten the outer screws on each side of the visor to prevent it from moving.
My biggest fear with using a carbon helmet is it shattering or splintering during a fall that would render it useless. This may be true to some extent but the upside is weight savings and a killer look. If you’re wondering if carbon fiber is a tough material, look no further than armor jackets that cops wear or airplanes you fly on — that’s right, they use carbon fiber. You don’t need to lose any sleep wondering if it’ll hold up. In fact, I’ve had two crashes with this helmet, other than a few cosmetic scuffs, the integrity of the helmet has not been compromised.
When you buy a full face helmet, it’s understood that one day, you’re going to go down and you’ll be one happy buckaroo knowing you were wearing one – and feeling pretty smart you got one to begin with. That’s where I think sixsixone is such a great buy, because they have one of the best crash replacement programs. You can get a new one and will be back out on the trail in no time. Take it from me, I’m a happy benefactor of it. You can find them on the web at sixsixone.com or call toll free 888.520.4888.
GOOD: Sleek, elegant design. Quality materials throughout. Comfortable and tough. Crash replacement program is incredible.
BAD: Crashing and ruining the shiny finish. Area of improvement would be to reduce the overall outer diameter size, it’s bigger like a moto helmet so the swing weight could be less.
Reviewed by Qwan Pham
Diverse Titanium Spring Review
There’s an old Chinese proverb which sums this up. “Wá tah aah sy am.” (say that five times really fast).
That’s about what I was thinking when I had put off buying a Ti spring for about a year. Up until recently, I never gave it a serious thought, as the steel spring on my Fox DHX 5.0 felt fine. I always thought, a Ti spring wouldn’t be much different in performance and was more for bling factor. All that soon changed when I decided to beef up my Knolly DT from 36 – 39+ lbs. My riding was getting more progressive and I was trying bigger things, which meant wearing more gear that put me at about 165-167 lbs from my previous weight (low 160’s). It was beyond the capacity of what a 350 lb spring could handle at the time.
Hearing my dilemma, a friend with a spare loaned me his 400 lb steel spring. As soon as I put it on and got out to the trails, I could tell immediately. The pedal bob was noticeably reduced and there was a nice pop when going off jumps. After a couple of weeks, I was sold on the 400 lb spring, but for kicks, I took a spin on my buddy’s bike who was running a Diverse Ti Spring. My reaction was, “Whoa!” There’s something different here.
It was time for me to pony up and go for it. I knew I’d get my money’s worth even though it was a luxury. I called Diverse and had a spring delivered to my door in just a few days…
RIDE & FEEL
The whole point of a Ti spring is to save weight and depending on your spring weight, you can shave from ½ lb to 2 lbs of dead weight. For my 400 x 2.5 spring, I would venture to guess I shaved at least a ½ lb. Holding each spring, steel in one and Ti in the other, the Ti was considerably lighter. It would have been nice to weigh it, just to get a apples to apples comparison, but that was not a big concern as I was more excited about the improved riding characteristics. Plus, I wanted to ride the thing.
Diverse’ literature explains… “the lower weight (of Ti) improves suspension dynamics and response. This reduced mass and inertia increases the natural frequency of the spring.” In caveman talk, imagine if you had to chase down your dinner and can last about a 100 yards. Somehow you managed to lose 40 lbs without losing any muscle strength. Just think of how many more rabbits you’d be bringing home to the ladies back at the cave. 😉 Well, that’s kind of a stretch but you get the idea.
What I noticed about the Ti was a more responsive spring, the rear end felt livelier and smoother through the travel. It seems like I could feel what the bike was doing more. Whether it was climbing or going downhill, it just made the ride more fun and enjoyable. With better performance out of the shock, the tires felt like they stayed planted to the ground better and gave me more confidence to push the bike more.
DESIGN & FIT
Considering how difficult it is to work with titanium, the Ti looks like a piece of sculpture compared to the neanderthal steel spring. Once on a bike, you get this “moto” look which just makes you want to get it out on the trails and do that “brappp brapp brapp” sound before you charge down the hill. Definitely trick looking.
Fit wise,something all Fox DHX 5.0 Coil owners should know, there’s gonna be a little play as the inside diameter of the spring is larger than the Fox’s preload adjuster. This is something unique to Fox and the work around is to use a rubber o-ring to eliminate the play which can be purchased from a hardware store. According to Diverse, the spring will work with: Cane Creek, Fox, Manitou, Marzocchi, Progressive and Elka.
I had an opportunity to try out the DSP-racing Dueler with the Ti spring setup but wasn’t able to give it a go. My Knolly DT frame didn’t have enough clearance at the front eye shock mount; so I was a little bummed to say the least. From a pure visual comparison, the shock looks well made and feels solid. There are separate LSC and HSC along with Rebound adjuster knobs. What’s nice is that they’re easily accessible and require no tools to adjust. That alone, made it compelling coming from my DHX; but even more compelling is the sticker price at $389.95 with a Ti Spring. At that price, I think some people would consider getting an additional one as a spare. I’ll have to give it another shot when I get a different bike built up.
Diverse is an easy company to work with. If you’re shopping for a Ti spring, hit up Fadi at 661.618.2644. He’s very helpful and will get you dialed in on the right spring. More info can be found at diverse-mfg.com.
GOOD: Obviously the weight savings. Ride and feel is greatly improved which translate to more fun and enjoyment for you. Your boring trails will take on a new life.
BAD: Larger inside diameter of the spring means play at the preload adjuster for Fox DHX Coil users. It’s neglible and more of a nuisance. I blame Fox more.
Reviewed by Qwan Pham
The Five Ten Karver shoes share some common characteristics with the Five Ten Impact 2 Low top shoes, so this review is somewhat of a follow up. I have a dozen rides on these Karvers. There are a few similarities, like the fit and feel but some of the new features deserve a closer look.
Let’s get to it…
The Karver looks like something straight out of the film Mad Max Beyond Thunder Dome. It has a beefy posture and topped off with lace shield protectors. They look like they’re about to crash through a brick wall. There’s no question these shoes were made to do battle on your favorite trail, jump track or gravity line. They are also equipped with the ultra-tech Stealth S1 rubber that will help you stick to your pedals like pine sap to your hands.
SIZING, FIT & COMFORT
Built on the Impact 2 type design and constructed with almost the same panels, they fit about the same. If you love your Impact 2s, these will be your huckleberry friend in no time. Your feet will have the same wrapped feeling with overall improved support.
FUNCTION & PERFORMANCE
I won’t go into how these shoes work (See Impact 2 review), but what’s different about these shoes are the new bells and whistles that make them even more desirable. Although I must admit at first, I wasn’t too thrilled about the Pollock paint swirls, but they grew on me when I got them out on a ride. The Karvers are better than I expected.
For those who like the high top shoes for their support and protection, the Karver’s inside mid-height ankle protectors also do the same thing. The beauty of this design is that you retain the flexibility of a low top but also gain the added protection for those occasional ankle clacks to your crank arms.
The lace shields are removable so you can wear the shoes without them, although what would be the point? The shields protect your laces from snagging on shrubs and branches as well as help keep dirt and debris out. This is really noticeable on dry and sandy trails. At the end of my rides, I take off my shoes and the laces are completely clean. This should help to prolong the life of the shoes as laces are the first thing to fail.
You can see the entire collection of mountain bike shoes on their site at fiveten.com.
GOOD: I didn’t think Five Ten could take one of their tried and true product and make it better, but I’m glad they did.
BAD: Weight is still possibly an issue but seldom do you find light weight shoes that will last as long. The Velcro on the shield may eventually wear out from repeated on and off.
Reviewed by Qwan Pham
I’m not even going to beat around the bush with this review. If you use flat pedals and are looking for something grippy to help you stick to your pedals, stop reading this review now and just go buy these! I’m not even kidding.
Five Ten shoes are hands down, the best gripping shoes you will put your feet into. This company has its origins in rock-climbing, where the difference between staying on the rock and falling off is determined by how well you can stick to it. They’ve been doing this for a long time and probably know a thing or two about making shoes that perform and function as needed by its wearer.
I wore the Impact 2 low tops for a little more than 10 months, with 3-4 rides a week – doing some quick math (being conservative), I have about 120 rides on them. Retailing for around $95-$100, it breaks down to about 80¢ per ride. I’d say that’s a bargain for the kind of performance these shoes provide.
Here’s what I think about them:
SIZING & FIT
With any shoes you really need to go try them on first. Not all models fit the same. The models I have used – Impact 2 low, Impact 2 high, Karver and Nathan Rennies all run true to size. The fit is about the same on the Impacts and Karver (similar design construction) but felt slightly looser with the Nathan Rennie. I have thinner feet, so it just required a little more synching down on the laces.
If you are coming from a pair of skate shoes, the Five Tens will feel clunkier, stiffer and heavier than you’re accustomed to. I didn’t like them at first but was willing to tough it out (I heard too many good things). They just needed some break-in time. Do what I did and wear them to work for a week – just walk a lot in them so they’ll be great on those hike-a-bikes. And when the weekend rolls around, they will be feeling so nice, you’ll need to make room next to your Air Jordans for them.
FUNCTION & PERFORMANCE
What makes these shoes special is the Stealth rubber compound that offer an obnoxious amount of grip. So much so, that I’ve had to remove a few pins from my pedals so I can get my feet off quicker (as needed of course). Even in wet and muddy conditions, these shoes will stick. They are the closest you can get to being clipped in without going to cleat shoes. As an example, when you need to reposition a foot on a pedal. You literally need to lift your feet off the pedal and reposition them. It’s difficult to move them without doing this. The are that grippy.
The shoes are basically bomb proof, using synthetic leather, winbuck and rubber. The stealth rubber soles cradle the shoe body, wrapping around from the bottom to the sides, front and rear with more rubber used in the toe box area. If you’ve ever ridden through rocky trails, then you’ve experienced rocks flinging up and at your toes. This is one of the reasons why I love these shoes. Rocks just ricochet off them.
While they have a little heft to them, the benefits far outweigh any weight savings. Unique to the Impact 2 shoe design is the tounge; integrated into the inside sidewall of the shoe, is a continuous piece of material that wraps around your foot for additional ankle rolling support. The shoe uses a barrel lacing system that sits tucked under the shoe uppers. This design not only reduces pressure points but also keeps the laces protected as it is not on the surface of the shoe.
After 10 plus months of use, the barrel lace eyelet gave out on one shoe. I contacted Five Ten inquiring about whether it would be covered under warranty… and not only did they replace them for me, but they let me upgrade to the new Karvers. That’s just a classy thing for a company to do. Check them out at fiveten.com or call customer service at 909.798.4222.
GOOD: In all categories, fit, comfort, support, durability, protection and performance; there is no equal. This will be the best money you’ve ever spent. Unbelievable warranty replacement program.
BAD: I may need to reclassify this as “not so bad”. If I could improve one thing, it would be to reduce the weight.
Reviewed by Qwan Pham
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