My earliest memories of downhill mountain biking always include full body 'turtle suits' from Dainese. I even had one of the massive exo-skeleton-like onesies myself. But, they were hot and uncomfortable, and ever since Sam Hill came along in the mid '00s wearing soft 661 knee pads and making flat pedals cool again, most mountain bikers have been wearing that style of pad ever since.
Hardshell pads fell out of favor because of bulk and lack of comfort, but there are advantages to plastic, mainly in the way they to slide over dirt and protect against sharp edges and points that non-Newtonian foams like D30 or similar can't always save kneecaps from.
The Armoform knee pads from Dainese offer an articulated fit, with three separate shells joined to a fabric sleeve. The shells are perforated with a fractal-inspired pattern that's similar to the lightweight Trail Skins 2 pad
; behind the plastic is memory foam and a couple of extra soft pads on the outside of the knee. Silicone backed elastic straps are adjustable with Velcro closures top and bottom, and there is also an extra strap which goes over the top of the calf muscle to adjust the fit.
Armoform Knee Details
• Articulated hard-shell kneepads
• Memory foam with polyethylene hard shell
• Elastic straps with silicone grippers
• Available in black only
• S, M, L, XL
• $99USD / €99
The articulated design means the pad can move freely with your joints.
This test set of Armoform pads have accompanied me on over 300kms of riding, including shuttling with downhill bikes and epic, yes I am going to say it, epic eMTB rides. Weighing in at 470 grams for the pair they are lightweight, and the articulated system means the pads pull less on your skin and joints while pedaling than most soft knee pads. The perforated outer shell and inner foam let air flow through the pads, which can be felt directly on your skin, this, combined with the main knee shell not touching your skin, gives a very cool and airy fit.
The only downside of the pads I found is that there are a few too many hard edges, and stitching inside the pad that can cause some irritation when riding, but this is simply more of an annoyance than abrasion.Pinkbike's Take: