While the full-body suits of armor that made Dainese a household name in the mountain bike world may have been relegated to the history books, the company's current offerings are still intended to accomplish the same goal – injury prevention – but rely on modern materials that make it possible to create lighter, less bulky options.
The second generation of Dainese's Trail Skins knee guards are a prime example, designed for trail riders looking for protection they can pull on at the beginning of a ride and then forget about until it's over.
Dainese Trail Skins 2 Details
• Pro Armor main pad
• EN1621.1 certified
• Weight: 330 grams (pair)
• Sizes: S, M, L
• MSRP: $84.99 USD
The main portion of the Trail Skins 2 is constructed from what Dainese calls 'Pro-Armor', a piece of rubber that's been molded into a honeycomb-like pattern, with more material in the center, and less towards the edges to help it conform to a rider's body. The latticework design also increases the amount of ventilation due to the fact that there's much less material to block airflow. There's also foam padding on each side of the pads to help lessen the blow when your knee smacks into your top tube or stem.
The pads are secured in place with an elasticized cuff and a hook-and-loop strap at the top and bottom. Available in sizes S, M, and L, the Trail Skins to retail for $84.99 USD.
The bulk of the protection provided by the Trail Skins 2 comes from the Pro Armor padding on the front of the knee.
Hook-and-loop closures secure the upper and lower cuffs.
I'll admit that my build is a little closer to a stick figure than Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime, but even so, the upper leg opening on the size mediums I tested seemed especially generous. While some knee pads use Velcro straps to fine-tune the fit, with the Trail Skins 2 those straps are necessary to actually keep them in place. Thankfully, the straps have a decent range, so I was able to get them snugged down as much as I wanted. The design works, and once everything was adjusted the pads were extremely comfortable, but I wouldn't mind seeing a taller, more elasticized upper cuff that was a little less fiddly.
The Trail Skins 2 are also incredibly airy thanks to the latticework pattern of the main pad – when I was spinning my way to the trailhead I could actually feel wind reaching my knees, which isn't usually the case with designs that rely on one uninterrupted piece of material.
What about riding in sloppy conditions? Don't those nooks and crannies get packed full of mud? I didn't find that to be the case, and thanks to one of the wettest winters on record the Trail Skins saw plenty of foul weather rides. The motion of pedaling keeps them from really getting clogged up, and the amount of mud that ended up stuck to them seemed on par with what would happen with a set of more 'traditional' knee pads. Of course, they can get packed with dirt if you crash, but I'd choose having dirty knee pads over scrubbing grit out of open wounds any day.
I usually try to avoid playing the role of a human crash test dummy, but all that wet weather riding gave me several chances to do just that. Luckily, the pads worked well, reducing the severity of a knee vs. slippery tree root impact on one occasion, and a solid overcooked-corner-to-knee-drag smackdown on another. It still hurts when you hit the ground, but the results weren't anywhere nearly as painful as they would have been without pads on.