POC's Joint VPD System knee pads may not have the catchiest name, but that title does describe where they fit into the Swedish company's line of protective apparel. The pads take traits from POC's DH-oriented VPD 2.0 models and combines them with traits from the VPD Air line, creating a lightweight knee pad that's not lacking when it comes to offering crash protection.
POC Joint VPD System Details
• Impact absorbing inner layer
• EN 1621-1 certified
• Weight: 337 grams (pair)
• Sizes: S, M, L
• MSRP: $150 USD
The bulk of the impact protection comes from POC's visco-elastic polymer dough (VPD), a material that's very pliable, but that hardens up upon impact. The pad's outer fabric is stitched from a high tenacity polyamide yarn, which POC chose due to its ability to resist cuts and tears – they originally used it on their protective ski gear, where sharp metal edges are a constant threat. There aren't any velcro straps to be found on the Joint VPD System; instead, the pads are held in place by the elasticized cuffs, with silicone grippers in place around the top cuff to provide more slip resistance. Available in five sizes, from XS to XL, the Joint VPD System knee pads retail for $150 USD.
The Joint VPD System pads use a simple, slip-on design, with silicone grippers around the upper cuff to keep them securely in place.Performance
Joint VPD System Knee isn't a very memorable name – if it were up to me, I'd designate that as the pad's scientific name, and come up with a catchier common name. After all, if you were at the beach and started yelling, “There's a carcharodon carcharias!” most people would think you were spouting gibberish. Start screaming, “There's a great white shark!” and it's a different story.
I haven't settled on what I think these pads should be called, but I'm thinking it should involve feathers, marshmallows, or something similarly squishy and soft. That's because they're the most comfortable knee pads I've ever worn, and the list of options I've tried is extensive. It's like having a small pillow on each knee, except that the pillow is extremely abrasion resistant, and hardens up when you hit the ground. The VPD material is temperature sensitive, and once my body heat warmed them up the pads perfectly matched the shape of my knees, without the slightest bit of discomfort or chafing.
I took a few good slams while wearing the VPD System Knee pads, and they performed as advertised every time. Sure, it didn't feel great hitting the ground, but for how minimal the pads feel, they absorbed more of the impact than I anticipated. They're an ideal choice for trail riding, but for DH runs or times where bigger impacts are more likely I'd recommend something with a little more padding on the side of the knees.
The VPD System pads are comfortable enough to keep in place for the entirety of a ride, and even on hotter days they weren't too stifling – they're obviously warmer than not wearing pads, but they did a good job of wicking away sweat, and the fabric used for the back panel gives them a decent level of breathability. The pads have also held up extremely well to repeated washing, which helps to keep them looking (and smelling) like new. Given their minimalist design I was skeptical about how long the pads would stay in place for, but even after months of use there's enough elasticity in the cuffs to keeps them from sliding down. Pinkbike's Take