Race Face Flank d3o Knees - Reviewed

Mar 24, 2010
by Dean  
Comfort and protection rolled up in one sleek package. The Race Face Flank knee pads with 3do are a brand new item from Race Face for 2010. These pads are a welcome alternative for those riders looking for a little more than just a soft shell knee.

The Flank pads are a soft shell knee pad that incorporate the d3o material for impact protection and have an extra extension down the shin for what Race Face calls "pedal bite" protection.

Full review inside.Compared to other knee pads on the market that employ d3o for impact protection these pads are a bit of an anomaly. The Flank pads don't just cover the knees, they also offer protection for your shins that extends approximately 6 inches down the shins and offer a fair bit of protection from pedal strikes and other errant objects your lower legs sometimes encounter when riding, all in a light weight package.

One thing to note is that these pads have sister pads called the Race Face Ambush that is essentially the same pad minus the pedal bite shin protection.

Race Face Flank d3o pads
Race Face Flank d3o pads

Reasonable weight for a very protective knee pad (size: large)
Reasonable weight for a very protective knee pad (size: large)



d3o Info
For those of you that aren't familiar with d3o, it is a gel like material that is soft and flexible in its relaxed state, but when it encounters an abrupt force such as an impact, the material instantly locks together to form a solid that absorbs the impact energy. The advantages of using d3o in body armor such as knee pads is flexibility and the comfort that it offers to the user. The pads can also be made less bulky than rigid hard shell armor and offer more freedom of movement.

Race Face has been in the protection market for many years and over time they have become a market leader and the standard to which many other pads are compared. In the past I've used Roach, 661 and Race Face leg pads and of all my leg pads, my Race Face Rally FRs are the only ones that have stood the test of time and offered the best protection. I pretty much retired those 6 year old Rally FRs as soon as I tried on the new Flank pads.



Pad Details
The Flank pads are formed around premium, 3mm thick, perforated neoprene with a cut out behind the knee. The neoprene has a thin terrycloth lining on all surfaces that contact the wearer's skin. Three straps are used to keep the pads in place to compliment the form fitting neoprene body. These three straps are thick elasticized straps that secure the pad with the ample use of velcro. On the ends of each strap is a custom rubber "Race Face" embossed grab tab. The padding on the knee offers several layers of foam: first there is a hidden patella knee stabilization pad that aids to keep the pad in place while walking, riding and during crashes. The second layer of padding on the knee is the d3o material. The front of the main knee pad area is covered in black 600D abrasion resistant nylon that is embossed with the race face logo. Both the inside and outside of the knees are also protected by strategically placed triple density foam padding that is sewn into the neoprene body. Finally the shin extension down the front of the pad consists of a strip of padding on top of the neoprene body covered in 600D nylon. Below the shin extension the lower strap secures the pad to the rider.

The view: above and below the shorts
The view: above and below the shorts



I have used these pads for 3 months and have ridden with them for about 25 rides. Below are my thoughts on the pads.

The neoprene offers a comfortably snug fit and the many small perforations offer good ventilation and air flow, while the terrycloth lining provides an exceptionally premium level of comfort for the user. There were times where I needed to look down at my legs to see if I had remembered to put these pads on. The fit and shape of the pad is near perfect and the three straps offer a good range of adjustability to lock the pads in place.

When walking/pushing your bike up the hill, the pads flexibility was a welcomed feature making them very comfortable to walk in. While pedaling both up hill and downhill, the pads remain in place and never needed to be adjusted. Due to the well thought placement of the straps, there are no issues with strap rub.

The heavy abrasive, resistant nylon and impact resistance of the d30 within the pads was put to the test during several of my rides. I had no issues with the impacts and the Flank pads performed just as you'd like any other pad to perform when falling on dirt and rocks. I'd heard about d3o before receiving these pads and was a little hesitant to test them because I need to have confidence in my safety gear. After a few hammers to my knees in the garage and smacks with a hockey stick, I had more than enough confidence that these pads will save my knees from injury in a crash.

To put on the Flank pads the design of the neoprene body necessitate the removal of your shoes. The openings in the knee pads might fit a shoe, but you would end up drastically stretching the pad and also contaminating the inner surface of the the pad with dirt that will then be rubbing against your knee. Once you've slipped into the left or right specific pads, you simply adjust the three straps and you are good to go.

Not everything about the Flank pads was rosy.
There are a few issues with the pads that can be improved to further refine this pad. Firstly the stylish looking Race Face embossed pull tabs need to be slimmed down. They were added to these pads so that riders could easily adjust the pad with gloves on, which they do quite well. However the rubber is so thick and rigid that the rubber does not flex enough to keep the end of the tab in place on the Velcro of the knee pad. After riding a few minutes the tab pulls away and can rub on your clothing or other objects. Making the tabs thinner and out of a more pliable rubber would solve this issue. I am told that production models will feature a thinner profile pull tab that should remain affixed to the rest of the Velcro.

Embossed rubber pull tab
Embossed rubber pull tab

The second issue that caused me concern was the overall forward bulkiness of the pad which caused the pads to hit my shifters when I was pedaling and turning at the same time. The photo below shows how far the bars can be turned while pedaling. In reality this occurs on technical climbs and pedaling in twisty single-track. For those that are purely downhill, gravity focused, this is a very minor issue but I would however like to see a slight slimming of the forward bulk of the pad to reduce the knee to shifter/bar contact. Upon asking Race Face about this bulkiness, I was informed that it was brought up and would be changed for the production models that are about to hit shelves.

Knee to shifter contact
Knee to shifter contact

The soft, perforated neoprene seems to be susceptible to wear. On the back cut out of the knee I noticed stretching of the holes in the neoprene material on both knees and over a whole season this may turn into a bit of an issue. Also on the middle strap along the side of the knee there was fraying of the neoprene due to the strap rubbing the material while pedaling. The final spot that seems to have some accelerated wear is the top of the pad where the knee pad has a strip of soft trim. The material is far too soft and the simple rubbing of my shorts was fraying the pads. Over a full season the pads may look a little more worse for wear than they should. A different selection of more rugged wearing material on the neoprene and trim would likely keep these pads lasting longer and looking better over time.

Wear spots
Wear spots

The Race Face Flank pads offer a lot of features that many riders look for in knee pads. The fit, comfort, protection and function are executed with near perfection. The pads can be worn on long pedaling rides, short rips or DH rides with confidence in the protection and comfort for the rider. Due to the premium materials and design features they do come in at a slightly premium price, but that is soon forgotten once they are slipped on. The sizing range offered is S-XL and they come in the one color (slate) with an MSRP of US $125.00 and CAD $150.00 and are available from your local bike shop and online retailers.


46 Comments

  • + 5
 Wow! I've been waiting for Raceface to come out with somthing like this! Thanks for the awesome article and also for reporting the wear spots! I know lots of people would never do that, but its really helpful!
  • + 0
 Id rather not run d3o for DH and get me a pair of 661 Kyle Straight.... In fact... Im going to order some tomorrow. Who wants to pay $150 for pads
  • + 1
 +1 kyle str. knees.. and some extra loose shin prot. if you want them.. i want them Wink
  • + 3
 make sure you get the right size of kyle straits cos i didn't and they got completely wrecked
  • + 1
 I have the POCs and boy could they use the inner knee and shin protection these RFs have...
  • + 1
 poc is under developed.. they still need to learn..
  • + 7
 Dont the d3o properties wear out after so many washings or exposure to moisture?
  • + 1
 i just got these in medium. i was wondering if i got the right size. mine look like they fit like the ones in the review. i am assuming those are the correct fit, but is the knee pad supposed to hang over the shin pad like that? the knee pad and shin pad seem to bind a bit when the leg is locked. also, seems to be some play in the knee pad when kneeling onto the ground - like it shifts just a bet. only on the right one though. the left one feels like it fits perfect. the right feels a little big. Wondering if one is in between sizes, is it better to go smaller? also if it helps i'm 5'9". i have pretty big calves and quads. ride a medium banshee and fits like a glove.
  • + 1
 I'd say the most important part of the fit is the neoprene sock of the pad. If that fits your thigh and calf then the pads just need to be positioned so that the patellar doughnut in the pad is fitted properly over your kneecap. I hope you like them.
  • + 2
 Fox's new Launch Pro pads are the bomb, more people should take a look at them if they're looking to go the knee-only route. I used to be a die-hard 661 Tomcat fan, but these new ones from Fox are really something.
  • + 4
 150 for pads!. nice job of takn money from the people who make raceface rich, slap in the face if you ask me
  • + 5
 I don't think so. Have you seen the comparable d3o offerings from 661? d30 is a somewhat new, high tech material. Because it is still new and maybe not as widely used, it's going to be more expensive. However, for those who are looking for more comfortable, flexible protection, the money isn't really an issue (assuming the pads can stand up to more than 1 season of use).
  • + 4
 661's Evo d30 pads are 110 bucks, but that's only for knee pads. this extra 6 inches would be great for shinners...idk about you, but i have just as many scars below my knee as i do on it. this looks pretty good if you ask me. the extra few bucks is made up for in raceface's quality.
  • - 2
 ha they change my comment pinkbike your gay
  • + 1
 Thanks for the review. Just got them in Small and didn't see any markings for L/R, so I referred to your pictures. Standing straight up, the knee portion seems to dig into my knee. Going to go out on a ride to see how they fare. The space in the back of the knee seems to not be big enough, so I'm worried there will be chafing there.
  • + 1
 The left and right markings should be on the tag on the inside of the pad marked with an L or R. Make sure to adjust the pads once you are on the bike. I'm sure you'll find them really comfy.
  • + 1
 It just says S on those plain white tags oddly. I just simply make sure the middle strap is on the outside when I put them on. The back of the Small doesn't fit too well, as I feared. The hole on the back is a bit too low and the top stitching part of the hole can chafe the two ligament ends on the back of the knee. At least it did to me on my first few rides. It's comfy now though since my skin toughened up.
  • + 1
 Bob, how have these been holding up? They lasted me a full year and the neoprene is looking ragged enough to look for a new set of pads. Plus the neoprene has enough give that they let the pads slip down my knee now. My only complaint is that it leaves enough of a gap between the ankle and the shin pad vulnerable to vegetation and pedal bite. The most notable place I get pedal bite is just above the achilles tendon in the back.

The worst damage is on the inside of my right knee, the neoprene has completely separated from the black pad covering, between the upper strap and the grey elastic band sewn between the 2 light foam pads. The holes in the neoprene there just simply stretched until it tore like perforated paper.

Kind of a steep price to pay for pads that last a year or a little more than 1 full season of mtn biking. Time to stock up on Kyle Straits, and combine them with shin pads.
  • + 1
 Mine have been holding up okay. Not great in some the neoprene areas, but still totally acceptable as far are safety and appearance. I have found the gap between the ankle and the shin pad to be ideal, but I have rather short legs so they extend further down my shin than the would for others.

Unless you get pads that specifically protect the rear of your leg (which are rare these days) you will not get the protection of your achilles you are looking for. These are knee and shin pads, not whole lower leg pads. You might like to give the Race Face DH pads a try.
  • + 3
 I think that 661 and o'neal pads should use the same design, coz it's more effective and protects more!!!! And the article was all about that the costumer needs!!!!! Thanks.
  • + 0
 661 has had d3o for ages
  • + 2
 I think he means the size of the Pad, It protects the Knee and part of the shin.
  • + 1
 personally, i dont like the shape at all. the whole reason i wear soft shell knee pads is to not have my shin covered.
  • + 1
 Hmm I was thinking of switching from my cheap and nasty 661 MX shin/knee pads to some Kyle Straights but I wasn't sure about the lack of shin protection. But I hardly wear my pads as it is and i've not been hit in the shin for ages so I think i'll switch Big Grin
  • + 1
 nice bike! I just overhauled the linkage on my RUNE today. Pain in the ass. snapped a bolt. lucky Banshee sent me the frame with extras. Pads look sick. I still think the Kyle Straits are the sickest
  • + 1
 Bob, do you consider these pads north shore worthy? I've been considering something like this (minus the shin protection) for a while but can't get over the fact there isn't a solid cup over the knee. Thanks!
  • + 1
 Yes, they are North Shore worthy.
  • + 0
 Thanks Bob! Great write up!
  • + 1
 If you want something like this with a solid cup an no shins, RF also makes the DIG knee. I wear them and they're so comfortable I forget I have them on
  • + 0
 So Bob, how did you like the length of these pads? I was thinking they looked a couple inches to short to provide full protection from pedal-to-shin contact. Also, did you ever experience and rubbing/chaffing with these pads?
  • + 1
 ZERO rubbing or chaffing. They are incredibly comfortable.
  • - 2
 zero rubbing or chaffing from ur mother
  • + 1
 Any suggestions on Ankle-shin guards that work good whit the Flank guards to cover up al the way down? Is soccerguards the way to go?
  • + 1
 No idea about ankle guards. If you want full shin protection, you need to look at some other model of pads.
  • + 1
 I've seen some pics of the Ambush Pads.....I think I'll have to snag some of those for myself. These are a bit much protection. Sick review, thanks!
  • + 4
 i'll have to snag some of those for your mother, shes on her knees a lot
  • + 1
 I know the main reason for knee pads is knee protection and not fashion or to be cool, but this is just so ugly, and $125?? 661 d3o are cheaper and way better looking.
  • - 2
 your mother is $125 and shes ugly
  • + 1
 your mother gives herself for free and nobody wants her!
  • + 0
 I like how the reviewer complains that his knee pad strikes the shifter while turning and pedaling , but looking at the picture of it his frame is too short for him anyway .
  • + 1
 Have you ever worn "Skate board" style knee pads? Having worn pads that were similarly bulky as these I can relate to the testers findings. For me it wasn't as much while turning, but on short uphills where I would stand up to pedal and the extra thick knees would contact the bar. As for the tester and frame fit - He's not that tall (Sorry Dean) and his bikes do fit.
  • + 3
 I am 5'5" and ride a small Banshee Rune with a 22" TT length with a 50mm stem. The bike is an absolute perfect fit for me. Other people that tried these pads have also noted the knee strikes with their bars and shifters.
  • + 2
 tbh there nice but ide rather stick with kyle straits so i shall Big Grin
  • + 1
 I can't wait to get my pair when i am back to work Smile plus i am stoked to get my dakine jacket as well Smile
  • + 2
 Nice, I'm all over that "pedal bite" protection. I get "bit" a lot.
  • + 1
 Selling these 130$ in ontario brand new in the packaging

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