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