Sam Hill is arguably one of the most recognizable names in all of mountain biking, as well as one of the most enduring stars. Being held in the high regard that he is by the community, he's often had his own lines or colorways of components. His list of signature parts has included helmets and componentry over the years, and it now extends to knee pads from 7iDP. Two of them, in fact.
Here, we're going to look at the Sam Hill knee pad, which offers plenty of protection while also being comfortable enough to pedal in, and the Sam Hill Lite knee pads, which are lighter weight but with less coverage.
Starting with the burlier of the two pads, the standard Sam Hill knee is a versatile pad that offers a strong blend of comfort and protection. The pad itself sits within a reasonably breathable and slightly stretchy sleeve. The removable insert is rounded and flexible, and holds the shape on your knee well. Around its pocket in the sleeve is a ring of extra padding that surrounds the knee cap area to provide more side impact protection.
And that's not all. A combination of the rounded insert and this extra padding means that the pad is incredibly stable on your knee.
7iDP Sam Hill Knee Pads • Breathable sleeve with secondary ring of protection • Removable pad insert for easy washing • Sizes: S, M, L, XL • EN1621-1:2012 LEVEL 2, Type B • MSRP: $94.99 USD • www.7idp.com
As most of us will know, crashing a mountain bike can be quite an unraveling experience, and while a pad might protect us from the first impact, if it shifts under load it can leave us vulnerable to the second or indeed third. This extra support in the sleeve of the pad helps its stability, and hopefully the chance of it rotating away.
The material has a certain amount of give to it but isn't as elastic as the Lite pads.
The pad has silicone grippers on the top and bottom, as well as a silicone logo that fits on the outside of the upper sleeve to help get extra purchase on your shorts. The pads are comfortable, too. The sleeve has an element of stretch, but I would say there are more flexible and elastic-feeling materials used in other pads on the market.
What this pad does offer, though, is security and the assurance that your kneecap is safely cocooned and held inside. The pads are rated EN1621-1:2012 LEVEL 2, Type B certified. What does this mean? Well, as quoted from 7iDP's website "There are two levels of protection that can be certified Level 1 and Level 2. Level 1 allows for ≤35KN to be transmitted to the rider whilst level 2 allows a max of ≤20 KN to be transmitted to the rider. Type A or B refers to the area of protection, Type B giving greater coverage than Type A."
The security and fit of the Sam Hill Knee pads is very impressive.
On the left is the firmer and thicker pad from the enduro pad, with the 6mm thick Lite pad on the right.
The surrounding padding, which isn't removable, does a great job and locating and retaining the main pad.
The Sam Hill pads have a fairly substantial profile due to the generous coverage, which means there are more streamlined pads out there. That said, they fit well under riding pants, and don't give the feel of being oversized or cumbersome. They pedal well, too. On my initial ride they slightly pinched behind my knees, but since then have become my go-to.
Considering the protection and coverage I think they're perfectly reasonable in terms of how they retain heat. I also like how far along past the knee they extend. The area of coverage is far bigger than many other pedal-ready pads. The supplementary side padding is a welcome appendage, even if it isn't as burly as the main insert. There is around 10 mm of shared overlapped coverage before the padding in the sleeve extends 15 mm further than the outer edge of the harder and stiffer insert.
The pad does extend quite a way up your thigh, and it's worth consulting their sizing chart, which was accurate for me. The grippers do a thorough job without leaving any marks or soreness on the skin.
I've ridden in these pads for most rides over the last three months, and I can confidently say they're suitable for pedaling. I also think they're substantial enough for downhill runs, and I'll be using them in the bike park without hesitation.
+ Comfortable & secure + Lots of coverage + Reasonable value
- Some might prefer a hardshell - Bulkier than some other kneepads
The trail riding Lite pads.
When 7iDP says "lite" they certainly mean it. The pads are the kind of pad that you'd wear as opposed to wearing nothing at all. This is something that is great for slipping on for trail rides or those XC spins that might even infringe on the realm of downcountryism.
7iDP claims that "At just 6mm the Sam Hill Lite Pads are the thinnest CE EN 1621-1:2012 certified pads on the market". I'm not going to get my verniers on 100s of different pads, but it's not hard to imagine their claim is probably about right.
7iDP Sam Hill Knee Lite • Lightweight and stretchy sock that breathes well • Thin removable insert • Sizes: S, M, L, XL • CE EN 1621-1:2012 • MSRP: $$84.99 USD • www.7idp.com
And yes, 6mm really isn't much. The insert in these pads is thin. Very thin. While that's something I quite enjoy when going for an evening cruise, I'd be lying if I said I would use them for little more than protecting my skin from cuts, grazes, and light bruising. Which is of course no bad thing - it just depends on one your intention and what your priorities are. It might not be as bad as a broken bone, but taking the skin off your knee isn't exactly pleasant.
The makeup of the Lite pad is very similar to the enduro pad but with some key differences. The material of the sleeve is thinner and stretchier. Again though, it does have the same silicone grippers that sit quite the way up your leg. Unlike the other pad, the Lite model also have a finger loop on the back to make getting them on or off even easier.
The pads cover the kneecap but not too much else.
The flexible padding is great for comfort, but may be a bit too minimalist for some.
This low-weight pad rides just like it with exceptional comfort and flexibility. While the insert doesn't have the same anchored feeling derived from a concave insert, it does offer a lot of freedom as the fit lets your knee move uninhibited. The other pads aren't restrictive, but the lighter model does feel distinctly freer.
The side protection on the Lite pads is almost non-existent around the lower part of the knee. I understand that everything is a compromise whilst trying to shed weight, but I do wonder if this is taking it a little too far. I feel similar about other pads in the category such as the Rapha Trail knee pads. Again, fantastic pads, but I would like a bit more coverage on the lower sides for when I slide out on rocks.
Where I would wholeheartedly say the Sam Hill enduro pad is genuinely a class-leading product in its own niche, I probably wouldn't say the same of the Lite model. It's a good pad, but it's another good pad in a field of many and doesn't do that much to separate itself from the bunch. That said, I'm not totally sold on the concept of pads being just this light and thin, so maybe it was a thankless task trying to make a converter of me. Unless weight is your absolute priority, I would probably spend a little bit more and get something that offers a better compromise between weight, coverage, and pad thickness.
+ Light and breathable + Great alternative to wearing no pads at all + Very comfortable
- Perhaps a little too light for anything aggressive - Lack of side protection
For a great blend of fit and function, the heavier Sam Hill Knee pads should surely be on your list if you're looking for an option that's well suited to pedaling, aggressive trail riding, enduro, and dabbling in downhill. The pad offers security, protection, and comfort at a reasonable price.
The Lite Knee models do offer a lot, but I feel their targetted crowd is very specific. People who want pads, but only the absolute bare minimum, and for some reason won't tolerate 50 or 100 extra grams for what could add up to more protection. For aggressive XC riders or light trail use, they are good, although they're not standouts in the same way that the enduro pad is.— Henry Quinney