Specialized Atlas Knee Pad - Review

Jun 17, 2015
by Mike Kazimer  
Specialized Atlas knee pad review

It seems like every few weeks there's a set of new knee pads hitting the market, an influx created by the growing number of riders consistently venturing into more technical terrain on their daily rides. Earlier this spring Specialized decided to join the fray with their Atlas pads, which are aimed at trail riders looking for a little extra knee protection in a low profile, lightweight package. The pads use a thin layer of anti-shock foam to cover the knee cap, with three smaller pieces of foam that sit on each side of the leg for additional impact resistance.

Most knee pads on the market extend only a few inches above the top of the knee, but with the Atlas the length of the upper portion of the pads resembles what you'd expect from a set of knee warmers, reaching nearly to the middle of the thigh to ensure that they don't slip down during a ride. The rear panel of the pads is constructed from a perforated, breathable fabric, and there's a cutout portion at the back of the knee to help keep temperatures in check on those hot days. Weight: 157 grams (pair). Sizes: S, M, L, XL. Price: $60 USD.

Specialized Atlas knee pad review
An open back combined with a perforated fabric keeps things cool when temperatures rise.
Specialized Atlas knee pad review
The stitching has begun to pull out in several places, including the seam that runs down the center of the pad.

Pinkbike’s Take:
bigquotesThe Atlas pads have accompanied me on the vast majority of my rides over the last few months, largely due to how incredibly comfortable they are. There haven't been any hot spots or chafing, no matter how long I ventured out for, and the tall upper cuff works brilliantly to ensure that the pads stay put. I managed to avoid any massive crashes (knock on wood) while wearing them, but they definitely saved my knees from encounters with stem bolts and top tubes on more than one occasion. They're not designed for Red Bull Rampage style crashing, but they will help protect your knees from lesser impacts and abrasions.

As comfortable and unobtrusive as the pads are, there is room for improvement when it comes to the construction quality. The stitching has begun to come undone at the seam that runs down the center of the upper portion, as well as around some of the smaller side pads. Most of the seams are double or triple stitched, so it's not as if the pads are going to completely fall apart, but better stitching would help ensure they'll last more than one season. In addition, the lower cuffs have lost some of their elasticity, and no longer fit as snugly as they originally did.

Construction quibbles aside, the Atlas pads earn top marks for their excellent fit and function, as well as an extremely light weight that makes it difficult to think of a reason not to bring them along on a ride. - Mike Kazimer

www.specialized.com, @Specialized

Author Info:
mikekazimer avatar

Member since Feb 1, 2009
1,696 articles

  • 69 1
 Obviously, the stitching issues are a pre-production problem.
  • 29 3
 So... time for RF to sue the big S?
  • 3 0
 That would probably be very bad for Fox if that happened.... Also, specialized has a line of clothing and such that is called atlas, and these fit in with that
  • 1 0
 Exactly, they have, and have had their trail line of apparel called "Atlas" for a while. This just fits in that category for them.
  • 18 6
 A: I don't understand why Raceface is the only company to do an open back system. I loathe pedaling up in pads, and having to remove shoes seems an unnecessary pita. I will never buy anything else.

B: Is the Specialized marketing dept so lazy that they have to thieve the atlas product label? Pretty weak.

C:Rhubarb beer is tasty.
  • 37 5
 If RaceFace named one of their pads "Rock Hopper" the SpecialEd legal team would be all over them like baby $hit on a blanket.
  • 8 1
 Alcoholic ginger beer is the go. I just slit the back offa my 661 knee pads so i don't need to take off ma shoes... stiched on a velcro strap cos ma legs are frickin huge and presta valve there you go₩
  • 1 0
 Endura's Single Track pads are open in the back. and they give a good protection too! ( not sure if they import Endura in Canada )
  • 1 0
 endura is imported by live to play sports (norco) in canada .
  • 1 0
 ALPINESTARS MOAB problem solved
  • 2 0

different pad altogether, innit?
  • 3 0
 Specialized has had the Atlas line of apparel for years
  • 2 0
 Atlas is name for Specialized "trail" products for years guys ..
  • 1 2
Gee, my keyboard must not be working...
  • 10 0
 On the topic of knee pads, and sorry if this is a really stupid question, but why do I see so many more people wearing knee pads but no elbow pads? In any of my crashes, I tend to come down on my arms far more often than I ever have on my knees. Plus I tend to graze trees and rocks with my elbows a lot more than with my legs. I've just been curious about the lack of arm protection vs leg protection. Or do I just crash wrong? Wink
  • 18 0
 Bro, they don't look good with tank tops! Im the only one of my group that wears them, I'm probably the only one who hasnt had to peel myself out of my sheets on numerous occasions
  • 4 0
 Lol! True enough! Smile
  • 2 2
 ride a big bar and never let go when you fall, the bar ends take all the abuse.......however, when trail riding I never wear pads or gloves and when i down hill just knee pads.......for me I just feel the helmet and shoes are the only necessary protective gear. has nothing to do with tank tops just ergonomics, comfort, and hotspots..not all bodys are created equal as the pads are!! knee pad and elbow pad abrassions are the same as road rash so all things equal i fall less then I ride so logic goes to suffering the odd road rash then the never ending chaffing and hotspots, blisters, etc....
  • 9 0
 Because pretty much every elbow pad I have tried since I was fruit booting as a preteen has had a tendency to flop around like a 500lb womans underarm. I recently found that paying $3000 for 7 stitches SUCKS & have been pretty happy with my gform elbow pads since. They're pretty meh for comfort & style but will be better than nothing in the event of a dirt nap.
  • 7 0
 I'll second your experience of thrasing my elbows too often while usually my knees do OK. I must be doing it wrong too. But I've been pretty happy with the GForm elbow pads. They're pretty much just arm warmers but do the job when I fall over.
  • 3 0
 My RF elbow pads have been really comfortable and don't flop around at all, but that could be because of my awesome guns! LOL! But that makes sense why I don't see them all that much. Would be like a poor fitting helmet...won't do much good when you actually need it! Thanks all for the input! Smile
  • 1 1
 I would say a lot of it comes down to economics. Elbow pads don't rank highly on the list of protective gear so I don't spend my money on them. I would also say there's a stigma to elbow pads as for me they remind me of when I was a kid with wrist guards, elbow pads, and the whole nine yards just to ride my bike on pavement. Elbow pads just make me feel like a bitch and I know from talking to other riders that they feel the same way.
  • 1 1
 I run some gform knee pads and find them perfect for heavier trail riding to light DH use, I rarely seem to catch my forearms when i go down as i usually put a hand out and my gloves save me there. I've also found the few times i do wear elbow pads they just slide up...
  • 4 0
 I don't understand it either. Most of the time you fall from your bike you are going to land on your elbows and because of the greater distance you are going to hit them harder than your knees. Also the elbow joint is a lot weaker than the knee joint so is going to be damaged a lot easier as a result of a fall.
  • 2 0
 I'm at the same place as you. When I fall, I rub my forearms more than anything else. When I wear pads, if for a non gravity-oriented ride, I just go "naked" or put my arm pads only (Dainese Trailskins). Knee pads are for more aggressive rides when I know there will be quite a lot of D-.
  • 3 0
 I use these, bought them about 4 months ago. Super comfortable, not too hot etc... But I must have pre-production samples too:

On my second ride only, the stitching on the small pads started to come loose. Now I have the same on a main seam :/

Probably should email the big S, but I bought the pads in another country and don't give a receipt anymore. Sucks, as they really are a nice to ride in..
  • 7 1
 I love spending money on things that fall apart, that is after all why ride mtb, "manufacturers total bullsh!t"
  • 1 0
 These can't be worse than the RF pads. Very similar, but the raceface started to tear after 10 rides and chafed like no other.
  • 2 0
 Wed. retro Raceface. The losing star here is the fact you have to disrobe[take off yer 510s] in order to remove them and again to put them on. OK if you wear em all day I guess.
  • 1 0
 Like the raceface version, which you also have to take off shoes to put on? I can't stand the RF ones, and have stopped wearing them entirely.
  • 2 1
 I have absolutely zero interest in these. There are already a couple of quality brands making better units. The higher lines on these are great for skinny riders. I'd love to see those things on my legs. There is no way in hell those wouldn't ride up... and down on my legs. Beyond that, that center seem... I'd blow that thing apart. I've got tree trunks for legs. These are not for me. I'll be honest though... me not likely specialized plays in to it. LOL! For some things I prefer to go with brands that focus on that segment of the industry. Jack of all trades doesn't necessarily mean the best. I prefer to where helmets by helmet companies, pads by protection companies, components by component companies.
  • 4 1
 I ordered a set last month and they are by far my favorite for doing long day rides just because they pack away so well!
  • 6 6
 It's lame that specialized is using the word atlas considering that RaceFace has an entire line of Atlas products. Specialized just sucks in so many ways, who cares if the gear actually works, the bad business practices from that company leaves a negative impression and makes me stay away from the evil S.
  • 2 1
 Specialized has had the Atlas line of apparel for years, so shut up
  • 3 2
 Not as long as race face has had atlas cranks..... I have plenty of good reasons to not like Specialized besides their atlas name rip-off... Plenty
  • 1 0
 Interesting - tried the raceface pads of similar design, and absolutely hated them. Too much chafing, and the mesh ripped almost right away. Will be interested in these if I see them around. Can't be worse, after all.
  • 2 3
 Protective equipment seems like its falling way behind the development curve of the MTB. I know that I ride faster, rowdier terrain on my bike but my protective gear has stayed the same for the past 15 years. This Specialized product looks like a step in the right direction, but I'd like to see innovations in pads and protective clothing making it more comfortable easy to wear and actually save you some flesh in a crash.

It's a great feeling to push the limits of your riding, right until you "eat shit" and crash hard. But when you jump right back up after a hard crash and discover your unharmed because you had the right gear that's priceless.
Better riding gear will allow us to push beyond our limits and find the next level in our riding.
  • 7 0
 Strange, my impression is that protector tech has grown in leaps & bounds in the last 5 years when it comes to comfort, breathability, & pedal-ability.
Have you tried the new crop of soft-shell pads that harden on impact? It's pretty impressive stuff.
My new Alpenstars kneepads have awesome flex, but when I bang them hard into sharp-edged objects, they firm up massively & prevent strike-through.
  • 5 1
 Protective equipment is rapidly evolving. People are wearing less than they did 10 years ago, but the protection armour now offers is far superior. A hardshell does not protect you from the energy on an impact, purely penetration at best. A soft armour prevents penetration as well as dissipating energy and greatly reducing the force your body takes. The biggest challenge is people picking the right armour for their riding and knowing the limits. Nothing will protect you completely, but it will reduce the damage significantly.
  • 3 2
 Chuck you are absolutely right that protection has come a long way in the past 10 years. Ref. your comments on the hard shell armour/soft armour debate I would tend to disagree. Hard armour with inadequate foam behind the hard outer shell will as you state not dissipate any energy, but hard armour with a good quality foam behind a lightweight outer shell offers the best combination of penetration and shock absorbency. Soft shell pads even though they may pass the CE standard (EN1621-1:2012) will not fully prevent penetration. Be careful about swallowing too much of any manufacturer's claim about the latest greatest brightly coloured magic foams (unless it's us)!!! Does anyone know if the Specialized pad passes the CE EN1621-1 standard? They'll need to if they want to sell them in the EU. Cheers Martin 7iDP
  • 2 0
 I wear soft-shell d30 elbows because of the fit but have been looking around to try a hard/soft combo but the selection of armor at local bike shops seem's to be limited.
If protection has advanced so much why did we seeing guys at the world cup level making fake spine protectors to avoid using real ones?
Why does hardy anyone wear elbow pads?
Why does it suck so much to pedal in protective gear.
Riders are going out with just knee-pads with the same basic design thats been around forever because that the only piece that actually works well.
I want it to perform and then I want to be able to throw it in the washing machine without it being destroyed.
I'm happy to hear from a company representing protective gear I'll definitely check their shit out.
  • 2 0
 Hi Martin, most hard armour people have become accustomed to, does not have a good foam behind. To be fair a hard armour can not fully prevent penetration either. Foams are one thing, but with the new materials such as Amourgel which isn't a foam, it looks like it is bridging the gap.
I think people are still thinking that back protectors are restrictive, hard plates that are unnecessary. Take a look at Manon's crash from Fort William, she was wearing a Bliss Protection back protector (yes she is sponsored) but it shows their is no excuse for cardboard/not bothering.
  • 3 0
 ChuckNorrisUK is totally right, a combination of intelligent materials is key.
Hard armour can not fully prevent penetration and does limit flexibility and breathability.
Bikes and equipment is rapidly evolving. We trust in carbon frames, bars and even wheels but still using plastic for protection? Simple cups mad out of plastic...?

We think combination of high quality materials like our Amourgel and penetration preventing materials like Kevlar is the future.
Our products are made out of ARG combined with Kevlar. (Bulletproof wests are made out of Kevlar.) Bliss Protection knee pads offer great protection - yes we pass CE EN-1621-2:2012 K -, flexibility and breathability. Times changes and also gear!
  • 1 2
 @ChuckNorrisUK look at Manons crash! what about Greg Callaghan he was wearing Bliss knee pads. I know of at least 3 people in those pads that have crashed hard at whistler in rocks and have had to limp out to the hospital with lacerations to their knee. I am all for the hard shell over a good foam approach its just not worth the risk, the plastic will at least deflect the rock or stump when you land where as these pads with no hard shell layer just seem to grip and then wham damage is done. Maybe @blissprotection can bring something out that is innovative and not made of "plastic" and Kevlar has been for a long time in pads, it also cost a small fortune. To clear a few things up I'm a materials engineer and Kevlar is Plastic. These are not for me but I might try out the ION with the plastic cap.
  • 3 0
I totally respect your mindset. If you prefer to ride with hard shell, please continue.

I´ve just talked to one of Greg´s teammates.
Greg crashed brutal during training at Bikepark Leogang. He broke is hand twice and suffered a flesh wound on his knee.
The knee should be fine within two weeks. The hand will take longer to heel up.
Greg used a product originally designed for All-Mountain riding. He used it for DH in very rough terrain.

For the DH product range we use a different/harder material. I think this is more what you are talking about.
Please always choose your kit/protection depending on your riding type. This is probably one of the hardest things these days.

It seems like you do have a lot of product specific know how. Feel free to contact me: AN@BLISScamp.com
I would love to talk to yo about some product ideas.
  • 3 1
 Hi Chuck,Hi Hemlock, we use a material called Curv, it's recycled polypropelene threads that laid down in a lattice like carbon and compressed by heat, it's used extensively by a number of race teams for light weight panels on underneath of race cars - sure it's a plastic derivative but it's super light, flexible and allied with good quality foam offers superior protection to a soft pad with or without a Kevlar face. The CE test is great for whittling out poor foams - but it's a road Motorcycle test designed for crashing onto a smooth surface not a spill in an ugly rock garden. Armourgel looks like a TPR to me.One
thing I do agree with the Bliss guy about is chossing the right armour for the riding you'r doing.Hemlock I think you 'get it', sounds like Bliss need some help ...so maybe you should send em your CV... (only kidding Bliss)!
  • 3 0
 Finding this thread informative: props to Seven & Bliss for weighing in.
A genuine question for the industry guys & engineers:
is there a relevant testing metric that would compare the puncture-resistance of materials currently at use in MTB protectors?
Is there a way to express, for example, how a kevlar belt or "Curv" layer performs relative to an injection-molded plastic cap?
  • 2 0
 We all talk about what bike, travel, helmet to use in different terrain/types of ride, but seldom do we which type of armour ie minimalist, all mountain/enduro (yes I said that word!) or downhill/freeride. I am sure the guys at Bliss & 7iDP, as well as most other brands design armour for specific types of riding. Perhaps there should be an article on here explaining what types of pad are designed to do.

Hemlock, check out the thread on Greg's injury article, he has put out a statement explaining what happened.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer do you tend to wear the pads over top or under shammy shorts? Just wondering which may result in less movement/slippage ?
  • 2 1
 Just like everything else Specialized makes, a pretty good product undone by its poor quality.
  • 2 1
 Are these even CE approved? I just don't feel like smashing my kneecaps to pieces if I do crash.
  • 1 0
 race face ambush. works for me
  • 1 4
 Pads without straps is very bad idea. When putting them on/off pads are getting loose, so you end up with a pads that no longer stay in place when pedalling or things get rough. These seems to have the same issue.
  • 1 3
 Specialized knee warmers. I should probably pick up something like them though since I tend to leave the POC dh knee pads at home when i go for a shorter pedal.
  • 1 0
 All soft and lightweight knee pads are nothing but "knee warmers", but they do protect you from small bumps. You're gonna need full on DH protection to stop you from getting hurt if you crash you knee right into a spiky rock. But nobody wants to have those on day to day trail rides.
  • 2 2
 These look perfect for road rides.
  • 3 4
 Sweet! Finally something without straps. Seems to be confortable.
  • 3 1
 Until @50 wash cycles later, they don't stay in place and the stitching resembles a rats nest.
  • 1 1
 Sad but true !
  • 1 1
  • 2 5
 must be a lady trying to squeeze in one size smaller.
  • 1 4
 This must be the knee pads Greg Callaghan wore....

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