Knee pads range from slim, barely there pull-ons that won't do much more than keep all the pieces of your knee in one place after you smash it apart, to thick and burly hard shell pads that look more at home being used on a vert ramp than a trail. Kali's Strike knee pads lean more toward the first option, with a pull-on design, a single hook-and-loop strap to adjust the fit, and something that Kali refers to as 'Xelion' padding that's 3D molded and would have looked the part in Prometheus.
The Strike knee pads go for $85 USD, and are available in four sizes from small to extra-large.
Strike Knee Pad Details
• Intended use: all-mountain, trail
• 3D molded 'Xelion' padding
• Soft knee padding at sides
• Breathable back panel
• Single hook-and-loop strap
• Dual non-slip cuffs
• Weight: 166 grams (single pad, large)
• MSRP: $85 USD
They're not bright but, with their science fiction-like appearance, it's still hard to miss the all-black Stike knee pads. That look comes from Kali's use of what they're calling Xelion, a rubber-like material that's 3D molded into a highly perforated shape before being sewn onto the Nylon and polyester sleeve. The claim is that the "nano-carbon elastic compound'' material can absorb and disperse impact energy by "instantaneously converting it into heat, which is then dissipated across the entire pad.'' Converting energy to heat is a pretty basic reaction, even if it's not quite how I'd choose to describe a knee pad doing its job, but Kali says that the Xelion material is so good at doing exactly that that it allows for the extremely vented design that you see on the Strike pads.
Need some knee pads to pull double duty on the trail and in your local goth nightclub? The Xelion padding is said to firm up when hit, but remain pliable until that moment.
If you think that the Stikes look familiar, it might be because Dainese does a comparable pad that employs what appears to be the same material in a similar fashion. The Italians even have their Trail Skin 2 knee pad at essentially the same price, although I think Dainese beat Kali to the market.
Kali has used more conventional padding to protect both the inside and outside of your knees, with small inserts that should keep those mysterious toptube-caused bruises to a minimum. The compression sleeve that the padding is sewn to sports non-slip bands at both the top and bottom, and there's a single hook-and-look strap at the top of the pad to tweak the fit. Because the Strike is intended to be pedal-friendly, the back panel of fabric is a lightweight, nearly see-through mesh that should keep that behind-the-knee sweat to a minimum.
The three silicone gripper strips, as well as the wide silicone band, help to keep the upper cuff from sliding down your leg. A mesh back lets them breathe.
All of the above adds up to 166-grams for a single Strike knee pad in size large that's intended for a 45 - 48cm diameter leg above the knee. For comparison's sake, I often use Fox's older Launch Enduro knee pads that, while weighing less, are also basically just a knee warmer with a bit of foam to cover the important bits. Demon's much larger, D3O-equipped Hyper Knee/Shin X D3O V2 pads are what I'll sometimes reach for when I'm in the bike park, and this far more substantial pad weighs 293-grams and offers protection for the shin as well. Unlike the Strike or Launch Enduro pads, I wouldn't want to pedal much more than just to the chairlift while wearing the Hypers. Performance
The majority of slim knee pads are of the pull-on variety to keep them light and simple, and the Strikes are no different. Both the upper and lower cuffs are quite stretchy, and it's pretty easy to pull them up without taking your shoes off, which is nice if you prefer to leave them stashed in your bag during the climb. I'm more of a 'put them on at the beginning of the ride' kinda guy, however, as I'd rather not stop and be faffing about with pads at the top of the climb.
The thin foam padding on the inside and outside of the knee is nearly invisible but also effective.
Because of that, I find that I'm extra sensitive to how pedal-friendly a set of pads are, and having to constantly pull them up during a climb is on par with slow drivers, The Big Bang Theory, and a stubborn case of the hiccups. I also don't think we should have to be pulling our knee pads down to our ankles during the climb - that's just as bad as needing to use a pedal-assist switch on a trail bike.
The slim Strike pads do a good job of staying put, so there's not much having to pull them up while pedaling. I think I may have had to reach down and tug at their cuffs once or twice during climbs of around an hour in length, but that's completely acceptable in my mind - I also needed to adjust the fit of my shoes and tinker with my shorts in that time, so I'm good with it. Compared to my other go-to slim pads, the Fox Launch Enduro pull-ons, the Kali pads needed far less attention and were just as invisible while offering much more protection than the soft padding that Fox uses.
Kali's Xelion padding doesn't fare well when temps dip close to freezing - it tends to get stiff and the pads aren't as comfortable.
All was not perfect, though, as I did discover something about the neat looking Xelion material: it doesn't like cold weather that much. When approaching freezing temps, as it is right now in southwestern British Columbia, Xelion gets about as stiff as I do in cold weather. When it's warm, or at least not near-freezing, the Stike pads are invisible and comfortable, but when it's cold they don't want to bend with your leg, and the Xelion section below the knee wants to lift up off the leg rather than stay put. This was not an issue in temps above 40-degree Fahrenheit.
The design of the Xelion padding, with Kali's logo integrated into it, sure looks cool, and the slim profile means that they play nice with tighter fitting trail-oriented shorts, unlike many bulky knee pads that won't fit under the cuffs of sporty fitting bottoms. To be honest, I didn't go out of my way to see if the Strike pads would keep my knee caps in one piece, but I did smack them with a hammer a bunch (the pads, not my knees) to see if I could feel the material firming up upon impact. No luck, I'm afraid, as this Xelion stuff firms up and then softens near instantaneously, but I have no doubts that it's far more effective than the disposable feeling foam in my other pedal-friendly knee pads. Pinkbike's Take: