Pearl Izumi Elevate Knee Guard Review
Words & Photos by Mike Wirth / GooseWorks Bike Tuning
In the not too distant past, even the best joint protection consisted of a pair of poorly shaped plastic cups stitched to a sleeve of neoprene that bunched up like an accordion. Then they would inevitably slide off to one side during a crash, and leave your tender knee skin hopelessly vulnerable to onslaught of rocks sharp as razor blades. Thankfully, there are many more pad options available today. Most of them claim t-shirt comfort with flak jacket protection. Pearl Izumi looks to hit that mark with their Elevate Knee Guard, a pad that that’s designed to stay in place while you’re going up, and to keep you protected when you’re going down.
The Elevate Knee Guards are a mid-weight pad designed for trail and enduro style riding. They use a D3O viscoelastic flexible pad wrapped in lightweight four-way stretch Cordura material. The pad is designed with ventilation ports in the front of the pads to help keep you cool. The mesh fabric sleeve has a cutout in the back of the knee to prevent bunching, and comes with an over-the-thigh design with elastic grippers and sticky silicone print to prevent slippage while pedaling. Our size medium test pair of pads tipped the scales at 336 grams for the pair. They sell for $125 and can be purchased on Pearl’s website or through any decent bike shop.
Pearl Izumi claims the Elevate Knee Guard “ticks all the boxes when it comes to protection, comfort, and ventilation.” The pad feels lightweight and has a relatively slim profile, making it plenty comfortable in most trail riding conditions. The absence of any straps, buckles or wires to chafe makes them easy to use, but also makes finding the correct size important to allow the gripper to keep the pad securely in place. The guards provide a nice protection level that’s right at home for a huge cross section of trail riders, although they leave you more exposed than the ballistic armored feeling that a larger gravity specific pad would provide.
The longer sleeve mates well with cycling inner shorts, and the top cuff stays in place relatively well thanks to the silicone grippers inside. When pedaling, the material at top of the pad bunches slightly with every pedal stroke, and in turn that can help the pad slide down your thigh if the fit is not spot on between your thigh and the gripper. We found this to be less of an issue once we warmed up. Once you begin to sweat a little bit the pads stay in place quite well, and the built-in ventilation keeps them from retaining too much heat. That said, they also worked to keep our knees warm on cold days too.
The D3O pad cups are easily removed for cleaning, and after a couple time through our washing machine, the Elevate pads retained their shape and elasticity well. This is another benefit of running a pad with no strap closure system, because there’s nothing to stretch out and no hook and loop straps to snag every sock in the laundry load. Follow the care instructions, keep them out of the dryer to save the elastic cuffs, and these pads should last you for many miles.
Pearl Izumi is considered by many as the benchmark when it comes to making form fitting gear for cyclists. The Elevate Knee Guards show that commitment to quality and shed all the fasteners and straps and rely on their materials, design and workmanship to hold everything in place. The D3O pads are well-ventilated, easy to remove for cleaning, and offer adequate protection for most trail riders. They dutifully make small and mid-sized impacts all but unnoticeable. These fit like a pair of leg warmers and are supremely comfortable to wear on long epic rides. While we have yet to find any pad that can stay in place in every situation, these ones certainly stay comfortably enough that we’d recommend them to a wide range of riders. Gravity riders will prefer a guard with a more secure fastener system and a larger impact pad. That said though, for trail and enduro riders looking for comfortable, sleek looking and no-fuss pad option, the Elevate may raise the bar for your expectations on pads like it did for us.