ION PROTECTION LAYERS, K-TRAZE KNEE PADS
and E-TRAZE ELBOW PADS REVIEW
Words & Photos by Rob Dunnet
Ion has been making mountain bike clothing and protection for almost a decade now and has sponsored some of the biggest names and most colorful personalities in the sport. When we received Ion’s new Scrub Amp shoe we also received a good selection of protective gear. In our care package was the updated Protection Long-sleeve Scrub Amp, Protection Short Plus Scrub Amp, K-Traze knee pads and the E-Traze elbow pads. There is a fine line between testing protective gear to it’s fullest and getting hurt; we did our best to toe the line during this review.
The K-Traze and E-Traze were built to be more than basic protection without being bulky overprotectors. Both the K-Traze and E-Traze use very flexible and super thin SAS-TEC padding that they claim guarantees more than just abrasion protection and handles light impacts easily. For more reliability the protection pad is attached directly to the fabric so that everything stays in place in the event of a crash. To keep the pads in place the K-Traze uses a velcro strap for adjustments at the top and similar to the E-Traz they utilize Ion’s Snug Loop at the bottom. They also use Super Perforated Neoprene in their construction to help with flexibility and breathability. Both pads are available in two different colors and four different sizes ranging from small to extra large.
The Protection Long-Sleeve Scrub Amp and the Protection Short Plus Scrub Amp are designed to be a light and flexible base layer. Ion used breathable and flexible material to make these pieces feel less like protection and more like a comfortable base layer. Like the K-Traze and E-Traze the base layer protection uses SAS-TEC pads that can be found on the shoulders, elbows and back on the Long-Sleeve Scrub Amp and on the thighs and tailbone of the Short Plus Scrub Amp.
Elastic mesh can be found on the underside of the arms and on the back and front of the Long-Sleeve Scrub Amp. It can also be found on the shorts wherever there isn’t padding or protection. Both pieces uses elastic and sticky rubber to keep them from moving around while wearing. The Long-Sleeve Scrub Amp uses a zipper that runs from the arm pit to the waist to aid in putting it on and taking it off. Lastly Ion has added stash pockets to the back of the Protection Long-Sleeve Amp that are big enough to fit a water bottle in. Both the Protection Long-Sleeve Scrub Amp and the Protection Short Plus Scrub Amp are available in two different colors and five different sizes from extra small to extra large. Ion also offers a sleeveless version that is very similar to the Long-Sleeve Scrub Amp.
Ion was able to achieve their goal with both the Protection Long Sleeve Scrub Amp and the Protection Short Plus Scrub Amp, once they are on they do not feel like a protective layer. Both the upper and lower protective pieces are comfortable, breathe well and move well with body movements. The Protection Short Plus Scrub Amp fit easily under riding shorts or pants and act similarly to a standard liner. They are comfortable on long rides and the padding is not bulky so it isn’t something I noticed while pedalling. The Protection Long Sleeve Scrub Amp is noticeably hot on warmer days and can be used similar to a Merino base layer. It took a bit to get used to how warm it was going to make me and there were a couple of rides where I hid my outermost layer in a tree for retrieval on my way home. The Protection Long Sleeve Scrub Amp is good for shuttle days, bike park days and moto rides but it is a bit too warm for longer rides. I did use it on a couple of rides that had an hour climb at the beginning and found myself overheating after the first punchy climb. I tend to run hot regardless of what I am wearing so having a base layer on is a bit too much for me. There is a sleeveless version of the Protection Long Sleeve Scrub Amp and it might be better for days spent earning your downhills with a climb.
The Protection Long Sleeve Scrub Amp and the Protection Short Plus Scrub Amp fit well and breathe well but are they functional? On my first ride with these protection pieces I came around a tight corner a bit too fast to find a shallow creek with a low bridge over it. There was no way I was going to make it onto the bridge so I decided to try the creek. My front tire hit a rock and forced me into the bridge. I took the majority of the impact with my hip and elbow. The padding took most of the sting out of the impact but I did have a bruise on my hip for a couple of weeks. They definitely add an extra level of confidence and take some of the sting out of everyday crashes. The Protection Long Sleeve Scrub Amp does move around a bit; the repeated action of standing to sitting does make the back ride up a little bit. It was more noticeable when I wasn’t wearing the matching shorts. The grip on the bottom of the Protection Long Sleeve Amp does hold better to the shorts than it does to other material. I also found that checking my watch, taking off gloves and adjusting the sleeves of my jersey did move the sleeves of the Protection Long Sleeve Scrub Amp out of place a little bit. Once this happened they were difficult to adjust with a long sleeve jersey on top of it.
Ion did a good job with the K-Traze knee pads and the E-Traze elbow pads. Both pads fit snug and stay in place while riding. Both the K-Traze and E-Traze are not overly bulky and after the first couple minutes of riding they are hardly noticeable. The K-Traze have a snug fit that can easily be adjusted with the top strap, they stay in place while pedaling and they breathe well. I have done several long rides with the K-Traze pads on and they shed sweat well and don’t retain heat. The padding on the inside of the knee pad keep sensitive parts of the knees safe when they come in contact with frame parts and the knee cap protection is suitable for trail riding. I lost my front wheel a couple of times while riding with the K-Traze pads on and they protected my knee from impact and scrapes. I found that the pads do not move around in the event of a crash and they protect the knee parts that need protecting. The same can be said about the E-Traze, they stay in place and don’t slide around when they come in contact with the ground. I rarely ride in elbow pads and find that my elbows rarely get injured, that being said, the E-Traze easily stash into a back pack on the climb for added protection when things get rowdy on the way down. I did try to wear the E-Traze elbow pads with the Protection Long Sleeve Scrub Amp but it wasn’t a combination I would want to ride with. The elbow pads fit above and below the Protection Long Sleeve Amp but it wasn’t comfortable either way.
For riders who are looking for a little bit extra protection the Protection Long Sleeve Scrub Amp is a good choice. It easily fits under a jersey and isn’t bulky at all. When it comes times to washing, the back protector is easy to remove. I have washed it several times and it doesn’t show any wear or tear from going through a regular wash cycle. The Protection Long Sleeve Amp is not something that I would use on every ride, but it is great for days of shutting, riding the bike park or as a base layer on cooler days. I have been using it regularly on my dirt bike instead of a roost guard and it is more comfortable. I would have found it more comfortable with thumb loops and a way to connect the top to the shorts. There were times when I found the back riding up a bit with the movement of my hip pack or hydration pack. Thumb loops would help with orientating the sleeves properly and would stop the arms from wandering around.
The Protection Short Plus Scrub Amp is a piece of protection that can be worn everyday. They are not that much warmer than traditional liners and they add a bit of protection to sensitive areas. On most of my rides I wear bibs and it would be nice to see these shorts available in a bib option with a couple of stash pockets on the back.
The K-Traze knee pads are a good choice for trail riding. They stay in place while pedaling and in the event of a crash. They are not bulky, they breathe well and they stay dry on hot days. They don’t offer a lot of shin protection and I think a lot of riders would prefer them to be an inch or two longer at the bottom. Regarding the sizing, I found that they fit a little bit small and would suggest riders trying them on before buying, but if you get the right size for you, they’ll be comfortable and treat you right.
The E-Traze elbow pads will protect everything from the elbow to the wrist. They are a good choice for people who are looking for a comfortable elbow pad and want an extra level of protection. Elbow pads seem to be that piece of protection that people only wear after they have had an injury. Now that I have a set that I do not loath, it may be time to start packing them out on more of my standard trail rides.
Protection LS Scrub AMP – $189.95
Protection Short Scrub AMP – $139.95
K-Traze Knee Pads – $109.95
E-Traze Elbow Pads – $79.95