SIX SIX ONE RECON ELBOW & KNEE PAD REVIEW
Review by Jason Ekman
As mountain biking continues to evolve, we the riders get to see the fruits of those changes. In the past knee and elbow pads were bulky, hot, and depending on your body type, often ill fitting. These days we have options from full plastic capped outer shelled models for hitting the most gnarly terrain, through to thin light layers that breath well and almost disappear while riding, but still keep the blood on the inside if you have a mishap. The Six Six One Recon series falls into the latter.
The Recon line has been completely redesigned for 2021 with D30 Ghost inserts that give these light weight pads a CE 1621-1 Level 1 protection rating. If you are wondering what “CE 1621-1” means, it’s a system that was established for motorcycle use to rate the various levels of protection a piece of gear provides. For example, an elbow guard with Level 1 certification transfers more impact to the user than a Level 2 would, so the Recon’s aren’t rated for the heaviest hits, as you may expect from a Trail-focused pad.
The Recon elbow pads are large, so large I thought I had gotten two pairs of knee pads by mistake, but that is by design. The extended length provides a larger D30 coverage area on the outside of your arms so it’s not just the thin material making up most of the pad, but actual protective material. The pads are light with a large mesh area on the inside of the arm for breathability, and feature silicone grippers with elastic at both ends to help keep them in place.
The Recon Knee pads are also longer than most and feature that same large D30 Ghost insert to handle protective duties. The insert helps protect below the knee to the top of the shin area, a welcome addition to add some extra protection without too much bulk. The upper portion of the pad extends high up on the thigh, helping to keep them in place and ensuring you should have no issue with the dreaded “Noob Gap” (exposed skin between your shorts and your pads). The back of the pad features the same breathable mesh as the elbows, and there’s a cutout at the back of the knee to prevent bunching. Elastic and Silicone grippers at both ends help keep the knees in place as well. There is also a wide elastic band that runs around the back of the pad, just below the knee, to aid the overall support of the pad.
The Recon pads weigh in at a svelte 280g for the Elbow and 322g for the knees, light enough to maybe entice the Lycra crowd to give them a go, and retail for $75 and $85 respectively.
Normally with elbow pads I tend to fold them up a bit and stash them in the big leg pockets of my shorts for the climbs then dig them out for the descents, I just don’t wear them any other time. With the Recons I had to take my pack as they would not fit in my pockets or hip pack. Inconvenient, but that’s the price you pay for that extra coverage. The pads fit higher on your arm making them a bit tougher to get on than some others especially if you just worked up a sweat. Once in place they stayed put and they breathe so well if the next drop was close enough, I just left them in place. One thing that did bother me at first is since the D30 insert is so wide it would “bunch up” a bit at the bend of my elbow, again another price you pay for extra coverage. I have longer arms, so the extra length of the pads overall did not cause a problem but I could see this being an issue for smaller riders and I do feel that the elbow pads run a bit on the large side. As with most protective gear it’s worth trying before you buy, if possible, to ensure the fit is right for you.
The Knee pads are my favorite of the Recons. They’re easy to get on, light weight and very comfortable with no “hot spots” (where the pad can chafe), so have become my go-to for XC days. I have short legs, so the upper portion extends well inside the bib shorts that I run under the baggies and once in place these pads are nearly forgotten. The mesh on the backside keeps the temperatures in check and the open portion at the knee’s pivot is something I’ve not had on knee pads before, and it’s quite comfortable. The pads have stayed firmly in place every ride so far, including a long eMTB training ride that turned into a rather sweaty affair after I killed the battery in 90-degree heat, so I would say sizing on the knees is spot on.
I haven’t had the unfortunate opportunity to put the protection level of the pads to the test (I’m sure it’s just a matter of time) as far as crashing in them goes, but I feel for trail rides the D30 insert should do well in most cases. After numerous rides and washes the pads show no signs of fraying, or any loose threads, and the elastic on the grippers remains taut. I’d suggest they may be a bit overpriced at $85 for the Knees and $75 for the elbows though as there are similar offerings on the market for about $20 less on average.
The Wolf’s Last Word
As I’ve gotten older, I have gravitated toward wearing pads more often, so it’s nice to have lightweight options for the less sendy days. The Six Six One Recons are a solid set of pads that are light and cool and crucially stay in place. The knee pads are well done and produced no complaints, and I think for some the elbows would work well but it’s important to get the all-important fit right.
Price: $74.99 (elbow) /$84.99 (knee)