O’NEAL FLOW KNEE GUARD REVIEW
Review by Tod Sciacqua | Photos by Dusten Ryen
More riders are gearing up and wearing lightweight mountain bike knee pads, like O’Neal’s Flow Knee Guards. Once just reserved for downhillers and freeriders, protection brands have spent nearly a decade perfecting breathable, lighter duty pads for riders of all levels. It’s pretty easy to throw on a slim pad like the Flows and avoid costly medical bills and the pain (and embarrassment) of impact-related injuries, it’s important to always wear proper protective gear. After putting over four thousand miles (yes, you read that right. I’m retired and have way too much free time to ride) on the O’Neal Flow Knee Guards, I can offer up some solid insight into how these pads perform.
Sporting a cool $79.99 price tag, the Flow Knee Guards come in five sizes, from small through XXL. I found that the mediums were a true and perfect fit, and in no way are they restrictive while pedaling. In fact, what started as my go-to pads for quick afternoon rides soon became a staple item on long, all-day adventures. The Lycra sock sleeve gives maximum freedom of movement when jamming hard, while the fine ventilation holes in the back of the knee add comfort to the pads. Forget about dropping your pads down around your ankles for long climbs; the Flow Knee Guards live up to their name by offering great ventilation through the front face of the pads.
While burlier knee pads with plastic cups tend to block more airflow and create a sweat-a-thon right over the rider’s patella. This is a non-issue with the Flow guards, which channel a massive amount of air onto and around the knee area. I mean it when I say that after a few rides, you don’t even notice that these are on during a spin.
Now, let’s talk performance and protection. If you’re looking to Red Bull Rampage your way down a cliff or send a double that would make the motocross guys blush, these are not the knee pads for you. O’Neal’s IPX soft gel setup is admittedly minimal in design, providing great protection for sliding impacts, low-speed hits, and the occasional bonk into a handlebar, however, hard—and I’m talking hard—impacts from the front are not the Flow’s specialty. That said, if you’re willing to compromise some all-out protection with the slicker style, comfort and breathability on your trail rides, the Flow guards are worth a look.
When it comes to trail time and durability, after the 4,000 miles that I’ve put on these pads, I’m happy to report that the high-quality materials and an innate toughness makes them well worth the $80 price tag. Numerous small, slow-speed crashes (and a couple of really big ones) have yet to cause any tearing or degradation of the pads. The elastic bands that hold the pads in place have held up great over every ride. Typically, I’ll throw them into the regular laundry cycle (followed by an air dry) once every five or six rides, and the pads have yet to show any major wear or tear.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Altogether, there’s not much I’d want to change about the O’Neal Flow Knee Guards. Some added shin protection wouldn’t be a bad thing, though I would hate to sacrifice overall breathability and big miles comfort by adding more surface area. Additionally, style-conscious riders might vote for more color options than just the standard black design, but then again black goes with everything so I’m not complaining there. Considering that the fit, comfort, durability, and pricing of the Flow pads are all exceptional, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better knee guard for everyday use—just don’t go all Johnny Knoxville on me in these.
Disclosure: Our team selects all of the products we review and do so with honesty and objectivity in mind. Some of the products we receive come directly from Competitive Cyclist, who also value our readers and have offered them a 15% discount (exclusions apply) on their first purchase by using LOAMWOLF15. Through this program we may also receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thanks for your support, TLW.