Rapha Trail Knee Pads REVIEW
Review by Alex Sardella | Photos by Vinnie Zacha-Herthel
The roadie crew over at Rapha launched into MTB last year with a good looking range of dialed apparel for both men and women. We’ve been particularly enjoying their trail pants and windblock jersey to take the sting off the chilly Winter mornings on the trails . To continue to build out their Mountain Bike line, Rapha recently launched a pair of Trail Knee Pads to offer lightweight protection for the discerning trail rider, and they’ve quickly become a new go-to. Read on to get the low-down.
At first glance, the Trail Knee Pads look sleek and well made – no surprise here from Rapha. Minimal branding, black fabric, and a lightweight pad round out the overall low-key aesthetic. The protection used in the pads is called Rheon. The Rheon padding is light and flexible yet will harden on impact to absorb the force, similar in principle to the well established D3O materials. The blue Rheon material is about the same thickness as the comparable offering from Fox – the Enduro D30 Knee Guard. The pad has a tapered fit which covers your kneecap and surrounding area, and conforms perfectly when your knee is at a bend.
The sleeve itself is a blend of recycled nylon and elastane. The fabric features a four-way stretch for added comfort and performance. A Superfabric material sits over the padding to ensure durability in case of a crash, with proprietary ceramic polymer print on the front to add further abrasion resistance. Some roadie style grippers are fixed at the top and bottom. The top gripper is about 1.5 inches, where the bottom is .5 inches – both look and feel good, and are incredibly functional.
I typically run size L for most knee guards, however I have been wearing the size Medium from Rapha, so they might run a bit big – it’s always worth trying on protective equipment to get the fit dialed. The Trail Knee Pads come in at $110, run sizes XS – XL, and boast a 1621-2 Level B certification that’s the highest you’ll find on a trail knee pad. It’s worth mentioning there are no elbow pads currently offered to pair the Trail Knee Pads with.
When it comes to knee pads, I prefer to ‘set and forget’ and put them on when I start my ride, especially during the winter when most of my rides are wearing pants. With the Trail Knee Pads from Rapha, you can do just that. Immediately you notice how comfortable they are: there’s no material bunching; irritation at the back of the knee, or annoying hot spots at the grippers. It’s not too surprising when Rapha makes warmers and leggings, and that is pretty much what the knee pads are, just with a lightweight pad over the knee cap – they’re comfortable and cozy. The grippers used on the top and bottom are high quality and secure nicely around the quad and calf. There is no secondary restraint used for additional security, and for good reason.
The Trail Knee Pads are designed for trail and light enduro riding. I’d be skeptical rocking these in the bike park or even shutting the local dh trails. However, for long rides that involve a fair dose of climbing, or those rides you don’t think you need pads, these will go best. For bikes around the 120-150mm travel range, the pads would be a stout option. Even after an hour + of climbing, the pads would sit exactly where I set them and didn’t irritate any parts of my knees or legs. There is really no reason not to slip these on before a ride and save your skin from a possible wreck, they blend into the background and do their job without fuss.
Through the test period the Trail Knee pads were washed numerous times, and have held all their stitching and resisted any bagging out. The Rheon pad material isn’t recommended to go through the wash with the pads, so you’ll have to remove it every time to be safe, which is annoying but becoming quite commonplace. The pads are priced in the general ballpark for standard knee pads these days, and they back the quality to justify it. That said, it feels as if your dollar could go further as they’re devoid of any exceptional features. Once you get into their price point, you are generally looking at bike park or enduro suited knee pads that have a bit more to them to improve the value feeling.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Over the last few months, I’ve been able to get more pedaling in than normal due to a mild winter in Tahoe. The Trail Knee Pads have been a solid addition to my riding kit and after a dozen or so rides, I have not seen any problems, irritations, or durability issues. Overall, I dig the coverage, they nailed the design, and in result are some of the comfiest knee pads I have worn. There is no denying the quality and look of the MTB line that Rapha continues to build, we look forward to seeing what else Rapha will have in store for 2022.