BLUEGRASS SOLID D3O KNEE PADS REVIEW
SOLID PATELLA PROTECTORS
Review by Robert Johnston | Photos by Adam McGuire
Flexible protective materials like D3O have opened up the knee and elbow pad world to increasingly slimmed down and lightweight options that are more comfortable and less restrictive for pedaling. Gravity riding demands heavier duty pads to protect against the higher speeds and gnarlier terrain that downhillers and enduro riders will encounter, however the old school bulky and restrictive pads will no longer fly, so options like the Bluegrass Solid D3O have been created to offer the comfort of D3O’s flexibility without skimping on the protection. Robert has been calling upon the Solid D3O pads to keep his knees safe across the most aggressive rides he’s done this year and has come away very impressed.
The Solid D3O is an EN 1621-1 Level 1 rated protector available in both knee and elbow variations, designed to provide the protection required for the hardest lines. The Bluegrass pads use D3O protective shells as the main protection which generously cover the kneecap and extend down the shins for extra coverage. A Kevlar fabric cover protects the D3O pad from abrasion in a crash. The protection is bolstered by soft foam blocks in key locations surrounding the D3O pad, to protect against impact with the top tube and soften the blow on impacts to the outside of the knee.
Holding the D3O pad to the leg is an air mesh sleeve, allowing the non-protective areas of the knee pad to breathe freely. A full-length zip sits on the outside of each sleeve, letting the pads be fitted and removed without having to remove footwear. At the top and bottom cuffs there are generous silicon strips to help keep the pads in place, which are each bolstered by Velcro straps to dial in the fit. The top strap is elasticated to allow the pad to expand as the leg is bent and reduce the restriction when pedaling or during dynamic movements on the bike. The Solid D3O pads are offered in sizes XS-XL to fit a wide variety of rider sizes, with a retail price of $150 or €130.
I was blessed with a large period of lift-assisted riding at the tail end of my summer this year, giving me plentiful opportunities to don the Solid D3O pads and test their protection, comfort and longevity. It’s three big ticks for me in all of the aforementioned categories, with no-fuss performance across the board from bikepark shredding to eMTB epics.
I opted to go with the large size Solid D3O pads, which is what I’d typically go for across the board with most brands, and their fit was spot on for me. The lower cuff was the correct size without any influence from the velcro strap on the cuff, so it sat on the least tight setting. The upper cuff was slightly looser, so I called the upper strap into action, which sat around the halfway mark along the velcro. These positions didn’t change throughout testing, indicating there is little to no “bag out” of the pads through use.
Due to their size and the relatively durable materials used in the areas where it’s required, you certainly know the Bluegrass pads are on your knees when you’re riding, especially on the hotter days. They don’t have an ultra-slim profile that you’d expect to see from a trail rated pad, so some pants can end up feeling quite tight around the knees, depending on their fit and materials. That said, they’re just about flexible and airy enough to allow for easy pedaling, which led me to opting to run them on some medium-length enduro rides in gnarly terrain and a couple of big days on an eMTB, since they don’t restrict movement enough nor add too much heat to the point that I would be focused on finishing the ride to rip them off. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not my choice for the most pedal-intensive rides, but they’re far from the hottest I’ve used thanks to their generous mesh backing. Even so, having the zippers there to quickly unzip the pads following the ride is always a treat to get the sudden release of heat that comes with it. These zips never came undone during riding, and are well covered from rubbing against the leg, representing one of the best implementations of a zipper on a knee pad that I’ve seen.
I was lucky enough to only need to test out their protective capabilities a couple times during the test period. Once in a highside that gave a direct blow to the upper knee, and once on a wash out on a flat out dusty corner that had me sliding on the outer knee for a good few meters. Both instances the D3O was called into action, and did it’s thing without flinching, taking the worst of the sting out of the blow and letting me get back up and continue riding. The slide-out had me expecting the material of the pads to be scuffed up and threatening the integrity for further use, but I’d luckily kept contact with the ground isolated to the kevlar covering which took it in its stride. After numerous washes and countless laps, the Bluegrass pads are holding up remarkably well, and I’ve no doubt that they’ll serve me the next bikepark season without problem. They’re a solid chunk of cash, but hold up to their Solid name, which is a relief given their high price tag.
The Wolf’s Last Word
The Bluegrass Solid D3O knee pads are some of the most comfortable gravity knee pads I’ve tested, with an airy and flexible enough feel to make their way onto some of the gnarlier pedal-accessed rides, and offering comfortable and effective protection for lift assisted days in the park. They’re not cheap, but the durability seems good enough to justify the price tag.
Price: $150 /€ 130