FORM FWD CUSTOM KNEE & ELBOW PAD REVIEW
Words by Max Rhulen | Photos by Zach Schneider & Max Rhulen
Can’t find elbow and knee pads that fit your body right or are you just looking for a tailored experience? Form FWD is customizing both elbow and knee pads to offer a fit just right for you. We’ve all experienced a knee pad that feels great when you’re riding but slides down your leg in a crash and fails to do the job it intended. After suffering injuries while out on a ride, Form FWD co-founder Dairis Zarins set out to find a set of pads that was comfortable for long days in the saddle and fit his body type right, while remaining firmly in place during a crash. Out of his frustration in failing to find a set that would fit him properly, Form FWD was born. Check out the review below for more details and our thoughts on this custom set of knee and elbow pads.
Form FWD is offering both knee and elbow pads in their ENDR 101 line with the elbow pads costing $89.00 and the knee pads costing $99.00. All pads are available in sizes XS-3XL or can be ordered in a totally custom size for no extra cost. To get this custom set of pads a rider starts by taking various body measurements and sending them in to the folks at Form FWD. Form FWD then takes those measurements and creates a set of custom-tailored pads. The custom pads ship within 1-2 weeks of the order being placed, then you’ll be out on the trail feeling good!
Both the ENDR 101 elbow and ENDR 101 knee are made with a sleeve type construction. The sleeves are constructed of an eco-yarn moisture wicking stretch fabric. On the inside of the arm and backside of the leg there is highly breathable 3D mesh. There are cuffs at the both ends of the sleeves with grippers to hold the pads in place and the knee pads feature a rear cutout to prevent the fabric from bunching up and causing abrasion on the back of the knee.
The pads themselves have 6mm (elbow) and 9.5mm (knee) XRD Extreme Impact Protection foam. This XRD foam is much like D3O and similar technologies you see in other padding. When the foam undergoes force, like a sudden impact, its molecular structure changes to temporarily harden itself until the energy is dissipated. XRD foam is proven to absorb up to 90% of the most extreme impacts, while maintaining 98% of the original performance, time and time again. The XRD foam in these pads is covered with Venom stretch fabric. This fabric is made out of 6.6 nylon, which is tougher than your generic 6 nylon, and is given an Ultra PE ripstop grid finish to ensure they are very abrasion resistant.
I ride in knee pads 99% of the time, when it’s cold, hot, trail ride, dh laps etc… I have gotten so used to riding in them over the last decade that I feel naked when I don’t have them on. As for elbow pads, I typically only wear them when in the bike park, but there are pedal trails that definitely warrant them and I’d be inclined to wear them more often if they were more comfortable than normal. When I got the chance to test out these Form FWD pads I was excited to try something new, especially because they’d be tailored specifically for my skinny arms and legs. I have always struggled with knee pads because my quads always put me in a size medium and my calves would put me in a size small. With the Form FWD ENDR 101 pads, the fit was perfect straight out of the box thanks to the custom sizing.
When unpackaging and putting on both the elbow and knee pads, it was a bit of a shock how far up the sleeves came. The elbow pad covered my whole arm, with the sleeve running from my wrist all the way up to the base of my deltoid. It turned out that this was not necessarily a bad thing, as the sleeves helped keep the pads secure during the duration of my rides. Most of the testing was done during fall and winter months when the temperatures were low, so this sleeve construction was welcomed almost as an arm warmer. The fabric was thin and moisture wicking so I believe running these in the summer is definitely manageable, but they will add some warmth of course. Warmth is a little price to pay for the protection that you gain though in my eyes. As for the actual pad covering your elbow, it was very comfortable. At only 6mm thick the XRD foam in the elbow is not the most protective, but this is not intended to be a full-on DH pad, instead striking a balance of protection and comfort to encourage wearing the elbow pads more often. The ENDR 101 elbow pad is perfect for protecting your elbow and forearm from abrasion and minor impacts you may experience out on a trail ride. The ENDR 101 doesn’t get in the way, it’s light, and with no bunching up I forgot I had them on. They fit nicely under a long sleeve jersey and gave me that extra sense of confidence when riding trails that are burlier than my local singletrack.
During the test period I only decided to ride without the elbow and just have the knee pads a few times. One of those rides resulted in a crash where I wish I had had the elbow on, of course. When you go down you always wish you had more padding on than you did and this time the ENDR 101 would have saved me from 3 holes being punctured in my elbow, 1 resulting in a suture. If you crash hard enough you will likely find the limits of these trail focused pads, but in this case the elbow would have been just enough to save me some blood and hassle.
Moving on to the ENDR 101 knee! The fit of the ENDR 101 knee sleeve was everything you’d want from having a customized fit. The cuffs of the sleeve gripped around my calves and quads perfectly; just tight enough to stay in place, but not cutting off circulation. The XRD foam pad in the knee was flexible and didn’t restrict knee movement. The 9.5mm of padding was just enough for the spills I had while out trail riding and was comfortable on longer rides. The pads were hardly noticeable. However, I found that the XRD foam pad didn’t mold to the contour of my leg as much as I would like. This left the sides of my knees unprotected. When the pads warmed up and got a little more worn in, they did bend more than at first, but not dramatically. Compared with a D3O pad, it feels as if the XRD material is slightly less malleable for winter riding, but it’s not unmanageable.
One of the great features of these ENDR 101 pads is the sleeve made of eco-yarn moisture wicking stretch fabric. This made the fit snug and comfortable. During climbs and descents, the pads didn’t shift or overheat, and I never experienced any chafing. However, the stretch fabric does allow the pad to move if you grab it and wiggle it around a bit. In certain situations, maybe in shorts or on abrasive surfaces, during a crash the stretch fabric could allow the pad to move a little too much exposing parts of the knee. That being said, I did not experience this. The times I fell during testing I had pants on, the impacts were at slower speeds, and the ENDR 101 knees stayed in place. None of my incidents in these pads were terrible, just tipping over on a technical climb and sliding out in a corner or two, but the knee pads did their job and prevented me from getting banged up.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Great for everyday trail riding, the Form FWD ENDR 101 elbow and knee pads are comfortable and lightweight. They provided protection when I needed it and will be staying in my riding bag for those long rides in burlier terrain.
Price: Elbow- $89.00 Knee- $99.00