NINJA HOOLIGAN KNEE PAD REVIEW
Words by Robert Johnston | Photos by Finlay Anderson / Dusten Ryen
Ninja MTB began back in 2010 teaching skills clinics to help mountain bikers progress their riding, and have since expanded their offerings to include products from portable ramps through to some protective gear. Ninja Mountain Bike Performance kept our knees safe during our inaugural SL eMTB Roundup this year, but back in the UK I’ve been logging even more miles in their Hooligan Knee Pads to find out how they perform, and I’ve been reasonably impressed.
The Ninja Hooligan MTB Knee Pads are the most protective of their offerings, designed to give extra coverage for the rides that demand the best protection. The Hooligan pads house a EN1621-1:2012 Level 1 certified foam pad, which is covered in a Kevlar material panel to offer long-lasting abrasion resistance. On the sides of the knee, further foam pad blocks are added to give protection around the main pad area.
The knee sleeve is made from four-way stretch material to allow the Hooligan pads to move with you as you pedal, with a mesh panel on the back to improve airflow to the leg and keep you cool. Both cuffs feature adjustable hook-and-loop straps to help dial in the fit, with silicone strips on the inside to help them stick fast. The knee pads are machine washable on cold, and are backed with a 12 month warranty against manufacturing defects. Available in sizes S-XXL, the Ninja Hooligan Knee Pads retail for $89.99.
Obtaining the correct fit in a set of knee pads is essential, so I was lucky to be able to test a couple of different sizes of the Ninja Hooligan knee pads during a quick stop past their headquarters earlier in the year. I settled on the large size pads for my legs – I usually sit on the edge of medium and large with a preference for a tighter fit, and the large size combined with the hook-and-loop straps proved to offer my knees a comfortable place. These knee pads sit on the burlier and more protective feeling end of the spectrum, so their Level 1 certification is a little surprising – I wouldn’t have been surprised to see them hit Level 2. That said, the certification is one thing, but their performance is another, and they proved to offer up considerably more protection than some other Level 1 certified pads.
The length of the cuff above the knee pad is quite short, leading to it hitting the most tapered part of my quad, and the silicone strips are relatively narrow. Wider silicone strips can lead to a bit of irritation so I do understand the choice to not go overboard with the size of them on the Hooligan pads, but I found the upper cuff would eventually work its way down the knee a little when pedaling. This didn’t lead to any issues other than a small amount of bunching-related discomfort, with the protective portion of the pad staying firmly in place both when riding and during a couple of spills sustained whilst wearing these. The Hooligan pads are certainly on the more gravity-oriented side of things, opposed to a set of knee pads I’d be excited to log some long miles in the saddle with. They sit in the average sort of heat zone for a burlier style of pad: that is, pretty hot for pedaling efforts on warmer days, but certainly not as stuffy as the warmest of them.
Through a good amount of use over the summer, the Ninja Hooligan Knee Pads have held up amicably. There have been times on the sweatier days when pulling the knee pads on or off has produced a few “pops” of stitches, but there’s no evidence of the knee pads falling apart even so. The captive loops to hold the knee pad straps in place are the only part of the knee pad that lets down the overall feeling of quality – they’re unnecessarily long and have a slightly rough finish, and one failed quite early on in testing. These are not an essential part of the pads in terms of their overall ability to protect though, and otherwise Ninja has done a good job at putting together a solid pad. That said, they do forgo the now quite standard D3O protective pad that’s found in the likes of the Fox Launch D3O at $5 more, instead using their own unbranded version. It’s hard to say for sure which is likely to offer up the most protection out of these two knee pads, but my inclination would always be to spring for the more proven D3O-equipped pads, personally. With more sizes available in the Ninja pads though, chances are you’ll get a better fit on your leg, so perhaps that can swing the pendulum back in the direction of these Hooligans.
The Wolf’s Last Word
As pads on the burlier end of the spectrum go, the Ninja Hooligan Knee Pads are a solid offering that provide a reasonable level of comfort for their protection. The build quality seems reasonable aside from some very minor details, and they’ve held up to a solid amount of abuse without complaining, so they’re likely in it for the long haul.