7iDP Sam Hill Knee Pad
Thanks in large part to the explosion of the enduro race format, we mountain bikers have a lot to be pumped about. Our trail bikes have gone from strength to strength and are now as capable as downhill bikes were ten years ago. And we can ride them all day long, up, down and around our local trails. This progression isn’t unique to the bikes that we ride. Body armour has gotten more comfortable, lighter, smaller, and in many cases more breathable than before.
One brand that has been prominent on the world's fastest enduro racers is 7iDP. The Transition knee pad was a popular choice both for teams partnered with 7iDP and free agents during the 2017 EWS. Riders along the Sea to Sky have also been drawn to the minimalist design. Sam Hill was one of 7iDP's riders who sported the Transition pad last season but he wanted more protection without affecting the comfort of the pad. That request led to the Sam Hill pad you see here.
The Pad & Where it Differs
The Sam Hill knee pad is held in place with a compression fit like the Transition version. A lycra sock with breathable mesh down the back and an ergonomic fit hugs the skin. It's light and were it not for the pad on the front, it would be almost like wearing a knee warmer. The kneecap area of the pad, which makes up the majority of the protection, is made of a moldable foam by Sas-Tec. It's a little stiffer when cold, but is very easily shaped when it’s warmed by ambient temperature or body heat. It's reasonably soft and comfortable when riding but firms up in the event of an impact. A similar technology can be found in a number of other foam pads available today.
Where the Sam Hill differs from the Transition is in the additional foam protection around the sides of the kneecap. The extra foam does come at a slight cost, with the pads coming in at 79.99 USD against the Transition's 69.99 USD. Of note is the price drop, with the Sam Hill costing the same now as the Transition did last year, so it's essentially the same price, if you could go back in time…
The lycra sock is quite long, going further up the thigh than many of the pads available on the market today. This can result in a little extra warmth on the trail, but it goes a long way to helping the pads stay in place while also being quite comfortable, with little opportunity for punters gap. Any riders that prefer a slightly shorter leg length from their riding shorts take note, this will provide more comfort when climbing while seated. The upper and lower extremities of the pads have a smooth silicone strip that also assists with keeping them in place, but it's not so aggressive that it will rip the hair off your legs.
Across the areas that include padding is a more robust, tear resistant material. Most lightweight trail pads feature a similar material across the knee and it’s not usually until looking at a more DH specific pad that the hard shells are included in its place. Despite the soft foam pad material the Sam Hill, like the Transition, passes the appropriate CE safety standards.
Fit & On the Trail
Having spent some time in the Transition pad it was surprising to find the Sam Hill even more comfortable when first fitted. One could easily be forgiven for assuming that more padding would mean less comfort, but somehow 7iDP has managed to improve the fit over the previous, lower protection version. The pad forms a very well fitted bond around the knee, one that makes it very comfortable to pedal and ride in.
On the trail, the Sam Hill pad remains in place with little sign of sliding down. In the event of a spill it can get shifted but has remained up in the right region – covering the kneecap. The extra pieces of protection go unnoticed when riding but have already proven themselves when getting a little out of control and smacking the sides of the bike during such moments.
With the weather just heating up in the Northern Hemisphere now, we’re getting our first dose of how they feel in warmer conditions. Based on last summer in the Transition, it’s a small price to pay for some protection on the trail. It is one of the more comfortable trail pads available.
There is one downside to that lightweight protection and its one that is common across any pads with a similar purpose. Due to the materials used in their construction, these require a little extra care as a firm snag against a pedal pin or abrasive vegetation can tear the material that makes up the compression sock. As with most things in life, it’s a game of compromises and if you want a lightweight, breathable knee pad, the appropriate care will need to be taken. That said, these have been through a washing machine a number of times now and there are no issues to speak of with the construction. The tear from a careless smack into a pedal while hiking hasn’t worsened from going through the wash, or from regular use.
The Sam Hill knee pads remain comfortable during long days in the saddle and offer ample protection for even aggressive trail riding duties. Like the Transition pads before, expect to see the updated Sam Hill pads popularity increase out on the trails this year because like it’s predecessor, its light and comfortable but also does it’s job well.
More on the Sam HIll Knee Pad.