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REVIEW

Chromag Rift Knee Guard

Words Ryan Walters
Photos Robyn Walters
Date Jul 8, 2022
Reading time

Maximal knee protection, minimal package

When I received the box for the Chromag Rift knee pads, I immediately thought that there had been some kind of mistake - Chromag must have sent me a pair of gloves by accident. No, no, the small box definitely says “RIFT Trail Knee Guard” on the front. Perhaps there’s another box with the other pad in it? No, no - they’re both in there. Wow.

Over the years, I’ve tended towards bulkier knee pads that subliminally speak to me with promises of excellent protection, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that bulkier padding often means better protection. But mountain bike armour has experienced a technological shift in recent years, and the advent of reactive polymers that stiffen on impact are allowing manufacturers to come up with armour that maintains a high degree of protection while still being comfortable to wear for long periods of time.

The Chromag Rift might look somewhat minimal at first glance, but clever design and the inclusion of strategically placed RHEON inserts make for a knee pad that punches well above its diminutive weight. Like other reactive polymers, RHEON is a rubber-like material that is very soft and pliable, until it is subjected to an outside force (i.e. those pointy, hard AF, immovable rocks that inevitably seem to find your kneecaps in the event of a crash). RHEON strengthens and stiffens on impact, providing increased protection over a standard polymer. The RHEON inserts are permanently encased in an abrasion-resistant aramid shell, with a breathable airprene backing material for structure and comfort. The mesh material that holds everything together is thin, stretchy, and comfortable while pedaling. Chromag claims that the Rift is fully machine washable, although I’d be inclined to stick to the delicate cycle to help preserve the thin mesh and stitching that holds everything together. Available in 5 sizes from XS to XL, the Rift is CE certified to EN 1621-1:2012.

One of the secrets to the Rift’s slim profile is the absence of any kind of velcro adjusting straps. Instead, the highly elasticized cuffs feature silicone grip strips, which work in concert with the unique calf gusset to securely lock the pads in place. I was initially unsure about the lack of any kind of adjustment strap, but my concerns were unfounded, as the Rift is excellent at staying in place - even after sweat-drenched, daylong missions. The shape and slim fit of the Rift works well with shorts or pants, and the lack of any velcro means they will never catch or snag on whatever else you happen to be wearing.

Chromag set out to make a knee pad that would be comfortable and protective for any ride, and after several weeks with the Rift, I can confidently say they’ve succeeded. While the pads feel a bit warm when you first put them on, I think this is mainly a side effect of the very snug and secure design that keeps them in place so well. Even without the benefit of any kind of adjustments, the Rifts just glue themselves to your knees, and are quickly forgotten about as the pedaling begins. So strong is their ability to stick to your legs, caution must be taken when removing the Rifts from your legs, in order to prevent overstretching or tearing them. The safest, most effective way to remove these pads is to slowly inch them down your leg, sliding top then bottom incrementally until the silicone gripper bands release their tight grip. This observation on how sticky they are is in no way a criticism of the Rift - indeed, this is a very big selling point in my opinion. After years of struggling with various brands and styles of knee pads that refuse to stay in place, Chromag seems to have cracked the code with the Rift.

Aside from being a bit warm, the Rifts are easily one of the most comfortable knee pads I’ve ever worn, and with no pressure points or chafing spots to speak of, I had no problems spending several hours at a time pedaling in them. In stark contrast to other knee pads I've worn, I wasn't desperate to get out of them as soon as the ride was finished - I often forgot that I was wearing them. There are certainly pads out there that breathe a bit better, but as far as overall comfort goes, the Rift is very hard to beat.

Chromag calls the Rift a “Trail Knee Guard”, but I personally would have no reservations about running these pads in the bike park, or while DH or enduro racing. I’ve experienced one slight rock strike during a crash that resulted in zero damage to knee or pad. Possibly the most important protective measure of the Rift is its ability to stay exactly in place for extended periods of time - because what good is a knee pad, if it has slipped halfway down your leg at the time of a crash? The RHEON padding seems to be in all the right spots, and is not present where it’s not needed - and with that in mind, I have no doubt that the Rift is as protective as the far bulkier knee pads in my closet.

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Chromag has knocked it out of the park with the Rift Trail Knee Guard, and I can’t stress enough how impressed I am with the overall comfort of this pad. The Rift is in a league of its own when it comes to staying put on your knees, and for that reason alone, they are certainly worth a second look.

Chromag Rift Knee Guard - 145 CAD / 125 US

rwalters
Ryan Walters

Age : 40

Height : 1803mm

Weight : 86kg

Ape Index : 1.03

Inseam : 787mm

Bar Width : 780mm

Preferred Reach : Pretty comfy at 487mm these days.

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Comments

Losifer
Carlos Matutes
7 months ago
+1 Ryan Walters

I’ve had mine for a few months now, and couldn’t agree more. Absolutely the best knee pad I’ve used for trail riding, and I will likely buy a back up pair, just in case…

Reply

Mbcracken
Mbcracken
7 months ago
+1 roil

Any comparative thoughts for these vs the new Rapha knee pads?

Reply

rwalters
Ryan Walters
7 months ago
+1 Mbcracken

Sorry, no experience with Rapha knee pads. My most recent knee pads are Endura MT500 with a similar style of reactive rubber padding. The Enduras are bulkier, and don’t stay in place nearly as well, but they have slightly better ventilation than the Rift. I prefer the Rift overall though.

Reply

troy
Troy
7 months ago
+1 Mbcracken

I have the Raphas and everything he says about these I would say about the Raphas. Super comfortable, a little hard to get on and off, but they stay put and you forget about them. They are a little long, compared to POC, but it's not an issue. Bonus with Rapha is they do free repairs and they're $15 cheaper.

Reply

Mbcracken
Mbcracken
7 months ago
0

Thanks Troy...I had noticed the cost difference but didn't realize Rapha doing free repairs.  Thanks!

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
7 months ago
+3 Troy Mbcracken Ryan Walters

I have both (I'll write up the Raphas in the near future) and concur with Ryan's thoughts on these and Troy's regarding the Raphas. They're both some of the best pads I've ever used in terms of comfort and how well they stay in place. The Raphas are slightly lower-profile in terms of width but don't feel less protective by any means. The Chromags' wider profile doesn't make them feel bulky. I've had great luck in recent years with POC and Sweet, but the Chromag Rifts and Rapha Trail Knees both stay in place better.

Reply

kos
Kos
7 months ago
+1 Ryan Walters

Well, owning neither, I'll note that obvious, which is that the Chromags are FAR cooler!

Reply

ehfour
ehfour
7 months ago
+1 Ryan Walters

Your exp is 1:1 what I went through and experienced with these pads.  Coming from RF loam pads I was concerned with the lack of bulk..but the comfort of these far exceeded my expectations

Reply

andrewbikeguide
AndrewR
7 months ago
+1 ohio

These are excellent pads but I can attest to the fact that it is easy to put one's thumb through the mesh (two months) if not being super careful and considered when removing them. For example the enduro stage race technique of "thumb under the upper and push them down the calf whilst pedalling" does not really work.

They stay in place really well and are super comfortable, one could pedal all day in them but they sit unobtrusively above the lateral malleolus so it is more comfortable to do long non technical pedals with them off the knee. For long technical climbs where there is a risk of a spin out or a slow speed crash then they are certainly easily bearable.

I run two sets (both version two - warranty replacement of version one and second set) in rotation as I do not like stinky knee pads and feel that the silicone doesn't grip as well on the upper leg when it is not clean. 

Cold "hand" or "delicate" wash in the machine, after 2-3 rides, and then line dry (inside to avoid sun degradation) and they seem to be holding up to that cycle quite well.

Good enough that I sold my POC 2.0 VPD and I no longer use my G-Form pads (which used to be my ultra-light "probably don't need pads but not going to jinx myself so I'll pack a a set just in case" day long ride pads.

If they had a a slightly stronger band of material on the upper to protect the mesh from 'fingers' and perhaps two soft pull tabs to help with pulling them up/on they might last longer.

Set one are coming up to their third year and set two are in their second year so good value for money AFAIAC.

Reply

khai
khai
6 months, 4 weeks ago
+1 Ryan Walters

I've got a pile of different kneepads from various manufacturers and these are my favorites by far, likely seeing 5:1 use vs the rest combined. I do tend to wear burlier pads in the bike park but that's more to "save" these and get some use out of my other pads that still work fine, and sometimes to move around the area of my leg that's got silicone grippers as the skin can get sensitive after long days of intense grip. I wash them regularly and have not noticed any silicone degradation or any signs of wear, and I've owned them for about a year and a half.

Standard caveats re: fit notwithstanding, I'd recommend them to anyone.

Reply

andy-eunson
Andy Eunson
7 months ago
0

They look great. Similar to the 7idp Sam Hill I wear. To remove those ones I will turn the top of the sleeve inside out and roll it down the outside of the pad. Then grab the bottom with both hands inside the sleeve and rotate the pad off. Once I break the "sticktion" free I can them off around my heel with the pad backwards. I’ll be trying a pair of these when my current pads wear out too much.

Reply

DanL
DanL
7 months ago
+3 roil Ryan Walters Andy Eunson

you won't be disappointed - these made me sell all my 7IDP pads which were my previous favourites for comfort and protection.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
7 months ago
+3 Troy Andy Eunson Doug M.

All knee pads last longer when put on and taken off backwards - it'll prevent the tears in the thinner material above the padding - so that's a hot tip. Those 7iDPs do fit tight but they also stay in place super well.

Reply

Andeh
Andeh
7 months ago
0

I've had a pair of these for about a year and a half.  They're my second favorite pads (behind TLD Stage).  I've basically stopped using them due to the upper silicon grippers getting worn down, so they don't stay up as well as they used to.  Compared to the Stage, they offer more lateral coverage, less vertical coverage (the Stage goes about 2" lower on the shin), and breathe quite a bit less well.  Note that the 2 side-most pads on the Rift are not Rheon, just normal foam.  It feels like behind the Rheon impact gel that there's a secondary layer of normal foam padding.  This makes them feel very well padded overall (and I'd prefer to hit a rock with these over the Stage), but blocks airflow through the pad.  The tough outer material & the rubber Chromag logo coupled with the slightly thicker padding make them hang up a little bit more on the inside of pants compared to the Stage.  Overall, they're a pretty good set of pads, but when both my first set of Stages and the Rifts had the silicon grippers start to lose grip, I bought a second set of Stages and mostly just rotate between those.

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el_jefe
el_jefe
7 months ago
0

Thanks for the comparison to Stage, which is my current go-to. I normally HATE climbing with pads pulled up, but Stage has been fine for me to do big rides (incl recent Stone King Rally multi day big sufferfest) with pads on the whole time. However, upper leg gripper silicon slowly has less grip and needs pulling up once in a while. Chromag Rift is the only other pad (other than Dakine) which I'm interested in trying.

Reply

Hbar
Hbar
7 months ago
0

I appreciate these comments regarding breathability. Does anyone have a comparison of these to the Leatt AirFlex? I like mine, even for multi-hour pedal fests, but they are starting to wear out (3+ years in) and need replacement.

Reply

Andeh
Andeh
7 months ago
+1 Hbar

I had the AirFlex years ago.  They didn't fit my knee/shin very well (rubbed the upper shin bloody repeatedly).  In terms of breathability going from memory, AirFlex was probably slightly better than the Stage, both a grade or two better than the Rift.

Reply

rwalters
Ryan Walters
7 months ago
0

Hmmm, that’s disappointing to hear about the silicone strips. I’ll have to keep an eye on mine and update. About how often do you machine wash yours?

Reply

Andeh
Andeh
7 months ago
0

To be clear, I'm not complaining about the silicon durability - that's on me.  I wash them very often, like every ride or every other ride.  And I dry them.  I know both are not recommended by any pad manufacturer, but I'd rather get a new pair of pads once a year than have stinky gear.

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michel77
Michel Vis
7 months ago
0

I’ll chime in on the silicon strips. I only hand wash mine and have had the same issue. Still usable, but definitely not as grippy or staying in place as well. That’s after a year of use and maybe 3-4 hand washes (and yes, they’re stinky). It’s a bummer but I'll probably replace these with another set of rifts this summer or might go for one of the not so bulky 7idp’s.

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ohio
ohio
7 months ago
0

@Ryan, how would you describe your leg shape? I'm finding that knee pad preference is a lot like shoe preference, in that it really depends on your individual physiology. As someone with "chonky" legs - big quads and calves, relatively wide/stout knee joint compared to leg length - many knee pads are either uncomfortably tight or get pushed up by my calves and down by my quads. I've settled on Fox Enduro for a decent fit, but they're thinner than I'd like.

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rwalters
Ryan Walters
7 months ago
+1 ohio

Hi Ohio, I’ve never really thought about my “leg shape”, haha! I have fairly thicc quads, calves more normal. I tested the XL size Rift, and they felt great. L size would definitely have been too small for me. The Rift does fit very snug, but I didn’t find them uncomfortable at all. Usually when a knee pad is uncomfortable, I find it’s often because they aren’t tight enough in certain spots, resulting in pressure points or chafing. The Rifts kinda feel like expertly fitted tensor bandages around your knees. 

I think the calf gusset would work very well for your big quads and calves.

Reply

DanL
DanL
7 months ago
+1 ohio

I found that there was a (good) difference in the orientation of the pads when wearing them - blue tab out vs blue tab in. I found for my thigh/calf shape that blue tab in works a lot better, I have no idea if this was designed in or not though

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rwalters
Ryan Walters
7 months ago
0

Oh yeah, the Rift pads are side-specific. The set I have say “LEFT” or “RIGHT”, inside the pad, above the kneecap. I’m pretty sure the orientation is “blue tab out”, but if the opposite works for you, great!

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slyfink
slyfink
6 months, 4 weeks ago
0

I have the Rifts. And I too have 'chonky' legs, as you describe them, with the exception that my knees are fairly normal. So thick thighs, normal knees, thick calves. I have the XL. I wish they made an XXL version (or better yet, a version with a wrap-around velcro strap for a more customizable fit). While the pads mostly stay in place (because of the calf strap), the silicone gripper rolls down my thighs, and then catches on my shorts. The end result is I have to pull them up every 30 minutes or so on a trail ride. I don't think it would be a problem in case of a crash, they do mostly stay put, it's more of a comfort thing. Also, when pulling them up I've actually heard a tear or too, which i suspsect is the elastic reaching the end of it's elasticity...

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shapethings
shapethings
6 months, 4 weeks ago
0

I sized down with these. The Chromag size chart put me in a firm size large, but when I received them I just didn’t trust them staying up for the rocky, blown-out hard pack areas I often ride. They were very comfortable, but went medium for a better sense of security and to compensate for the elastic wearing.

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