Pearl Izumi Elevate Knee Pads
From shoes to jackets, to gloves, and even my favourite chamois back when I rode in diapers, I've never experienced a badly made Pearl Izumi product. Some, like my emotional support jacket, I think are faultless while others, like the X-Alp shoes, could have worked much better for me personally but still boast top-quality manufacturing and I can usually see a market for them.
The Elevate Knee Guards stay in place just like my go-to pair of Pearl knee warmers. They even size up the same, a large in my case. The long over-the-thigh design is meant to hold the pads in place and the well-vented durable Cordura knee covering houses a removable D3O insert. Well vented is the key. I've never ridden knee pads that breathe this well.
Stretching in the pads, and jumping on the floor to test them out, I immediately noticed how brilliantly flexible they are and also that the D3O insert feels a little thinner on impact than other viscoelastic pads I've tried. I think that's reflected in the CE Level 1 protection. If I'm going to slam my knee straight into a pointy rock I'd absolutely prefer more protection. Choosing between the Elevate and nothing - which is what I'd really be using in most situations - I'd much rather be wearing the Elevate.
Even when I was limping around my shop considering what best to light these Pearl Izumi knee pads on fire with, I would have happily admitted they're the breeziest option I've tried. And comfortable? So comfortable on that first long road ride. So comfortable on that long hot single track climb. So comfortable waiting to drop in.
Go-time. Bike gets sideways right at the start of the trail. Initiate body English! WHAM. "ARGH." Top tube straight to the side of my knee. Where many pads, like my Leatt Airflex Pro, have generous inner-knee bumpers to protect my frame and my body from each other, there is no such provision on the Pearl Izumi Elevate. The pain, real and lasting. Andrew, very grumpy.
For the two weeks after my first-ride incident, these are-they-really-better-than-nothing knee pads lived on my shop floor regularly receiving contemptuous looks and dirty limericks about their level of suck. The manufacturing quality and fit are top-notch, but is there really a market for these knee-protection turncoats‽
When it comes to protective gear, I'm not usually one for second chances. As luck would have it my Leatt pads had disappeared - either into the laundry or my wife's pack - and I was heading out for a long pedal. Cue the Elevate knees getting put back in the game. So comfortable on that first long road ride. So comfortable on that long hot single track climb. So comfortable waiting to drop in. And, so damn comfortable riding the trail, ride after ride after ride on repeat.
Like any knee pad, they're warmer than nothing. Full stop. The Elevate though is impressively breathable even with the upper thigh coverage. When I'm moving downhill I can even feel air flowing through the pad. Yes, no bull sh*t. I don't have lycra under-shorts overlapping them and I still haven't had even a tiny amount of slippage even after a number of rides and a few washes. Washing wise, it's nice that the D3O inserts are easily removable.
On that note, does the use of brand-name D3O matter for this application? It works very well and it has a long history in mountain bike protection but I've had great results with un-branded non-Newtonian padding as well. Maybe it's an added value when considering the fit and breathability Pearl Izumi is delivering at 125 USD.
I've been wearing the Elevates every ride for a while now. The fit is just so good and with summer finally arriving - with all the off/on shock of sticking a fork in a light socket - the breathability and comfort over a long pedal are impressive, perplexing, even awesome. Fit is personal, but I'll put them up against anything I've tried.
And that little knee bumper? Well, I've had a couple of dust-up in the Elevates but I haven't had a full blow-up crash in them to date and whether subconsciously avoiding a repeat or just a case of lightning not striking twice I have have had no repeat of tagging my knee on my top-tube to date. I think I'd still appreciate the addition of a generous side bumper; however, lots of riders I've talked to are wearing knees that don't have the provision with zero complaints. When I hear that I always say the same thing; the next time you're in the market for pads, you should try on the Pearl Izumi Elevate.
They're really that nice to wear. Even at 125 USD | 180 CAD, if they continue to fit and hold up as I expect from Pearl Izumi and the performance and expected life v. cost lines up to create solid value.