Pearl Izumi Elevate NSMB AndrewM.JPG
REVIEW

Pearl Izumi Elevate Knee Pads

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Aug 10, 2020
Reading time

Consideration

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.

Pearl Izumi Elevate NSMB AndrewM (8).JPG

The "knee warmer inspired fit" uses long upper-thigh extensions to keep the Elevate pads in place. Fit is personal, but this system works perfectly for me.

Pearl Izumi Elevate NSMB AndrewM (6).JPG

The outer surface is 4-way stretch Cordura and has proven durable to date. The non-Newtonian insert is brand name D3O. Airflow is exceptional.

Pearl Izumi Elevate NSMB AndrewM (7).JPG

The cut-out mesh backing is an example of the quality matching my very positive experiences with Pearl's manufacturing and materials.

Contempt

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‽

Pearl Izumi Elevate NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

Round steel top tube is... well... round and steel.

Pearl Izumi Elevate NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

Lack of side-of-knee bumpers is potentially ouchy.

Comfort

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.

Pearl Izumi Elevate NSMB AndrewM (5).JPG

The elasticized top and bottom have silicone interiors to help prevent slipping. It works fantastically for me, but I have heard of the rare person being allergic to them, so keep that in mind if you aren't trying them on first and have sensitive skin.

Pearl Izumi Elevate NSMB AndrewM.JPG

Zero slippage and absolute comfort over many rides. Both wet ones and hot ones.

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.

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Comments

SiT
0
SiT  - Aug. 10, 2020, 3:21 a.m.

Look nice and like the rear cutout, that for me is often the biggest issue, bunching/rub of fabric behind the knee (skin over the semitendinosus tendon). How big is the rear cutout would you say?

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 10, 2020, 9:17 a.m.

Static measurement for the cut out is ~10cm tall and ~6cm wide (~ because it’s tricky to measure precisely).

I hadn’t really thought about it being a product of the cutout but I’ve been on some wet-wet -rainy rides and some hot-sticky-sweaty rides and have had zero skin irritations from the P.I. pads, which is rare for me.

Reply

andyf
+1 Andrew Major
andyf  - Aug. 10, 2020, 9:54 a.m.

My Fox Enduro Pro pads are slightly less ventilated/well made but very similar and Fox has since switched to what appears to be the same D30 pad vs. the proprietary but identically shaped pad in the older version. My thoughts about the level of protection vs. ventilation are the same. Before each ride, I look at the Fox pads and my 7idp Sam Hill pads and usually go with the far less protective Fox pads.

Back of knee cutouts work for some but not others. I couldn't get along with the 7idp Project Knee pads because the cutout wore my skin raw.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 10, 2020, 10:25 a.m.

Wearing better-than-nothing knees has definitely been a big protection upgrade for me. Certainly don’t get a good fit with all the options but have done well with these P.I. Pads and the Leatts.

I’ve had very mixed qc/qa and fit experiences with Fox in the past and they haven’t been a company on my radar for a while now. Used to love their double-palm moto gloves.

Reply

kekoa
+1 Andrew Major
kekoa  - Aug. 10, 2020, 3:53 p.m.

Yes. Disappointed with my enduro armor not holding up and gloves falling apart. Haven’t been a fan in a while (the irony is I’m wearing a Fox T-shirt as I type this).

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 11, 2020, 3:42 p.m.

It’s really too bad. A decade ago in the shop we sold a decent quantity of their knee pads and their basic black shorts with zero issues.

Reply

Timer
+1 Andrew Major
Timer  - Aug. 14, 2020, 12:37 a.m.

Had no problems with their current basic black shorts and Ranger gloves, but i might just have been lucky.

Reply

Vikb
+1 Andrew Major
Vik Banerjee  - Aug. 10, 2020, 12:07 p.m.

Love the purple frame. :-)

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Vik Banerjee
Andrew Major  - Aug. 10, 2020, 12:41 p.m.

Cosmic Lilac!

Reply

gdharries
+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Geof Harries  - Aug. 10, 2020, 12:46 p.m.

When I ride the bike park, I break out my old Roach plastic pads and rock those. For everywhere else, I go bare knees.

For those who wear pads, once you start do you always use them?

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
+2 Andrew Major Geof Harries
Tjaard Breeuwer  - Aug. 10, 2020, 12:54 p.m.

Yes. The only time I don’t always wear them is riding a mile of singletrack to the swimming hole, although sometimes I wear them there too.

And about once a year, I do a ride on easy, green level trail, with very few rocks, at 90F and 90% humidity, and wear just Lycra and a helmet.

The rest of the time, I wear them. They don’t bother me, sweat is minimal, and the rest of me is sweaty anyway. I don’t fall very often, but figure why not wear them.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2 Tjaard Breeuwer Geof Harries
Andrew Major  - Aug. 10, 2020, 1:13 p.m.

I was all in with hardshell knees or nothing (usually nothing) until this year starting with the Leatt Air Flex Pro knee pads. Now I never mountain bike - even long Tech-C rides - without knee pads. I just don't have a good excuse not to wear them. These P.I. pads are still comfortable after 4-5 hours of pedaling and even on the hottest days, they're really not that hot that I ever wish I'd left them at home.

I think the personal fit would be the biggest barrier. If you're going to make the commitment absolutely try a half dozen different pads on. Some (most?) are like kryptonite for me.

Reply

neologisticzand
+1 Andrew Major
Chad K  - Aug. 11, 2020, 2:46 p.m.

Andrew, do you really never think about the warmth from your pads? As someone who lives in as someone who lives in a climate where a >90*F/32*C ride is very common, I can't imagine I would feel the same way.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Chad K
Andrew Major  - Aug. 11, 2020, 3:49 p.m.

I’m starting to feel like a weirdo when people keep asking “do you really...”

It’s been happening a lot lately as I’m all in on riding in Camelbak’s Chase bike vest (the new MTB model with a back protector) and my full-in-fanny-pack-friends can’t wrap it. Yes, it’s hotter than a hip pack.

Knee pads - any knee pads - hotter than no knee pads. No doubt. That’s why I ~ never used to wear them before this year. But if I’m comfortable it doesn’t bother me. Same as I’m hotter in Leatt DBX 4.0 shorts than summer-weight shorts but I still reach for them every time.

I think, like the DBX, the P.I. pads manage moisture well enough that I’m comfortable and therefore not thinking about them. Worst ride this summer was in a pair of super light shorts that felt AWFUL once they were sweaty (I don’t wear a chamois).

Contrast that with rain jackets where even the best ones usually take a backseat to my GoreTex vest - getting wet be damned - because they’re too hot and maybe I’m just different.

Reply

Hbar
+1 Andrew Major
Hbar  - Aug. 12, 2020, 8:28 a.m.

Echoing Andrew, I wear mine all summer (Leatt pads, Colorado but not up high) and the heat/sweating is not a big deal (for me). I mean, a chamois is a more rugged proposition in the heat. It's not great, but having lost a summer and fall of riding after splitting a knee open falling while Just Riding Along, it's a more than fair trade.

On the other hand, I still wear a hydration pack most rides, so some may think I am some kind of monster...

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+2 Geof Harries Andrew Major
Pete Roggeman  - Aug. 11, 2020, 12:01 p.m.

Wear them 95% of the time - that last 5 reserved for really casual rides or the times I forget them. Having them is useful in other ways: when I'm wearing them, I find myself WAY more inclined to kneel down when working on a bike or taking a photo.

Reply

gdharries
+1 Andrew Major
Geof Harries  - Aug. 11, 2020, 2:20 p.m.

Hmm, sounds like more modern pads are something I should invest in and wear. I get some pretty good swell-bow at least once a year from one sport or another.

The hardshell knees/shins on the Roach DH pads are hot, uncomfortable and slide down but have saved me many times in the past 20 years. It'd be nice to have some of that, but in a better package.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 11, 2020, 3:50 p.m.

I think if you find the right fit you’ll be very impressed with how much things have changed - I know I have been.

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
+1 Andrew Major
Tjaard Breeuwer  - Aug. 10, 2020, 12:51 p.m.

I use the Dainese Trailskins (II I think), for this. Similar idea, but shorter sleeve and top and bottom Velcro. They also add good coverage on the inside, and a tiny bit of coverage on the outside.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 11, 2020, 3:52 p.m.

I’m pretty happy with the ‘knee warmer’ fit (lack of Velcro) but I know folks who have tried the Elevate on and couldn’t stand the length (particularly up the thigh). Certainly a strong argument for Velcro when shortening the pads. My brother wears POC with Velcro straps and they work awesome for him. Strokes for folks and all that.

Reply

SiT
+1 Andrew Major
SiT  - Aug. 21, 2020, 5:58 a.m.

How to you find the sizing Andrew in comparison to PI size guide and say in comparison to 7IDP's pads?

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 21, 2020, 7:25 a.m.

How many caveats can I add to one comment? Go!

In my experience, using my measurements, for my product size, against my interpretation of the Pearl Izumi size chart, I was dead on. I’ve never had a wrong-sized product from PI, when I’ve check the measurements.

These fit a bit small/tight compared to other companies large sized pads, which is common for me with all PI products. No inbetweening here - I’m definitely a large.

I haven’t tried on 7iDP knees. I was bang-on for Leatt’s AirFlex too. Those have stretched a bit (though I’d still get the same size) where the PI has stayed very true to size (that ‘knee warmer’ construction/length).

Reply

SiT
+1 Andrew Major
SiT  - Aug. 21, 2020, 7:45 a.m.

Cheers Andrew, true to PI size is the key info - ta, i am quite tall bit thin... have ordered some  based on their size chart so will see how they!

thanks again

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 21, 2020, 7:49 a.m.

Cheers! Yes, in my years riding and working on the floor in shops, P.I. is as close to their sizing chart as any brand I've used or sold.

Reply

kmag76
+1 Andrew Major
kmag76  - Aug. 24, 2020, 3:57 p.m.

I normally wear an XL in most other brands... Chromag,7idp, XL/2XL for troy lee.

But PI says i'm a Large. 

Would you recommend sizing down?

Its to bad these are hard to find in the wild, or I would just go try on a pair

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 24, 2020, 5:48 p.m.

All the knee pads I currently have are size large and these are the tightest large pads that I have. To some extent, it's down to how much surface area the knee-warmer style pads have.

I would be very surprised if you wore a smaller PI pad than you do in other pads.

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kmag76
+1 Andrew Major
kmag76  - Aug. 24, 2020, 8:50 p.m.

Perfect! thanks for that Andrew.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Aug. 24, 2020, 9:02 p.m.

Anytime! 

Not sure where you're based, but I'm really hoping some local dealers start carrying these as I've been asked a lot of times where folks can try them on. Between these pads and the emotional support jacket I tested, they have some items I think would be well received on the Shore.

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