Race Face Charge Leg: Reviewed
We all get lazy. Last winter I basically stopped wearing knee pads on pedally rides. In reality, it was the opposite of lazy: I was pedaling a lot at the time, and wearing stinky, bulky, chafing, still-wet chunks of neoprene was just not appealing. My alternative – a pair of lycra knee warmers – was possibly slightly better than no knee protection, but it was only a matter of time before I found out how good they really were.
One rainy night ride, I was having an amazing run down one of my favourite trails. I was on an absolute tear, one with the bike, pulling away from Andreas Hestler – and lost my front wheel off the edge of the trail at speed. Among other unnamed damage I shredded a hole in my knee warmer, but worse, I also shredded a penny-sized hole in the skin on my knee cap. It took six months for the scab to stop ripping off and re-forming, and more than a year later you can still see the scar.
Race Face’s Charge legs are a beefed up knee warmer – not helpful for impact absorption, but better than lycra for abrasion resistance.
The problem was, I still didn’t want to wear my old stinky knee pads, nor did I really want to wear any knee pads for XC riding. I continued to disregard better judgment and wore my ripped knee warmers for the rest of the summer with only one more incident.
I got hold of Race Face’s Charge legs in the fall, and never looked back. With a Kevlar cover and a very slight amount of padding, the Charge maintains the comfort and convenience of a knee warmer while providing some abrasion protection – exactly what the lazy in me was looking for.
The Charge’s Kevlar outer is flexible and stretchy to maintain the comfort of a knee warmer. (You can actually see the scar from the aforementioned crash on my knee here.)
Part of the reason I continued to choose knee warmers was for breathability, and that’s something the Charge can lay claim to. You can hang them up post-ride and they’ll be dry for your next outing, and while the technical fabric isn’t completely odour-free, it is significantly better than thicker options.
Inside, a stretch mesh sleeve keeps things well-ventilated.
Design-wise I do have a couple of complaints, but they could both be solved with a simple single change to the piece. The problem is that the Charge is not quite long enough to overlap my undershorts with the padding in its intended spot, and without said overlap the rubberized strip is not sufficient to hold the piece up on my leg over time.
As a result, I pull them up a bit higher than intended, overlapping my shorts by half an inch, putting the widest part of the Kevlar above my knee cap. If the Charge was longer above the padding by about a few centimeters, I could run them lower and avoid both of these issues.
My only real complaint about the Charge is they could be a bit longer above the padded section. I hike them up to get some overlap with my cycling shorts, which puts the widest part of the padding above my knee cap by a few centimeters.
One other issue I’ve been experiencing is a slight chafe from the stitching on the back of the Charge – but only on one leg. This stitch, which runs the whole length of the piece, is slightly heavier than the rest of the stitching, and just a bit more abrasive when it bunches up. Again, this is only occurring on one leg, not on every ride, and it’s definitely not stopping me from choosing the Charge over a heavier knee pad or the lighter knee warmer.
These photos were shot at the end of a ride, which accurately shows the settling and bunching you can expect from the Charge leg when tucked under a pair of cycling shorts up top.
All told, the Charge leg fills a particular niche for the rider who’s become complacent about wearing knee pads. It’s a move in the right direction and I’m stoked to see more in the way of lightweight protection in the future.
Are you guilty of leaving your knee pads at home?