Not all that long ago, Rapha took the dive and introduced a line of mountain bike apparel with a rather impressive debut. As things would have it, they’ve also been working on a trail rated knee pad all along as well. I was fortunate enough to receive a pair for testing just before they went live today, and luck would have it that they arrived just before I took a trip out to the Oregon coast and Bellingham to escape Winter and get in a bit of riding. While I’ve only had a few days on them, read on if you’re curious about my first impressions…
- Removable Rheon pad set
- Level 2, Type B rated
- XS, S, M (tested), L, XL
- $110 USD
Rapha chose to partner with Rheon for co-engineering their padset. Rheon is a soft, pliable material that firms up on impact. This makes it a candidate for usage in both body armor as well as helmets, where it has earned a 5 star safety rating from Virginia tech.
The Trail Knee Pads feature a tall thigh gripper with silicone material running vertically to keep them in place. This kept them from pulling on leg hairs and thus increased comfort – more on that stuff later…
The Rheon inserts are very breathable and removable. The raised outer sections help keep air moving and also aid in dissipating energy upon impact.
Rapha uses what they call SuperFabric – a ceramic polymer – on the outside of the kneepad. In short, it is aimed at improving durability and reducing the likelihood of tearing in impact zones.
The inside of the Rheon insert has a fabric backing that is thin and breathable. Although I didn’t get the official word from Rapha, I assume this was included to assist in helping the pads articulate freely and prevent each pedal stroke from pulling on the pads.
The calf gripper is simply a miniature version of the thick gripper with small vertical silicone beads keeping things in place.
While Rheon is washable, the ability to remove the pad from the sleeve is a nice touch as you don’t really need to wash the pad itself all that often.
On the trail
Starting with fit, the size Mediums which I tested were spot on and had no real quirks to speak of. The overall cut is pre-articulated and made to pedal without any bunching or slipping. I appreciated that the thigh area came up fairly high and the sleeve also dropped fairly low on the calf, providing ample coverage. Now, said coverage is less about protection and more about keeping the pads in place. I think the extensive nature of the sleeve is part of the reason they didn’t really budge on the few rides that I’ve gotten in. The material of the sleeve is the softest, plushest fabric I’ve experienced in the world of mountain bike knee pads so far and by far…That might be the best overall aspect of these pads and high quality, comfortable materials are something that Rapha prides themselves in. On trail it meant no chaffing, no hot spots and no slipping. The thigh and calf grippers didn’t bother me one bit and they did a fine job of keeping things in place.
As far as protection is concerned these are a very middle of the road offering. I’d be leery about racing Enduro in them, but Rapha is not branding them as an Enduro race kneepad. Rather, they’re a mid-duty comfortable pad that you could ride in all day. Rheon is an interesting material – on first glance it seems to share some similarities with D3O, but it feels different in some ways as well. In any case, the concept is the same: soft and flexible at low speeds and firm at high speeds/upon impact. I’ve tried Rheon in Chromag’s pads, which I really like as well but found to be slightly heavier in duty and thus a bit less breathable. In any case I have yet to set my bike down in the Rapha Trail Knee Pads, so you’ll have to wait with bated breath to see how they work out in the long run. The only aspect that I’m slightly skeptical about is the “SuperFabric” coating on the outside of the knee area. At first I thought it would be grabby enough that it would cause the pads to pull and slip under my riding pants, but that proved to be untrue after a few days on the bike. In the past however I have had nasty experiences with rubberized pad materials causing pad slippage upon contact with a dry rock slabs in crashes. Time will tell if the Rapha pads fall into this camp, although I’m not in a hurry to find out. Either way, the coating itself is fairly firm and not all that grabby, so perhaps the concern is unwarranted.
We’ll keep you posted how these hold up after a few months of pedaling, washing and the occasional slide out and/or crash. So far the Rapha Trail Knee pads score extremely well in terms of fit, breathability and comfort. Although time will tell on protection, they’re looking damn good so far for a freshman effort – stay tuned…