Chromag might not be the first name that comes to mind when it comes to protective wear, but perhaps that may soon change. They sent us a pair of their new Rift kneepads for testing, and for a freshman effort, they’re damn good. Aimed at the trail to enduro segment these kneepads are right in the middle of the road, duty wise, with long pedal powered days at the forefront of the design approach. Read on to see how they’ve been working out on the trails…
- Five sizes: XS, S, M (tested), L & XL
- RHEON Padding
- Machine washable
- Silicone thigh gripper
- $125 USD
The silicone thigh gripper is quite broad and grabby, but soft and pliable so as not to cause irritation.
The protective pads themselves are not removable, and it is a little tough to see in photos, but there are two layers – a broader, thinner layer and a more robust but narrower outer layer. The material on the outside is abrasion resistant.
The main layer of fabric is perforated so as to breathe nicely and dry quickly.
One somewhat unique, but effective feature is the elastic bands that wrap around the back of the calf just below the crease of the knee.
Above is an image of the actual pad set and what RHEON looks like. It’s definitely tough stuff, and works similarly to D3O – more on that later…
There is a subtle black on black rubber Chromag bear logo on the front of the knee.
The pads are right and left specific, although there doesn’t seem to be a big difference between the sides. The inner layer of padding is a bit like neoprene in a wetsuit, but thinner and dimpled – so it breathes better.
On the trail
Beginning with fit, it’s worth giving Chromag props for having a five size spread where many brands would just have three, so as to save money on manufacturing costs. I opted for the medium and the Rifts fit me perfectly. Nothing stuck out as noteworthy in terms of their proportionality or cut – rather they were just right. The fact that they are pre-articulated means you’re not fighting against the fabric with each pedal stroke, and also that they’ll wear longer. The first thing I noticed was just how freakishly soft and silky the material is to the touch. Keep in mind, the outer layer is quite tough so they’re plenty durable, but the fabric that is actually touching your skin is unbelievably comfortable – I’ve never worn anything quite like it. The thigh gripper came up to just the right height so that there wasn’t much of a gap between the top of the kneepad and the bottom of my bibs. I had no issues with slipping and zero irritation – even on really long days in the saddle. Comfort truly is 10/10. I think the elastic band may also help keep things in place as well. Fortunately it made itself scarce and I didn’t notice it while riding. As far as duty goes, the Rift pads are just right for the overwhelming majority of the riding most mountain bikers do, with the exception of XC on one end or downhill riding/racing on the other.
Having tested a great many pairs of pads over the years with D3O, I was excited to try this newfangled RHEON stuff. It’s similar to D3O in that it hardens upon impact, however I did find it to be noticeably more pliable and flexible, particularly in cold weather – and I’ve had plenty of that lately. Due to the fact that the main pad flexed and moved with my knees better, I found that the Rifts just vanished from the mind and were less bothersome under pants than most pads. I’ve only had 2 average crashes and the pads are hanging tough – they warded off cuts and bruising nicely. With one of the crashes I tore my pants but personally emerged unscathed along with the pads. It’s tough to glint much from that kind of thing, but I do feel confident in the level of protection on offer and the Rifts don’t seem like overkill. On one last note, it’s mainly been pretty cold for my day to day rides but these have managed heat and moisture under my pants very nicely. We’ll see how they go in Summer heat, but from what I can infer so far – they’ll be fine.
The Rifts are far and away the most comfortable mid-duty kneepads that I’ve worn to date and it isn’t even close. I’ve had high praise for the Scott Soldier 2 pads in the past, but these oust them from their throne. Now, it’s worth keeping in mind that at $125 the Rifts are a bit on the pricey side of things. To me it’s worth every penny as I literally can’t find a single negative attribute to call out. You can hardly tell you’re wearing them and they have just the right amount of protection – truly a perfect product.