Pearl Izumi is new to the mountain bike protection arena, and they’ve come out swinging with the new Elevate Knee Guard. I’ve been testing a pair this winter and spring and they’ve quickly become one of my favorites.
Features and construction
On the protective front, Pearl Izumi uses molded D3O panels that are roughly half an inch thick. The panels are vented with wraparound kneecap coverage, extending down the wearer’s tibia. As a viscoelastic material, D3O is flexible — almost like a piece of chewed gum that’s been sitting out for half a day. But in a sudden impact — say a crash or a smack against a tree — the material instantly hardens. For this reason, D3O is a comfortable and effective choice for knee pads.
The D3O panels can be removed from a sleeve inside the knee guard, making it easy to wash the fabric separately. Thinner pads are sewn into the sides of the guard for additional lateral protection as well.
Pearl Izumi says the Elevate Knee Guard design was inspired by knee warmers. Without the D3O panel, the Cordura 4-way stretch fabric does feel like a high-end knee warmer. The front panel is vented with mesh cutouts, while the back is entirely mesh with a hole in the knee pit.
One of the most unique features of the Elevate design is the extended upper. This allows the silicon grippers inside the top cuff to overlap most short liners for a slouch-free connection. A similar silicon band is featured at the bottom cuff as well.
Overall the pads are fairly lightweight at 344g for the size medium pair I tested. They offer CE Level 1 protection, come in sizes XS through XL, and retail for $125 (on sale for 25% off at REI now).
On the trail
There are no velcro straps on the Elevate Knee Guards; just slide them on before putting on shoes. I found the sleeve for the D3O panel tends to bow out a bit which makes threading a foot through a bit of a wiggle game. But once the foot is through the other end, the guards go on easily enough.
If you’re doing a lot of pedaling on a ride, wearing knee pads can get old quickly, but the Pearl Izumi Elevate pads didn’t get on my nerves nearly as much as other pads I’ve tried. I think this is due to a few different factors.
First, the pads stay put, even with a lot of knee movement. The silicon grippers do their job, so the elastic doesn’t have to be overly constricting. The elongated top works well with all the shorts and liners I’ve tried, again, keeping the guard in place. And of course, the D3O panel is flexible enough to move well with the sleeve. On one three hour long ride I might’ve yanked the pads up one time.
Secondly, these guards are well vented. Both the front and back do a fine job at moving air and letting sweat out.
Finally, the overall shape, materials, and lightweight design make these comfortable enough to wear all day. After a recent 22-mile ride where I was pedaling pretty much the entire time, I actually forgot to take my pads off for an hour or so while futzing with my bike and gear at home. After my helmet, pads are usually the first thing to come off after a ride, but I just didn’t feel the need with these.
Pearl Izumi has done a great job with the Elevate Knee Guards, blending comfort and usability with what seems to be a good level of protection. I can definitely see myself choosing to wear knee guards on more rides this spring and summer now that I’ve found a pair that stays put and feels good.