Pearl Izumi starting making mountain bike pads very recently, with products offering two different levels of protection. The Elevate, which Jeff tested, is a more protective option, with a larger, thicker piece of D3O material that has a waffle-like ventilation pattern. For riders who want a piece of knee protection that can be worn on long rides, is comfortable, with solid protection that extends to the sides, Jeff enjoyed the Elevate and it seemed to check all the boxes.
The Summit is a lighter option, with a solid but flexible piece of D3O that’s about a quarter-inch thick. It covers the knee well and extends on to the upper shin. The Summits have very breathable, meshy, Cordura fabric that fits like a sleeve that stretches from mid-thigh to mid-calf. For trail riders who aren’t bent on hucking off everything they see and want a minimalistic style of protection for occasional handlebar knocks and crashes, the Summits are a great choice.
The Summits are a slip-on pad and fit like a leg warmer with added lightweight protection. The Cordura fabric is very breathable and I have yet to feel hot in them. On the top and bottom, a silicone strip lines the inside for added grip, and with the sleeve-like nature of the Summits, these things stay right where they need to be, like a well-trained dog. Pearl Izumi has a great range of sizing, with the pads available in XS-XL. My mediums fit true to size.
The coverage of the D3O viscoelastic sheet seems spot on with the intent of the pad. They cover the front of the patella and not much more, however they rise about an inch-and-a-half above my knee and about the same distance on my shin. On the inside of the pad, Pearl Izumi placed a light layer of foam for added comfort.
They one place I have noticed discomfort is the stitching around the knee-pit, which is completely open for more airflow. While far from a deal breaker, it can get a little irritating, due in part to the more sensitive skin in this area.
At $85, the Pearl Izumi Summit Knee Guards are a very reasonable deal for anyone who wants a nice, lightweight bit of added protection for pedaling. They are comfortable, breathable, and include just the right amount of D3O to guard against light knocks and trail dings.