To dole out some age ol’ parenting wisdom: always wear protection. Sure, your parents may have been referring to *ahem* something else, but the sentiment is still the same. If you find yourself asking the question “should I wear knee pads for this ride?” you are essentially willing yourself to crash. Simply asking that question aloud, even thinking it, means you have to wear knee pads because of course today will be the day you go down. Is it bad juju, or is it just the prudent thing to do? Both.
I ride a lot of technical trails, but I also take a lot of “hot laps” on the trail near my house, which isn’t technical. Sometimes, I only have an hour to ride, so I throw on some shoes, shorts, and a helmet, and run out of the house without wearing pads of any kind. However, just because the trail near me isn’t the most difficult in town, doesn’t mean it can be ridden without risk. In fact, it’s so unassuming that almost every person I ride with has crashed on it, in a big way. Broken wrists, broken elbows, knee holes, concussions, stitches, I’ve seen it all on the “easiest trail” around. The point here is that even if you’re an amazing rider, or riding an easy trail, shit happens. When in doubt, wear protection.
Feel, fit and construction
The SixSixOne Recon knee pads are the most lightweight, flexible knee pads I’ve ever slipped on. They feel like nothing, yet are packed with a protective punch, providing extra piece of mind when heading out for a ride. The pads themselves are similar in construction to a lot of XC/trail pads these days. They are manufactured with comfortable, breathable, machine washable elastic material that hugs the thighs and calves comfortably with silicon strips on the top and bottom grip to the skin and prevent pad slippage while pedaling.
The elastic material extends rather high on the thigh, which is a good thing. At the top of the pad on the outside edge there is a snap meant to connect the 661 Recon pad to the 661 EVO Short. This is known as the Padlock system, a feature designed to prevent the pads from slipping down during a ride or getting pushed/pulled off the knee during an impact. I don’t own the 661 EVO short so the functional aspect of this system remains a mystery, but in theory it makes sense. One downside of the high thigh position is potential overlap between pads and chamois. I wear underwear-style chamois, so this wasn’t an issue for me personally. However, if this were to happen, I would opt to put the rubber gripper underneath my chamois so the silicon grip has contact with my skin and not another piece of elastic.
In theory, elastic works well for everyone, but some may find the tightness to feel restricting. I have slim legs and these fit me perfectly, in part because there is a large hole in the back of the pad that provides extra ventilation and no dreaded elastic burn in the knee crack. This feature is key, especially in the summer months when moisture and sweat tend to create hot spots. In addition to a physical hole, the Recon pad also contains perforated elastic throughout the back of the leg. This is a design feature that helps create the feeling of extra space and added breathability for those with more muscular legs.
The actual pad portion of the 661 Recon includes the gold standard of protection, D3O. The D3O Ghost pad is extremely flexible, extending from the top of the knee down onto the shin. The length of the pad itself is really comforting. I often hit my shins on my pedals while standing still (don’t ask) and these pads help prevent shin holes with the best of them. I know the pad is meant to protect your knee from impact, but it almost feels soft to the touch. I find these pads exponentially more comfortable than other trail pads. The flexibility allows for seamless movement throughout pedal strokes and I barely notice them on my legs.
By all accounts these pads are meant for XC and or trail rides. They’re lightweight, breathable, and easy to pedal in. However, I wore these pads on short rides, long rides, XC rides, and technical trail rides and I loved them on every single one. They work well in most situations. Do they offer enough protection to withstand high speed downhill crashes? Maybe. In lieu of wearing nothing, these pads will definitely work to protect your knees from dirt rash, small impacts, and slides. However, if you’re into riding chunky chunk chonk, I’d opt for a more rigid pad that won’t catch your knee cap off guard.
Overall, I love these pads. They are comfortable, breathable, and like a second skin while pedaling. They provide adequate protection for most rides and are machine-washable so they won’t stink up your bike bag. I no longer question whether or not I should wear knee pads, I just put them on because I like wearing them which is a great attribute for the pad averse.
The SixSixOne Recon D3O Knee Pads are a tad on the pricey side ($84.99, available at JensonUSA and other online retailers.) but well worth it if you’re looking for a do-all pad that’s comfortable for even the longest rides.
- Comfortable to pedal in for many hours
- Protection for most impacts
Pros and cons of the SixSixOne Recon Knee Pads.
- Not for DH
- High thigh placement may run into chamois
- More expensive than other pads in the category