[Words by Rhian Atherton]
Designed for trail ride adventures, they offer plenty of flexibility for hours of pedalling. The Kali Mission 2.0 Knee Guards are comfortable, simple and provide enough protection for light falls. They are a little bulky underneath modern slim-fitting riding pants, but the overall comfort and performance outweigh this.
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The Kali Mission 2.0 knee guards utilise 3D printed technology. They are pretty soft but not fully flexible with a positive solid structure. There is a good balance of support and compliance to offer riding comfort and safety.
When I first pulled them up and in position, I wondered if there would be a wrestling match between us. From experience with similar sleeve armour, I usually have words with them as I’m pulling them up. It was a different story for the Kali pads. They are very easy to put on. They slide up effortlessly and offer immediate comfort with no uncomfortable pressure points. Once they were on and I stepped into my biking pants, I noticed a creaking noise that I first thought was coming from my knees. This soon disappears on a bike ride, and the same goes for my knees too.
Gone are the days of velcro straps flailing about with unnecessary material in places you don’t want. These guards have no velcro straps or any adjustment in sight. Silicone grippers on the calf and thigh hold them in place by gripping the skin. During a 15-mile trail ride, the pads stayed in position for the entire duration. There is nothing worse than having the leg grippers fail, and a roll of clumpy fabric digging into your thighs. The only noticeable performance issue I didn't enjoy came after a couple of hours of riding. My knees felt clammy and the urge to peel them off my legs kicked in.
Thanks to their articulated design, the pads feel most comfortable while I'm in the squatted riding position compared to when my legs are straight. Compared to other pads, they don’t sit as flat. Instead, the 3D printed knee design creates more of a noticeable bump around that area. I feel as if they would offer decent protection if I were to land on my knees. They were highly protective when clambering over fallen trees across the trail (I may have taken the wrong path). However, it’s helpful to know - we all take the wrong path at some point, don’t we?
Due to their bulkier nature, I found that they pulled at the material slightly once they were under my slim-fitting riding pants. Being such close-fitting pants, they don't allow for ample room for armour. Surprisingly, this isn't an issue at all while riding. Most cycling pants have a stretchy characteristic, so this isn't something to worry about. I noticed they were there as my pants felt a little more restrictive, but not enough to want to take them off. Perhaps the Kali Mission 2.0 pads are most suited to shorts or roomier legwear.
The cooling materials came into their own while riding on a warm spring day in the forest. Constructed with a mesh back, this allows pads to breathe and keep sweat to a minimum. I didn’t experience any tacky skin needing air, even with pants on. Take the trousers away and swap with shorts, and you have more ventilation.
For the sake of a fair test, and because the riding kit isn’t limited to trousers, I wanted to try the pads with shorts. The length of the pads offers more skin coverage and protection. In comparison, the first noticeable positive was the extra freedom of movement minus any restriction with knees bent in the typical riding position. A definite plus for the colder months and having pins on the shorter end of the scale, these pads link up nicely with my socks to more or less cover my entire legs.
For under £60, they are great value for money compared to my Fox Launch knee pads which are a little more pricey at £80, but they do have the complex flexible D30 construction that pip the Mission to the post in terms of technology. The Mission pads are surprisingly more comfortable, provide more coverage and give the feeling of more reliable, sturdy protection.
The Mission 2.0 knee pads are ideal for spring/summer riding, where shorts are the choice of kit to allow for that much-needed freedom of movement. I would use them for trail centre level topography and technicality, but equally, they would perform well for enduro racing. These pads offer enough protection and impressive overall coverage from trailside debris and they deliver on breathability in warmer climates and longer rides.