Well made, comfortable, top-end trail pads with decent protection - if they suit your leg shape, and pocket
Jan 28 2018
Stay in place well when pedalling
Fit is very specific to leg shape
Limited side protection
You can afford this high-quality, protective yet pedal friendly pad and it fits you well
The POC Joint VPD System knee pads are top of the range protection from the Swedish company. They've proved seamlessly comfortable and pretty protective too, just make sure you try out the fit before you buy.
These unisex knee pads ooze quality – as they should at this price – and feel instantly comfy as soon as you put them on. This is thanks in part to the flexible, pre-shaped knee cup made from POC’s proprietary VPD (visco-elastic polymer dough), which moulds to your body when warm but hardens on impact (like the D30 technology used by brands such as Race Face, Fox and Troy Lee Designs). However, you definitely must try these on to check the fit before parting with such a wad.
Designed for all-day wear, the System pads give decent coverage, so they’re ideal for trail riding and enduro. The VPD protection extends well above the kneecap and down to the top of the shin. Construction is two-ply, with double thickness over the kneecap and shin, making them quite bulky, so check they fit under your shorts/trousers. The lower single layer of protection extends another 3cm or so at the sides and a couple of cm above the knee cup – for proper gnarly terrain I’d prefer some additional side protection. Whilst they certainly withstand a knock head on to the knee, as it were, they do tend to move laterally when impacted on side.
These are pull-on pads with no straps or Velcro. The material sleeve has a 4cm-wide elasticated cuff with silicone gripper at the top, which does a good job of holding the pads in place. It comes far enough up to prevent any bare thigh showing between it and your shorts too, so no risk of fashion faux pas. There’s no silicone at the bottom, just a stretchy material band. The sleeve fabric is thin and fine with, crucially, no seams, which makes it comfortable and breathable.
So far, so superb. However, I had an issue with fit, so for all their comfort and fabulous features, unfortunately, I didn’t get on with the System pads. But, everyone has differently shaped knees, so as long as you try them on before buying you might find they fit you perfectly. My problem was that I needed a size medium for the elasticated cuff, which was still tight enough to leave an imprint on my skin post-ride, but then the sleeve felt too loose to keep the knee cup firmly in place. This meant that, although it stayed put while pedalling, I could easily push it sideways off my kneecap, which doesn’t bode well for a crash, especially a sliding one. These pads come in three sizes and I was a medium for the thigh measurement but a small for the calf measurement – maybe some more sizing options would help fine-tune the fit.
Assuming they do fit your knees, then they’ve got plenty going for them. Most importantly, the protection meets the EN 1621-1 European safety standard. The padding is a good 1.5cm thick over the kneecap, with abrasion-resistant fabric covering the knee cup, so the Systems are quite bulky compared to low-profile pads, such as the Bliss ARG Minimalist+. In heavy downpours they do soak up water, which makes them nearly a third heavier, but they’re pretty lightweight to start with so it’s not something I noticed.
On the bike I soon forgot I was wearing them, and even on hike-a-bike sections they weren’t restrictive, although occasionally when walking I was aware of the bottom edge of the pad against my shin, but just on one leg.
POC says the System pads have a “highly efficient ventilation system constructed within each layer to optimize moisture management” ie, they’re breathable. Compared to other pads I’ve worn, they certainly do feel less sweaty, especially with the thin material sleeve behind the knee, and the VPD padding is perforated with quite large holes (about 6mm diameter). They’re fairly lightweight at 335g the pair. However, I’ve tested these in autumn/winter so can’t say how they feel in hot weather. I have worn them over Lycra tights on cold days, and found the top cuff slipped down, but despite this the knee cup stayed in place.
They’re easy to care for – just brush the mud off or chuck them in the machine at 30 degrees, but I’d stick them inside a pillowcase as the sleeve material is quite delicate and you need to be careful to keep it away from Velcro because it snags.
Overall, these are good, if pricey, pads but it all comes down to whether they fit you.