POC’s VPD System Lite knee pad is a lightweight guard that offers a little more protection than your average slimline pad. While it provides excellent coverage and ventilation with superb build quality, it requires perfect placement for comfort, and it struggles to wick moisture. That said, do these foibles hold it back from being a worthy consideration among the best mountain bike knee pads?
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POC VPD System Lite knee pads - Technical details
POC has designed the VPD System Lite knee pad to deliver flexibility and ventilation. It also meets the European standard EN 16211, complete with Level 1 certified protection.
Built around a two-piece sleeve, the pad uses a 3D-moulded, low-friction outer that supports movement during a crash, which POC says is vital for minimising energy transmitted to the body. Claiming that it’s the most breathable pad in the brand’s range, the VPD pad features large cutout sections that suck in big levels of ventilation and as the cap warms, it moulds to the contours of the knee.
Underneath the VPD cap, there’s a softer foam layer for comfort. Moving onto the sleeve and it’s built with a harder-wearing front panel, to help the pad keep up with regular tumbles and the rear is a thinner mesh to further boost ventilation. At the top, there’s a silicone gripper around the circumference while the silicone at the bottom wraps around half.
POC VPD System Lite knee pads - Fit
At a time where pad sleeves are getting seriously long, reaching far up the thigh and down the calf, the VPD System Lite is as short as POC can seemingly get away with. This is by no means a bad thing as it allows plenty of space for bib shorts without having them bunch up.
You do need to be precise as to where you place the pad. Slightly too low and it can get uncomfortable, slightly too high ad you won’t benefit from the below-knee protection. We’ll get onto that a little later though.
However, I’ve chosen the medium pad to test, and the fit is spot on.
POC VPD System Lite knee pads - Performance
I’ve tested the VPD System Lite pad primarily through the UK’s winter, so it’s spent most of its life underneath trousers. That said, I have also used them with shorts to experience the claimed airflow. The airflow is rather excellent, if not class-leading. The holes cut into the material are so large, they encourage a huge amount of air to cool down the kneecaps.
However, as the whole cap isn’t perforated with these large cutouts, there’s nowhere for sweat to go, so it collects precisely where there’s no opening. It’s no fault of the material, just the placement of the vents.
When pulling on before a ride, the pad can feel rather stiff and uncomfortable but does soften up and conform to the shape of the knee. So when the pad is placed correctly on the knee, it is a very comfortable pad that can easily be ridden in for long durations.
The pad’s coverage is ideal, too, keeping all of the important bits hidden behind a slither of protective goodness.
However, that comfort depends hugely on the pad's placement on the knee. If it’s a little too low, the hard VPD cap pushes the softer foam into the shin which can get pretty painful.
This is compounded by the fact that the pad can move on the knee. Naturally, the silicone grippers function great when pedalling but the sleeves have a lot of slack and play, which means the VPD cap shifts around. So sometimes, this painful rubbing is unavoidable. Going down a size may cure this ailment but this might also impact fit.
POC VPD System Lite knee pads - Verdict
At £120, it’s no surprise that the POC VPD System Lite is one of the more expensive slim knee pad offerings on the market. A strong rival is the G-Form Pro Rugged 2. Using a slim, low-profile pad and long sock sleeve, the Rugged 2 provides much more coverage. It even comes with a built-in shin guard, which ups the protection factor, without increasing bulk. That will set you back £83.
While it has some build quality issues, the SixSixOne Recon Advance knee pad is well worth consideration with its £100 price tag. Granted it’s more an enduro focussed pad, it’s still rather slim. It sheds moisture better, too. It’s not as breezy but it’s cheaper and provides more coverage.
POC’s VPD System Lite knee pad combines most of the benefits of a lightweight knee pad with the protection of heavier-hitting guards. When placed correctly, it’s comfortable and it’s one of the most breathable pads out there. However, the pad can move which leads to some very uncomfortable rubbing, and it’s priced higher than a range of pads with a similar intention.