SixSixOne’s range-topping kneepad, the Recon Advance, truly balances protection with comfort. The coverage on offer is nothing short of comprehensive, and it’s delivered in a very secure and comfy package. However, its build quality raises questions, and it’s a shame that the hard shells come as an extra spend.
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The Recon Advance is 661’s freshest kneepad designed to offer tonnes of protection in a pedal-friendly package. To get that job done, they have a D3O cap (the orange stuff that hardens on impact) on each knee that complies with EN1621-1 Level 1 certification. Those are joined by a collection of strategically placed, thermo-formed EVA inserts, making sure that every bony bit of the knee is covered.
Home to all of that D3O and EVA is a pretty lengthy one-piece slip-on sleeve that gets a pair of silicone grippers at either end. The pads are also kitted with SixSixOne’s Padlock connectors, allowing them to be physically joined with the brand’s protective shorts.
The protection on offer can be boosted with optional hard plastic caps, ideal if your riding often strays through rock gardens or trails littered with pointy things. The caps are £15 extra, though and to be honest, it’s a bit of a shame not to see them included in the pack. As such, they weren’t included in this test.
We’ve had a medium-size pad in for testing, designed to fit a mid-thigh circumference of 40-48cm. My mid-thigh measures exactly 48cm, and the Recon Advance pads are pretty snug, although far from uncomfortable. However, upon slipping them on the first time, the mesh that makes up the back panel has torn in a few small areas, where it meets the front panels of the pad.
During my three months with the pads, a couple more areas show some tears, but the pads have shrugged off a number of tumbles and journeys through the wash. So, while the tears in the mesh are cause for concern, durability doesn't seem to be a debilitating issue just yet.
Going back to the good stuff, the Recon Advance pads are seriously comfortable, especially considering the protection on offer and the number of EVA inserts. Full days in the saddle have proven that the pads are forgettable until they're needed where the D3O gets to work, dissipating any impact forces.
Their length is welcome too. The pads reach right up to the mid-thigh, where bib shorts can be put over the tops, making them even more secure than they already are without. Then, there's plenty of pad and protective elements to keep the lower shin covered towards the bottom.
I've ridden with the Recon Advances both under riding trousers and with shorts. Understandably they can get a little toasty under trousers, but ventilation is nothing to be sniffed at when running shorts. Although, they've not been used through sweltering weather just yet.
Moving onto the pad's value, this is where things get a little interesting. At £100, they're pretty pricy at face value, especially when you remember that the hard plastic caps are an extra £15 on top. A cheaper set of pads that come with plastic caps built-in is the Endura MT500 Hard Shell kneepads, priced at £80. The MT500s are slightly more substantial and warmer, but they offer more protection and relative comfort for £20 less.
SixSixOne's own DBO kneepads come built with a D3O T5 EVO insert that brings them to the same certification as the Recon Advance. Still, they're slightly bulkier, and ventilation isn't as impressive. With those at just £70, the Recon Advance pads look really tough to justify unless you really want those plastic caps.
Regardless of the slightly concerning splits in the rear mesh, the SixSixOne Recon Advance kneepad's blend of performance and comfort has and will continue to keep me perfectly happy on any ride. However, with the plastic caps only available at an extra cost and with many pads that are arguably as good at lower prices, these pads begin to look a little overpriced.