POC VPD Knee Pads Vs. IXS Flow Knee Pads
When I was a kid, my mother would always tell me to wear padding when I went out on the bike... but that was so "uncool". When you're a kid you're more fearless and although you hurt yourself, you just get on with it and show all your friends at school your gnarly war wounds. Now I'm older, more aware of pain, I'm all about the padding and being safe. Unlike my daring youth, if I break a bone I could face problems with work and being more inconvenienced than if I had to take a couple days off school and being known as the cool kid with the cast.
When I was shopping around for knee pads, I knew I may face a problem with sizing as there aren't many women specific sizes and models. My legs are fairly slim, and I think I have small knees which was going to be a problem as I didn't want the hassle of having to constantly adjust and pull up my pads whilst riding. In my riding experience, I have extensively tested both the POC VPD knee pads and the IXS Flow knee pads. So I thought I would do a comparative review of the two of them.
POC VPD Technical Info
I came across the POC VPD range of protection and I thought they looked nice, simple design and the technology in them sounded really smart. They are pre-bent to contour the joints for a better fit and they are made of Visco-Elastic Polymer Dough (VPD). This dough-like material means that they are soft and flexible for manoeuvrability, but stiffen up immediately on impact to offer a high level of protection. There are rubberised strips around the cuffs to prevent slippage whilst riding, and the top cuff is reinforced by a sturdy Velcro strap. The knee pads range from a size small to size large, and they are approximately £72, which I did struggle with, but given knee pads are a necessity, and POC are a highly reputable brand, I didn't worry too much about it.
IXS Flow Technical Info
In comparison then, I was given a pair of IXS Flow knee pads to test out and review for Velo Me. I was instantly surprised by how light they felt, and how slender they looked too. The IXS pads have a number of features such as the X-Matter foam compound: a high impact and energy absorbing material. This is coupled with the AeroMesh fabric that encases the whole pad which is breathable and anti-bacterial. The pad itself is covered with a highly durable Kevlar which boasts the ability to withstand multiple impacts and provide long-lasting wear. The Silicone cuffs help keep the pads in place on the knee, and a loop-lock strap on the bottom cuff secures the pad above the calf muscle. These pads are more reasonably priced at approximately £45, and their sizes range from small - X large.
So how did the knee pads perform?
William and I do an initial test on all padding and protective wear, we strap them on and hit each other with things. Good fun, but I don't recommend this as a true method of testing out protection. No one was hurt though, so both the POC and IXS pads passed the preliminary test! As for field testing, given that I like to push myself and always try new (stupid) things, I come off my bike a fair bit. So I can safely say that I have put these pads through their paces and done thorough testing with them, in all weather conditions.
POC: My first thoughts of the POC's were "they look cool", but they felt bulky on my knees. The size small was a snug fit on my thighs and calves, but the pad itself seemed almost too big. It felt big both in width and in curvature so that I had a constant "air-gap" between my knee and the pad itself. Despite this, they were bendy enough to allow good movement whilst riding and I did feel protected in them as well.
I did a number of tests with these pads, firstly a 25km MTB race. The POC's offered great protection, but they suffocated my joints. I didn't find them very breathable and when your skin is a little sweaty, the silicone cuffs did slip which was an inconvenience because I did have to pull them up every so often. So I wouldn't recommend them for long distances, or hot days.
My second test was a crash, which I didn't plan on but these are what the pads were made for! In my review for the POC Cortex Flow full-face helmet, I wrote about my epic fail at Bikepark Wales and it was whilst wearing the POC VPD knee pads. Now, I took a hell of a slam that day and I was disappointed to find that my knee bruised badly through the pads. I believe it has a lot to do with the bulky fit I mentioned earlier, and the air gap. They did of course prevent a smashed knee, but the impact did cause purple bruising and swelling which I didn't expect from such high-end padding.
IXS: They fit really well to my narrow knees, without that noticeable air-gap between the knee and the padding, which was a relief. The breathable mesh covering means that my knees can breathe on hot days! Yay, minimal slippage. I like that the strap is above the calf muscle, because it gives the pad little room to move down. When the strap is above the knee, the leg naturally gets narrower downwards, so the strap is only tight at the point you set it. If it slips, then it's downhill from there! I have taken falls with them, nothing as big as the previous fail, but I have fallen and I'm pleased to say that I didn't suffer knee problems or bruising with the IXS pads. These pads even look like they fit better, and they move really well which is great for riding all trail types and durations.
I wore the IXS Flow pads throughout my Red Bull Foxhunt experience and they were brilliant from start to finish. The event involved a lot of climbing, pushing and riding and I felt no hindrance by the knee pads, or slippage either. They were very comfortable throughout and despite constant wear over 2 days of riding, they didn't smell bad either!
If I had to point out a potential negative with these, it would be the AeroMesh fabric. Despite it's fab breathability, it's also quite thin. So be careful when tugging on your pads to put them on or remove them because they feel easy to snag or tear. I've not torn mine, but I am aware that this is a potential weakness.
Overall, the IXS Flow knee pads win it for me. Mainly owing to the better fit as they feel more snug, without being restrictive and they feel lighter and more breathable to ride in. I would say the POC's are more heavy duty and better for high impact, like downhill riding, but only if they fit you correctly! The IXS pads are now my preferred knee protection and I wear them on every ride, they are a great all-rounder for comfort and protection. They're the bee's knee's... yea, I went there.