The IXS Flow Zip knee pads are an evolution of the Flow pads I reviewed a couple of years ago. The difference is this newly released set have a zip, which allows for putting them on and off without taking your shoes off. They’re low-profile pads designed to be used by trail-riders (rather than DHers), have a snug fit with a lower strap and an upper silicon gripper.
The Flow Zips’ actual padding is made from what IXS call X-matter, which is a flexible Viscoelastic polymer, which means it can flex and move to make pedalling comfortable and can also absorb multiple impacts without losing its shock absorbing properties. The padding is removable, which is handy for washing them. The backing is Aeromesh, which is a seemingly very thin, and in practice very breezy and stretchy fabric that is also very strong. IXS say this is a new version of Aeromesh which is even stretchier and stronger than the last version, which is saying something, because I wrenched the hell out of the previous set getting them over my shoes a few times after I’d accidentally put my shoes on first... Of course there’s no need to do that with this zipped set.
I tried on both the medium and large and chose the large. Fit is excellent - snug without being tight and the cup-shaped pad conforms around the knee well. I didn’t experience any hotspots or rubbing. They’re certainly more than comfortable enough to pedal in for a several hour ride.
While the pads are small enough to fit in a backpack, or even go through the waist straps of a bum bag, I tended to put them on in the house (often after putting my shoes on), ride to the trails with the pads around my shins, get to the top of the first big climb, the pull them up and never touch them again until I got home. Having said that, if it’s hot and humid the extra warmth is noticeable, so I would sometimes pull them down again for a big uphill to get some airflow across my knees. Still, I didn’t often use the zip in the wild; I used the zip just as much to undo them and leave them to air/dry in the sun. By the way, the way to do the zip up is to wrap the pads around your calves, do the zip up, then pull them up into place (not try to zip them up in place over your knees – I tried that and the fit is too snug like that, so the zip is hard to do up). I did witness another rider struggling to get his IXS flows on just before his NZ Enduro race start – the zip managed to get ‘out of sync’ and lead to some struggling to get it undone again and restart again. The second attempt went without issue and he was away.
I ended up hitting the ground a couple of times while wearing the Flow Zips and can attest that they do their job very well. One of the crashes was a landing with quite some force, where I slid for a while on my knee and foot, and while my lower shin had a teeny graze, my knee was perfectly fine and certainly would have been badly bruised if it weren’t for these pads (they didn’t stop my ankle getting broken in that same crash though). So, like last time, the lack of thigh-strap doesn’t seem to be a problem. Having said that, I would like to see bit of protection on the inside of the knee, to protect against bashing the top tube. The IXS Carve has this additional protection (along with an upper thigh strap).
They’re not cheap, but the fit is excellent, the comfort is up there with the best I’ve used, the protection is real, and now you can get them on and off without taking your shoes off, so for trail riders looking for suitable knee protection, I reckon they’re an excellent choice.
Distributed by: Marleen Wholesalers
Words & Images: Carl Patton
Originally printed in Issue 88 of New Zealand Mountain Biker