HEAD-TO-TOE TRAIL PROTECTION: This jacket and pant have built-in pads.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could take a ride with a blatant disregard for personal safety? No clothing, shoes, helmets, pads, goggles, gloves, etc. bike specific. No equipment checklists. No “what if” scenarios. Just one bike and one person and the trail open. Oh what a glorious fantasy this is, sadly reality is calling me and I have to go.

No matter how talented a racer you are or how easy the track is, there’s always a chance you’ll eat shit. More often than not it will be in this kind of “bruh uncool story”. You know those; slow uphill drops where you can’t seem to unclip yourself, wheel snags against stick, rogue trees appearing out of nowhere. Based on human experience, it seems that the most modest danger lies in waiting for “the time you forgot to wear pads”. We all have THIS story (don’t lie). Luckily, there’s an abundance of comfortable protective gear for all scenarios, and I’ve had the pleasure of testing out a few interesting pieces this summer.

SixSixOne EVO Women’s Compression Vest

“Compression vest” wasn’t a phrase in my bike armor vocabulary, nor was it something I had thought about a lot before testing the SixSixOne EVO Compression Vest. To be fair, I don’t send it very difficult at the park, so adding protection beyond the standard full face helmet, knee pads and elbow pads never really crossed my mind. I’ve seen tourists fully padded with jackets and armor rented from the bike shop for downhill days, probably because “they’re the ones going to crash”, which is true. Well done, Kansas family. However, by doing some mental calculations: novice speed + many more miles per hour + blatant confidence + one wrong move = full armor seems like a good idea.

Most armor I’ve seen in the past has been quite bulky and looked especially obnoxious under a singlet. The 661 EVO Compression Jacket is the most minimalist jacket I’ve ever seen, and it offers all the protection I need in one easy-to-put-on, comfortable, and well-ventilated package. There’s not a huge need for it to be breathable and lightweight, as the typical user doesn’t pedal much in it, but it’s both. A drawback to the lighter material between the pads; if you crash hard, it tears easily.

This jacket seems a bit too much for enduro, especially when paired with the 661 EVO Compression shorts and Recon Advance knee pads which all connect via the 661 padlock system (if you want it) for a trifecta of protection. I would definitely consider this a solid downhill setup.

I tested a women’s size XS and it fits me perfectly. The vest weighs 1.95lbs (884g), so you feel like you’re wrapped in a weighted blanket, giving you a gentle hug (compression) and reminding you that you’re safe. Initially I thought my chest would be squished and feel restrictive when zipped up. However, there is the perfect amount of stretch built into the entire garment as well as underarm and elbow holes for added comfort.

The EVO Compression Vest also has five D30 protection pads located on the back, shoulders and elbows. There are EVA foam pads on the front and sides that hug “the girls” and velcro adjusters on the forearm to make sure the elbow pads stay in place. The mesh panel that secures the back protector can also accommodate a hydration bladder whose hose winds through the shoulder. Unfortunately, there is no securing mechanism in the front, so the pipe either collapses or has to be secured somehow. I’ve never seen a downhiller use such a feature, but it’s nice to have, just in case. The 661 EVO Compression jacket is an investment, but reasonable if you plan to spend time at the bike park. For $199.99, you get back, shoulder, and elbow protection in an easy-to-use jacket that ranges in size XS-XL.

Fox Ranger Tights

I’m not one to ride in full length tights. The knee pads look awkward and change a lot if worn over them and the tights are generally too much like yoga pants for my liking. However, there are a good number of women who like to ride in tights. Luckily for these women, Fox created the Ranger tights, featuring TruMotion® 4-way stretch fabric, an integrated chamois pad and integrated, yet removable D3O knee pads.

Ranger tights are a great option for women who prefer a sleek, aerodynamic look to baggy riding pants or for those who want chamois, padding and extra warmth. under loose pants for those cold winter months. They are quite comfortable and lightweight with mesh ventilation on the side of the knee and a hidden mesh pocket on the waistband at the back.

The women’s specific two-layer Fox chamois is too bulky for my liking. There’s a lot of padding that bunches up and feels like a big layer under the tights, but it does the job of protecting your bottom cheeks. The chamois itself is attached to the tights, but only sewn on the front and back, which looks odd. My best guess is that it leaves the possibility of easily removing the stitches, should the wearer choose to remove the chamois.

One thing I love about Fox clothing is that all of their women’s pants are low-rise (no thanks, maternity belt), and the same goes for their tights. I received an XS for testing. They are true to size and the D3O inserts sit in the correct place on the knee considering my leg length. The pads are integrated into the tights via a patch pocket inside and they are easy to remove for washing. Although the pads do not move in the pocket, the tights do move up and down when riding, so minor adjustments needed to be made from time to time.

One of the benefits of the removable pads is that you can also use these tights for gravel or road riding, making them a surprisingly versatile piece of clothing. Overall I like it concept protective tights. In practice, I’ll never wear them unless it’s ridiculously cold outside and I need a layer under my layers. They just aren’t my style. However, I know a lot of women who will love these tights, especially considering the built-in chamois pads, knee pads, and crossover possibilities. Unfortunately, Fox Ranger tights don’t come cheap. Priced at $169.99, I hear women “psssttt-ing” given that their favorite pair of lululemon leggings only costs $120.

Kneepads SixSixOne Recon Advance

If you don’t like jackets and pants with built-in pads, this is for you. The SixSixOne Recon Advance knee pads bridge the gap between full DH setups and more minimalist everyday rider protection. They’re a little sturdier than the standard Recon Pads, but offer full coverage in a pedal-friendly package with the ability to add more protection if needed.

I tested the size small, which weighs 14.7 oz (416 g). The fit is much like the standard Recon; rather a short, stretchy, easy to put on and non-adjustable (no velcro tightening straps). The majority of the sleeve is made up of ventilated material in the back and has a knee hole so you don’t get that awkward (raw) hot spot while pedaling. Like many pedal-worthy pads, the Recon Advance features silicone grippers that sit high on the thigh and below the knee for a non-slip fit.

The length helps avoid the dreaded pad-to-shorts gap and if you have the 661 padlock shorts there’s a padlock system at the top that allows you to attach the pads to the shorts via plastic snaps. Sounds like a great idea in theory, but also as an “Instagram versus reality” meme because I’ve never seen anyone actually use it.

The protective part at the front of the knee consists of a thick D3O insert that protects the patella and goes down to the tibia. An upgrade over the standard Recon are the fourteen small EVA thermo-foam pads that add coverage to the lower thigh and outside of the knee. and tibia. These smaller pads made me feel more secure in the downhill park, but they also add weight and retain heat. It’s fine when you’re not pedaling much or riding exclusively in temperate weather, but not ideal for long rides in the height of summer.

If you ride exclusively in the park or are looking for that reassuring plastic feel, protection can be enhanced with optional hard plastic knee pads that attach to the outside of the pad via four small Velcro loops. I haven’t tested the plastic lids, but they look like they should be easy to use, although mostly useless as far as I can tell.

The Recon Advance pads are $109.99, which is a little pricey, especially if you choose to purchase the knee pads as well. However, if you need a pad that does it all, this is a great option. Recon Advance pads are comfortable and perfectly suited for more driving styles. I especially liked the length, the extra pieces of foam around those little knee bones, and the ventilation in the back.

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