I’ve been using a set of Race Face Indy knee pads for ~2yrs now. Initially I was swapping them with some Race Face Ambush pads, but the last year I’ve been wearing them for most rides…so say ~18 months of use to date. They are finally worn out enough that I ordered a new set and will retire these pads as soon as the new ones get here.
These pads are a sleeve type knee armour with a 3DO pad sewn into a pocket on a stretchy cloth sleeve. You pull them up your leg into position and there is one velcro strap at the top to aid with retention. All in all the system works pretty well if you size them right. Given the limited amount of adjustment if they are too loose or too tight there is not that much you can do to fix the situation. So try before you buy.
To be honest when I first got these pads I didn’t love them. I preferred the bigger Ambush pads because they offered more protection and I didn’t have to take my shoes off to put them on or take them off. However, the more I used the Indy pads the more I started to like them. Which led to me wearing them as my main knee pad the last year.
Here are the negatives:
- modest amount of padding
- have to take shoes off to put on or take off
- cloth sleeve is not super robust
- sleeve can be warm on a hot day
- not cheap
What got me stoked about the Indy pads was their lighter more streamlined form factor. I don’t have lots of hard crashes so I re-evaluated the need for a burly knee pad, but at the same time I ride in rough terrain with lots of roots, rocks and vegetation so some protection feels like a good idea. The Indy pads hit that sweet spot for me at the moment. I feel like I have enough protection to ride as hard as I want to without dealing with big armour that makes me feel like an extra in the movie Gladiator.
I also adjusted to wearing the sleeve. Initially it seemed like having the sleeve on made the most sense in the winter when it was cool out, but as I tried the pads out in warmer conditions they didn’t feel uncomfortable so I wore them through this whole summer and felt fine. Yes they are warmer and sweatier than no pads, but I rarely want to ride with no pads so a bit of sweating is just part of the mix when I ride.
Here is what I like:
- a useful amount of padding
- 3DO armour flexes when I pedal
- not too bulky
- comfortable enough for 3-4hrs+ rides
- product lasted long enough to be reasonable in terms of cost
- looks decent
- handled machine washing and drying on low without issue
I did not have any epic crashes that would allow me to comment in detail on the protection value of these pads. They are not what I would consider adequate for any type of gravity racing or for riders that hit the dirt hard frequently. If I was going to ride a bike park or try my hand at an Enduro race I put the Ambush pads on.
What I can say is that these pads are great for protection from all the day-to-day bumps and whacks from trail riding. Cruising through areas with spiky vegetation or hard branches is a lot easier. Plus you get some sun protection or cold protection for your legs.
If Race Face asked me for one improvement to these pads it would be to use different cloth for the sleeve. The cloth is very breathable, but also relatively fragile. The knee pads themselves are still nearly perfect, but my sleeves are quite torn and the remaining material around the tears is so thin/weak I can’t effectively sew up the holes to keep the pads going. More durable material might impact the hot wear comfort, although I don’t think this is necessarily true, but I would be okay with that for increasing the product life a few years.
Clearly I liked them well enough to buy a second pair so that should say something.
Update [6 Sep 2017]: Got my new RF Indy pads and the front fabric is thicker and looks more robust than the old sleeve fabric. The backside of each sleeve is the same think porous cloth for breathability. So it looks like RF agreed the sleeve fabric was a little weak and fixed the problem. Awesome! 🙂