Lightweight knee protection for trail riding
Specialized has been branching out into new areas of the mountain bike market recently, and the Atlas Knee Pad adds protection to the list. Rather than being a full-on piece of body armour though, the Atlas is aimed at the trail rider who requires protection just not at the expense of freedom of movement.
The construction of the Atlas knee pad has a little more in common with a knee warmer than strap and gasket style knee pads. The longer upper effectively covers two thirds of your thighs and is held in place with a wide elasticated and siliconed gripper. Apart from an opening to the back of the knee and a split, articulated rear it encompasses the leg to pretty much the top of the shin.
Specialized has used an anti shock foam to provide the protection. It feels very malleable and conforms to the knee admirably, although this is due to it being relatively thin. The Atlas also feature three side ‘buttons’ of padding to protect the sides of the knee – this is always my weak spot and it’s reassuring to have them there.
Riding in the Atlas is about as comfortable as it gets riding in pads all day. Even a full, warm day opting to ride the climb at Bike Park Wales failed to annoy too much. The lower portion of the pad begins to fold over a longer day of pedaling but it can be manipulated back into shape easily. The back of the pad uses a more open weave material to aid breathability but inevitably it can get a bit sweaty.
The Atlas work best in conjunction with a liner short to help keep them in place as they can suffer from the inevitable slippage with no straps to keep them where they should be. As much as I tried to avoid a crash in the Atlas, they have been subjected to a lot of abuse. There were times when I walked away with bruises and a few cuts, so don’t expect them to save you from every knock – but I’m sure that the injuries would have been worse without them though.
The lighter back material is starting to show a bit of damage with a few small holes but the main material has shrugged off damage very well. Washing them regularly is no issue either.
The Atlas has made my knee warmers redundant on cooler rides. This, combined with their unobtrusive nature, means that they have become part of my standard kit for every ride.
The Atlas pads make wearing kneepads just that little bit easier for general trail riding, being both light and comfortable. Whilst they certainly do not offer the protection of more substantial kneepads they help limit the damage from the inevitable. The price is possibly a tenner higher than some comparable products, but you'll use these pads again and again and again.