Quick Review: Alpinestars Morzine Knee/Elbow Guards- by Grannygear
If there is anyone in the MTB world that has little experience with wearing pads it is me. Joe XC. Joe endurance. Or just Joe to my friends, but in any case, I never saw a need for them. I don’t crash a lot (but when I do, I tend to really yard sale) so I don’t feel a real need to cover up. And I have to admit chuckling a bit at the armored trail warriors I see with pads wrapped around them, usually on a pretty big travel bike, riding the same trails I do with lycra and a singlespeed.
When I went to a semi-local bike park a year or so ago I felt naked. The level of trail difficulty, mostly from man made stunts, but some just from the terrain, and the ease with which you could go really fast over and over again (ski lifts) all day if you were fit enough…well, that was a paradigm shift for me. I really was thinking hard about buying some pads and would have whipped out the Visa if I had seen a trailside cart selling such body armor. But back at home the feeling passed.
Then people began to crash. It seemed like many buddies of mine were soil sampling at an alarming rate… elbows, knees, collar bones. It got me to thinking how exposed we really are to even a casual crash. One sharp rock+one soft tissue area = owies and time off the bike. So I looked at some options for padding that was not full on DH but would get me in a better place for technical days and maybe even for all around riding.
To begin the journey, I sampled a set of Morzine knee and elbow guards from Alpinestars. They are certainly not a newbie to the protection game for motorsports athletes and offer various levels of protection for cyclists too. The Morzine is a bit lighter weight with no hard cap layer like the Moab pads they offer. I was looking for a pad that walked the line a bit between an XC and AM level of coverage and was easy to transport, possibly even fitting into a moderate size hydration pack. Would the Morzines hit that target? Yes and no.
The Morzine pads come in a mesh sack to keep them together in your gear bag and at first inspection look like they are well padded and shaped well. The padding is quite thick and the pad itself is not as light or stuff-able as I thought it would be. Since I had both the elbow and knee guards, it was apparent that it would fit into something like a Camelbak MULE, but it would take up most of the pack’s capacity. Of course, you can strap them on the outside of the pack, if it is designed for that, but the pads are rather short and may not span the typical attachment points of a pack like that.
The pads combine a stretchy mesh section with Velcro closures to keep the pads snug and in place. As well, there are rubbery/grippy areas in the fabric where it rests against your skin/clothing that intend to keep the pad where you want it to be. They are articulated and conform well to the body. How did they work for me, a newbie to pads like this?
- The first time I wore them I was surprised how hard they were to pull on over the legs and these were the Lg/XL size. I could hear the netted section of the pad ripping as I struggled to pull them over my calves. After two wearings they have torn sections in the net section behind the knees. Does this matter much to the function of the pad? Maybe not yet, but it bugs me that it happened.
- Once on I was pleased with how they felt while riding. At first it was odd to me, but as the rough and rutted moto trail zoomed by, I got used to it and I have to say that I felt emboldened just a bit and that ‘naked’ feeling was not near as significant. I was more likely to push the corners and jumps a bit harder as I felt ‘wrapped up’.
- The knee pads stayed on as I rode back up a 3 mile climb in a 90 degree day. I could feel cooling air moving behind the pad and I did not need to take them off to feel like I was not wasting energy pedaling or overheating in them. I could have just lowered them and ran them at my calves like I have seen others do, but I don’t think I would have gained anything from that.
- They are bulky, but that may be just because I do not know what to expect. However that may be, I would not use these for the average XC ride. Too much material and weight.
- Twice the elbow pads slid down to my forearms while wearing them on a long and fast downhill. They seemed tight enough to me but I had to run them very snug to the point of discomfort to avoid this. I was wearing a long sleeved jersey both times.