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Rapha Trail knee pads review

Lightweight knee pads promising plenty of coverage and protection

Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
GBP £80.00 RRP | USD $110.00 | EUR €95.00 | AUD $140.00
Rapha Trail knee pads for mountain bike riders

Our review

The Rapha Trail knee pads might not be the most breathable, but the comfort, coverage, price and level of protection mean they’re some of the best
Pros: Extremely comfortable; decent coverage; good level of protection; articulate well and don’t slip down while pedalling; well priced
Cons: Not as breathable as some
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Rapha’s Trail knee pads might be the brand’s debut foray into the world of mountain bike protection, but it has hit the ground running at the first attempt.

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With input from its pro riders, Ella Conolly, Jill Kintner and Bryn Atkinson, Rapha has managed to a create a set of mountain bike knee pads that do exactly what’s expected of them for a reasonable price (compared to the other big names on the market).

Rapha Trail knee pads details and specifications

Silicone print at both the top and bottom hems, along with a long, stretchy sleeve, helps to keep the Rapha Trails securely in place.
Andy Lloyd / Our Media

Rapha offers the Trail knee pads in fives sizes, ranging from extra-small through to extra-large, and they’re rated CE level 2 (meaning they’re more protective than pads rated CE level 1).

The long sleeve that extends quite far up the thigh is made from a very soft, stretchy fabric. The feel of this material is similar to a set of knee warmers.

Both the top and bottom hems are elasticated and feature silicone print on the inside to help ensure the pads stay put on your legs.

The upper hem is deep, too, so, despite being tight, doesn’t feel as though it digs into your thigh.

Unlike some of the Rapha Trail’s competitors, there are no mesh panels or cut-outs used at the rear of the sleeve. This may limit how cool they feel when riding, but it helps provide a more consistent tension across the knee, holding the protective cup tightly in place and exactly where it needs to be.

Speaking of the protective knee cup, in this case, Rapha’s Trail knee pads use padding made in collaboration with RHEON Labs from an ‘active polymer’.

The padding is soft and malleable when in use, but hardens on impact to help dissipate the force of the blow. The protective inserts can be removed for washing too.

Coverage is decent, with the knee cup wrapping around the kneecap nicely and extending a good way down your shin to bolster protection further.

Rapha has used what it calls ‘SuperFabric’ over the front of the pads. It’s said to be a tough, synthetic material that should help boost durability and ensure these pads won’t be written off after just a few scuffs and scrapes.

All in, my set of medium knee pads weighs only 366g.

Rapha Trail knee pads performance

A smooth, uninterrupted sleeve with no cut-outs or mesh panels at the rear means the Trails aren’t the coolest pads on warm days, but they are some of the comfiest.
Andy Lloyd / Our Media

The soft fabric used to construct the Rapha Trail pads helps to create some of the comfiest pads I’ve ever worn. There are no awkward lumps, bumps, seams or edges – these really do feel more like thick knee warmers than knee pads.

While the sleeve extends further up the thigh than many, they’re not uncomfortable in any way, though the extra coverage adds to heat build-up when you’re working hard.

Both elasticated hems are tight but not uncomfortable and, coupled with the snug fit of the sleeve itself, really pin the protective knee cup in place, holding it firmly over your knee.

Although there’s a reassuring bulk to the Rapha Trails, they’re still slim enough to work under modern trail pants without feeling awkward or clumsy. They slide under the legs of mountain bike shorts easily while pedalling.

On the topic of pedalling, the Rapha Trails don’t disappoint here, either. They flex comfortably as you spin the pedals and don’t splay at the sides when your knee reaches more acute angles.

Get working hard, though, and the pads get sweaty quite quickly. This doesn’t impact on comfort levels, but they’re not as airy as some, which is worth noting if you tend to run quite warm.

While I’ve only had a handful of tumbles while wearing the Rapha Trails, they’ve done what’s required of them and stayed exactly where they needed to be when my knees have met the dirt.

Despite not being the most breathable, that’s something I’m happy to accept considering the level of comfort, protection, coverage and value on offer.

Rapha Trail knee pads bottom line

Rapha has hit the ground running with its Trail knee pads, striking a great balance between comfort, coverage and protection.
Andy Lloyd / Our Media

Overall, I’m a big fan of the Rapha Trail knee pads. Rapha has managed to squeeze in almost all of the right elements required of a modern-day trail knee pad, and all for a very reasonable price when you consider what’s on offer.

It’s the level of comfort and fit that make them stand out for me. Knowing I can pedal in these pads all day and they’ll stay perfectly in place while I do so gives me the peace of mind I need to get on with riding my bike.

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There’s no irritating slippage or adjusting to do; simply slide them on and ride. Sure, they get a bit warm, but with comfort and coverage like this, it’s a small price to pay.

How we tested

In order to get the best possible idea as to how these pads perform, we rode in a variety of weathers, temperatures and on different types of trails, including everything from super-rocky and rough to long stints of pedalling for hours on end. 

Why do weather and temperature conditions matter? Well, due to the make-up of many of the pads’ protective inserts (often a malleable material that hardens on impact), the temperature can have a dramatic effect on just how flexible (or not) these inserts are.

While some need warming up to get them moving and feeling comfortable once over the knee, others bend easily from the get-go.

Then, of course, there’s moisture to worry about. That includes a soaking from puddle splashes or heavy rain downpours, along with becoming saturated in sweat when working hard on really warm days. Will the pads stay in place even when dripping wet? And do they become any less comfortable when drenched?

Finally, it’s worth trying each set of pads when wearing shorts and trousers. Will shorts simply glide over the pads as you pedal or do they get snagged and bunch up awkwardly? Equally, are they slim enough to slide under the trousers comfortably or so bulky that they simply won’t fit?

Riding these pads back-to-back, and often with a different brand on each knee, ensured we could pick apart the differences effectively and work out which pads were worth spending your hard-earned cash on.

Also on test

  • 100% Teratec Plus
  • POC Joint VPD System
  • Troy Lee Designs Stage

Product Specifications

Product

Price AUD $140.00EUR €95.00GBP £80.00USD $110.00
Weight 366g (M)
Brand Rapha

Features

Features Sizes: XS, S, M L, XL
Material: 78% Recycled Nylon, 22% Elastane (main body)
Pad inserts: RHEON™Labs active polymer
Gender Unisex