I DIDN'T ask for these. I was looking for the most basic knee guards Alpinestars make. But over at A-Stars HQ they’ve grown wise to my cheapskate ways, so instead they ignored my request and upgraded me to a higher level of protection. And now that I’ve used the SX-1s I’m thankful they did.
I’ve used knee braces in the past. Only not having a significant knee injury I’ve not actually needed them – and I’ve not got on with them either. I get a bit niggled by the way braces restrict your knee movement. Being ex-trials I like moving about the bike in every direction, so the way braces hold your knees and, by design, restrict your movement in the one plane – that just doesn’t work for me. So I’ve stuck with plain kneepads and in fact have used the one pair of Acerbis pads for the last 13 years! (Acerbis’ Profile 2 guards would be a modern equivalent).
So with the SX-1s looking very much like braces I wasn’t exactly over the moon when I broke them out the packaging. But once I tried them on I was impressed with the initial comfort and secure fit – so figured I’d best give them a go.
The SX-1s might look like braces but actually they’re pretty un-fancy, in fact quite a simple, honest product. I like the way the ‘high performance polymeric material’ protection extends up the thigh (offering additional protection), that the kneecap protector sits naturally in the right spot and that there’s no chink in the armour when you bend your knees. And they’re fairly low-profile, so they fit in the boot comfortably and so far haven’t caused any wear and tear on the seat or panels of any of the bikes I’ve been testing. The dual pivot works well, smoothly, and unlike braces I’ve worn you do seem to be able to rotate your knees in more than just the one plane, allowing standard levels of flexibility. They have also remained comfortable over extended wear-times, including both days of the Welsh Two Day Enduro (that’s two eight hour days). You do need to snug up the two elastic and Velcro adjusters, though – if not tight enough the SX-1s will slip down your leg.
Impact protection feels good too. I’ve taken a few dives just of late and haven’t sustained any injuries in the knee-thigh area. That could be luck, but actually these were on hard pack and rock and there were moments of bang and crash, so there’s a fair chance the SX-1s have been doing their job. The quality seems good too; there’s been so sign of anything coming loose.
In the UK the SX-1s retail for £89.99 and that’s about twice the price of a quality set of knee guards. Do they offer twice the protection? That’s hard to say, but I’m willing to suggest they do offer additional protection and if I was more of a hard charging rider, willing to take the odd fall in the search for more speed, then I think that extra protection would be worth having. As it is, the SX-1s have become the new go-to knee protectors for me. Check back in, in 13 years time, and we’ll see how they’re going…