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by Dirty Jane team rider Jackie Harlow

I am not your typical pad-vocate. I prefer to ride free and easy. But getting good at bikes means taking spills, and spending time off the bike for preventable injuries is way more annoying than sporting pads. So I wear them. On technical tracks, during skills sessions, whenever I need a little insurance against the reality that at 35, I don’t heal as fast as I used to.

For the last year, I’ve experimented with 4 sets of pads:

  • Race Face - Ambush Knee & Elbow
  • 661 - Evo Knee
  • Poc - Bone VPD Leg & Arm
  • G-Form - Knee & Elbow

The Race Face Ambush Knee & Elbow Guards have become my go-to gear on all-mountain (“enduro”-style) rides. They offer excellent protection, great comfort (unless it’s hot), and best of all, they’re a snap to get on and off—no shoe removal required.

1. Easy On, Easy Off: My favorite feature of the Race Face Ambush pads is how easily they go on and off. I like to keep my pads in my bag while pedaling up, and throw them on just before the fun starts. I love being able to don the Ambush Knees without removing my shoes. Especially when riding laps. Nothing beats ripping off my Ambush Knees after a fast run down Braille so I can climb back up Suffer—er, I mean Sulfur Springs pad-free.

2. Rugged: These pads can take hits. I haven’t had too many falls in them, but the couple I’ve had have been hard, and the pads performed admirably. Critically, they didn’t shift on impact—something my G-Forms were notorious for (I have the scars to prove it)—and I bounced right back up after my falls. Race Face seems to have cracked the code for easy on/off pads that stay in place no matter what. The only scrapes and bruises I’ve gotten wearing my Ambush Guards were in places the pads weren’t supposed to cover.

3. Comfy (Unless It’s Hot): The Ambush pads are some of the most comfy I’ve worn. Unlike many other pads, they don’t much restrict movement, and if it’s cool out, I forget they’re on. I’ve had knee pain while pedaling in pads in the past (for example with my 661 Evos), but even though the Ambush Knees fit very snuggly, they don’t bother my knees at all.

My only complaint is that in hot weather, the Ambushes are … hot. The terrycloth insides are soft, but they turn into mini steam rooms for your knees (and, to a lesser extent, your elbows) during warm weather climbs or sprints. This isn’t a problem on rides with distinct “up” and “down” segments—it’s easy to remove the Ambush pads for climbs—but for rolling rides on hot hot days, I leave my Ambush’s at home and stick with the airier, if less comfy and less protective, 661 Evos.

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re looking for a great set of good looking pads to protect you as you fly down the mountain or race to the finish at your local enduro, look no further than the Race Face Ambush Knee & Elbow Guards. Robust pads that are easy to get on and off without removing your shoes.

You can read the full review at DirtyJane.com

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