British mountain bike protection manufacturers, SixSixOne, have recently updated their elbow and knee pad offering, releasing the ultra flexible, ultra lightweight Recon D3O and, more recently, the Recon Advance D3O. While we liked the wearability and breathability of the former, particularly for longer cross-country rides, we reasoned that its flexible D3O Ghost pad left the knee cap a little too vulnerable on rockier trails for our liking.
As I do a lot more enduro riding than XC riding, I welcomed the opportunity to test the burlier Recon Advance D3O model. This one gets a much thicker, larger surface area D3O pad with the option to add hard shell protection for days when you’re likely to depart from your comfort zone. Here’s how we got on with the 661 Recon Advance D3O Knee Pads this season.
Feature Image by Will Cheskin.
661 Recon Advance D3O Knee Pads
The SixSixOne Recon Advance D3O Knee pads are of a one-piece slip-on construction with an 8mm silicone gripper strip at the thigh and calf region designed to prevent the pad slipping up or down as you pedal. These are meant to be worn high up the thigh, at least much higher than other knee pads I’ve worn over the years.
Thus, you’ll need to measure your mid-thigh circumference when looking at sizing. I measure 48cm here, putting me on the fence between the medium and large. SixSixOne sent me the medium pads to test, which I found to be a good fit. Despite being at the larger end of that range, I didn’t find the pads to be too tight.
The D3O pad itself measures around 24cm long, actually extending quite far down my shin. I appreciated the bit of bonus protection in this area. Aside from the D3O there is also some added EVA foam padding sewn into the outer adding even more protection down the shin, some above the knee cap, with a tiny bit at the inside and outside of the knee cap too. Protection is pretty comprehensive, before you even consider adding the hard shell.
Overall, I find the fit to be very comfortable. There are an unusually high number of stitched seams dotted around these knee pads, thanks to the extra sewn-in EVA foam section and the way the rear panel is constructed with a lighter weight and more breathable material. Despite that, I actually noted very little evidence of undesirable friction, even on warmer days where pedaling up or downhill was a very sweaty affair.
My main issue with these pads, and I’ve since discovered it happens on other pads too, is that my skin has a reaction to the silicone grippers. For years I’ve worn knee pads with silicone grippers, including Bluegrass Solid D3O pads and Fox Enduro Knee Guards, and never experienced this. However, over the last few months, I’ve noticed my skin come out in an itchy rash after wearing the SixSixOne Recon Advance D3O pads and the Bluegrass Solid D3O Pads on 2-3 hour+ rides.
A quick Google search tells me that most apparent allergies to silicone aren’t actually allergies at all; they’re more just plain irritation caused by sweat and the skin’s microbes. It’s not impossible that my current addiction to wearing MTB Pants, as opposed to shorts, no matter the weather conditions, is simply making everything more sweaty, thus leading to more irritation. So, yeah, there’s more information than you bargained for. Something to bear in mind, though.
The 661 Recon Advance D3O Knee pads are designed to lock into the EVO Shorts, which are themselves designed to lock into the EVO Jacket (reviewed here). This is all part of the Padlock System, meant to prevent pad migration both before and during an impact.
Personally, I found this feature to be a little superfluous, principally because the knee pad sits so high on the thigh that it forces me to wear it underneath the cuff of the EVO Shorts. Though I can physically connect the two items via the poppers, the overlap renders the system obsolete, simply because there is too much slack. If the forces in a crash did want to push the knee pad down my leg, it would likely travel a good 5-6cm before the Padlock system came under tension. This is unlikely to be as much of an issue for taller riders with longer thighs.
A highlight of the 661 Recon Advance D3O Knee (and elbow) pads is the fact that you have the option to mount a hard shell to the outside. This covers the knee cap and most of the shin portion too, offering that extra protection you might want if you plan to haul down rocky singletrack.
Four small velcro straps that are tucked underneath the top layer of pad’s outer simply loop through complementary holes on the hard shell to secure it in place. Underneath the hard shell is another piece of velcro that helps hold it in place too.
The hard shell adds negligible weight to the pad but does stiffen it up quite significantly. I definitely notice more resistance as I bend my knee throughout the pedal stroke. You wouldn’t want to climb too many hills with the hard shell on, but that’s the beauty of it; you can just carry them in your pack and add them when you get to the top. They’re also a bit of a no brainer for a day shuttling at the bike park.
Pricing & Availability
The 661 Recon Advance D3O Knee and Elbow Pads are available now, retailing at $109.99 USD and $94.99 USD, respectively. The hard shell kits are available to purchase separately for an additional $14.99 USD. Head to the SixSixOne website for more info on sizing.