iXS Carve EVO+ Kneepad Review
Updated: Mar 5, 2020
What it is: An enduro focused kneepad from iXS, providing great coverage and protection, but mediocre comfort and very poor durability.
I ran these pads for about 10 months through all four seasons, I crashed on them a few times and pedaled in them heavily. I can't speak to the technical design of the materials, so I'll keep it brief and on my experiences.
My overall impression of the pads is that they provide very good protection compared to more 'trail' oriented kneepads, the comfort is mediocre, but durability very poor.
On the construction of the pad, there are a few simple highlights worth pointing out:
There are two velcro straps for retention, which is real important for longevity and retention (I refuse to use pads with less than two straps)
Silicon bands are around both the top and bottom to avoid slipping, which cracked and broke up a fair bit over time
The rear of the pad is entirely mesh (this will be important later), which tore in short order
The material providing impact protection is fairly thick, but bendable, providing good protection without being a full plastic shell
Overall, retention is very good, I never had any issues with these slipping down and they stayed in place through pedaling, crashing, chunky downhills, and anything else you can think of. I rarely found myself having to pull them up and the use of two velcro straps ensures that even when the elastic wears out, retention will remain good.
The protection is also very good. I came down really hard on them when I crashed in a rut on a hardpacked trail, but my knees were unscathed, not even bruised. The side of the rut was very hard and I had bruises in many other places. Looking at where my knee landed, I would have had some downtime due to the crash if it weren't for the pads, it was a very hard and sharp surface, but I barely felt anything on my knee.
There is also some protection on the side, which is nice, other pads I've used lacked this and resulted in some hard knocks on the side of my knee, which did not feel very good. There is less material here, but it is sufficient protection for the type of impacts you take there.
On the comfort front, there was a hot spot on the back of my leg initially. I found a small spot on the outside back of where my knee bends became badly irritated. As the pads wore, after a month or so, this went away and they were really comfortable to wear. It's hard to find this as a downside, since it could be due to the shape of my knee or sizing, but it's something to keep in mind.
I find with some harder kneepads, the inside tends to rub against my kneecap, but that wasn't an issue here. I've ridden these on long days and outside of the break in period, I found no hotspots or rubbing that made them uncomfortable.
These pads are also somewhat hot in comparison to thinner, more breathable pads. I didn't find them excessively hot even in the summer, but there are definitely cooler options out there if you live in an area where temps are regularly above 90f.
Where these pads lose it for me is durability. That mesh material that runs the full length of the backside of the kneepad tears easily and mine had several holes within a period of a month or so. Over the following 2-3 months, a fist sized hole had torn in both kneepads. Initially, this wasn't an issue, but over time the tear grew and the material abrated to the point the velcro straps would irritate the back of my legs, making them basically unusable.
The photo above shows this material, which on new pads runs the full length of the back of the pad. The problem is that, over time, it wears down or tears, which means the uncomfortable velcro straps rub the back of your legs. It is a poor design and there should have been thicker material here or some sort of seam to prevent tearing of the non-essential mesh and the essential parts that prevent the strap from rubbing your legs. Due to this issue, the pads have become unusable. You can see the other one in the photo below.
I reached out to the iXS US distributor, The Gravity Cartel, and was basically told I abused them and offered crash replacement. That was it for me. These kneepads cost over $100 and were unusable after 10 months, so the lack of support on what is, IMO, a clear warranty issue made me go another direction.
It's one thing to have a product fail, it's another to not support customers and expect them to pay out again to replace something that failed prematurely. I typically expect around a year to a year and a half out of kneepads, so that was disappointing. For reference, my previous Dakine pads lasted longer than a year and a half and were still fine when I replaced them with these.
So who would I recommend this to?
The durability failures aside, I really liked these when they worked. The protection provided was good, comfort was mediocre at first, but became better as they broke in, and retention was excellent.
It's hard to recommend them with the durability issues, though. I maybe put in about 1400 miles total and 4-5 park days on these, in that span several small (<1in) holes tore, which developed into a fist sized hole that eventually resulted in them being unusable. In part, it's a design deficiency due to the lack of a seam or stronger material behind the straps, which would prevent tearing to the point they are no longer usable.
That said, where they really lose me is the lack of support. Trying to get me to pay crash replacement for a set of 10 month old kneepads that failed is where I struggle to recommend them to anyone. In retrospect, I should have reached out when the initial failure happened after 2-3 months, but I left it alone since it wasn't a functional issue until much later.
If you are looking for an 'enduro' type kneepad that provides good protection, these may work for you, but considering how gentle I ride and how these were most definitely not abused, I would suggest more durable options from companies with better support. Personally, I went with the Dakine Anthem, but also considered the Race Face Ambush. Both have dual straps, both provide good protection, neither depend on webbing or netting to stay in place or prevent rub on your leg from the straps.
Dakine Anthem : TBD (Will update in a few months after I've had these longer)
Great impact protection
Reasonably comfortable after the initial break-in
Dual straps ensure the pads will be retained and provide good adjustment for different leg sizes
Not overly flashy - The aesthetics are good and they don't look obnoxious
Great retention across pedaling and crashing, never had worries about them falling down
Poor durability - The mesh netting on the back will develop holes over time that tear into larger holes, eventually rendering the kneepad unusable. The silicon bands also cracked over time.
I had hot spots on the back of both knees when new, but they went away after a few rides
Breathability is mediocre, they can be a bit on the hot side, but not excessively
Poor customer support from the US distributor