Knee protection comes in a wide-range of options, from minimalistic soft pads that are only slightly more effective than a pair of knee warmers to rigid braces designed to protect against nearly every sort of injury a knee could face. iXS’ own product line spans much of this spectrum, with the Dagger attempting to bridge the gap between rigid protection and soft-pad comfort and flexibility.
Tech features: The Dagger kneepads are designed for downhill and all-mountain riding applications and are constructed of their Aeromesh material for breathability and flexibility. The Dagger’s most novel feature is the dual-injected, ArmadilloDuro protective shell over the kneecap. This design uses a very rigid plastic in the middle of the shell, which then transitions into a softer, more-pliable plastic material on the outsides of the mold. The idea is to have ultimate protection where it’s needed and to maintain mobility by allowing the hard shell to essentially move with the soft pad structure as one unit. Also aiding in mobility and comfort is iXS’ squeezebox joint design which creates a flexible spot just below the knee.
The pads extend from the lower thigh to just past the knee, with more shin protection than most dedicated knee pads, though much less than a full knee/shin combo. The pad uses two flexible hook-and-loop style straps, bands of silicone material and an internal knee gusset to hold the pads in place. Aside from the dual-compound hard-shell, the Dagger features ventilated soft padding on both sides of the knee as well as above and below it.
The iXS Daggers weigh about 13 ounces a pair and sell for $95.
Field test results: The vast majority of the time, when it comes time to pad up for a day in the bike park, we reach for our soft-shell pads. Whether it be the increased comfort of soft-pads or the low-profile looks, it’s easy to see why minimalistic pads are popular with riders. While the Daggers’ look still says hard-shell, the fit and mobility feel nearly on par with soft-shell pads.
The Dagger’s Aeromesh material is quite comfortable, and we like the full coverage all the way around the back of the knee. This prevents any weird pinching that can occur with many open-back pads we’ve worn. They are even comfortable enough to be a viable option for trail riders looking for extra protection while still needing to turn the pedals all day.
The hook-and-loop straps are very flexible, which lets them move with you rather than creating pressure points. The pads also did a good job of staying in place; we never had an issue with them migrating south. The pads don’t cover enough of your shin to do much against slipped pedals—leaving plenty of room for hungry pins to take a bite—but the extra length isn’t annoying on the bike.
With comfort and flexibility exceeding that of many soft-shell pad designs we’ve experienced, the Dagger may possibly be the most comfortable hard-shell design available. Of course, with the hard-shell comes a bit more bulk than some minimalist soft-shell designs, but it’s a trade-off that will be well worth it for riders seeking more substantial protection.