It’s always easy to sum up what we want from our bikes or gear. A good set of pads should be comfortable, slim-fitting, lightweight and still highly protective…but it’s not always easy to find a set that does it all for you. For me, the Bluegrass Wapiti D30 knees and elbows came pretty close to hitting all the marks.
Bikerumor first checked out the Wapiti D30 pads when they were released in July. I got my hands on both the elbows and knees for testing purposes, and took them through the Whistler Bike Park for the summer.
In short I found the Wapiti D30 knees were comfortable, slim, and they stayed in place. The elbows, despite having almost identical construction to the knee pads, weren’t quite as comfortable or secure but definitely provide the feeling of being well armoured. And yes, I did eat dirt a couple times this summer…
Comfort-wise the Wapiti D30 elbows took some getting used to. On my first few rides the triple-stitched seam (where the mesh meets the shell material) left red lines on my arms, but thankfully the problem went away after a few more days of riding.
I thought the Wapiti elbows’ silicone grippers and top/bottom closures would hold them up pretty well so I didn’t wrench the pads on super tight, but on my first run they slipped right down my arms. From then on the Wapitis were strapped on tightly, and held a lot better. I found the pads comfortable and flexible when in place but they never stayed put for long- I frequently had to tug on them to keep them in position.
Because of the pads sliding down, the lower Velcro closure started grabbing at the fabric and is now tearing up the Kevlar shell material just below the D30 pad on both elbows. I can’t see this problem correcting itself, so hopefully it takes a while before the shell gets excessively torn up.
The elbows’ D30 padding is substantial but not bulky, so they fit under a loose fitting jersey (and a rain shell) quite easily. That said, adjusting them under two layers of sleeves was a real pain after they slipped out of place. After a few rides I decided to forego the elbow pads on multi-layer days.
Overall I felt very well protected in the Wapiti D30 elbows, they were comfortable when in position and the D30 foam and mesh backing offers excellent freedom of motion. My critiques are that they could do a better job of staying in place (which would prevent the velcro damage), and the triple-stitched seam was annoyingly abrasive until I got used to the pads.
Much to my delight, the Wapiti D30 knees were very comfortable right away and never irritated my legs in any way. The freedom of motion is excellent; with their mesh-back design and soft D30 padding they feel very lightweight and bend like a wet noodle. They also look quite slim on your legs, but when it counted the protection proved itself.
The knees did a commendable job of sitting securely in place. I experienced only a minor bit of slippage as the upper hems would slightly droop- but they never allowed the knees to fall out of place. This sag didn’t cause any discomfort, and with a tiny tug the top hems were perfectly re-set for another few park laps.
Like the elbows, there has been a bit of wear from the Velcro meeting the Kevlar fabric where they bunch up and meet (above the pad in this case), but this issue on the knee pads was far more minor.
Once my ride is done, I like to get out of my gear ASAP so I’m a big fan of the Wapiti knees’ side zipper. These pads come off quick and easy with no need to lose your shoes, so your sweaty knees can feel the breeze. I was really happy with the Wapiti D30 knees and would definitely recommend them for those who don’t like hard plastic shells. They’re very comfortable, lightweight pads that still feel adequately protective.
And as for crash protection, I did hit the ground a few times while testing the Wapiti D30 pads. In at least two cases I got up thinking I somehow bailed out with surprising grace, only to find dirt on my knees and elbows. I have to give the Wapiti D30’s high marks for that – the crashes weren’t really vicious, but I didn’t even know I had put the pads to use! I was also happy to find I haven’t torn the shell material on any of the pads either.