Dainese has a new, expanded Trail Skins line of lightweight mountain bike protection that builds on what we saw last year. With new Pro, Air & Lite levels of knee & elbow pads, plus new protection t-shirt, vest & padded liner shorts, Dainese hopes to have you completely covered from aggressive trail riding through all-mountain and maybe into a bit of enduro. We’ve spent the past few months riding with each level of protection, and have figure out which are our Airy favorites…
Dainese Trail Skins lightweight MTB knee & body protection
Each level of new third generation Dainese Trail Skins MTB protection starts with the same idea – lightweight & intricately vented Pro-Shape pads that stay close against the body and move with you as you pedal, delivering full protection while claiming to stay perfectly situated in place.
The “inspired by auxetics” geometric pattern design means that as the padding bends with the movement of your leg, the actual protective element maintains the same protective thickness while also allowing completely unrestricted freedom of movement… made-to-pedal.
It’s a solid idea, but seems to require a precise fit from the start, maybe more so than most other knee pads we’ve ridden in.
Each of the molded viscoelastic pads designed to move with your joints – knees, elbows & shoulders – use the same ‘Auxagon’ tech pads like we saw in the debut of the Trail Skins family last year at Crankworx. Thin and open on the outside, they are able to flex in multiple directions with your body…
But thicker next to your skin, they harden upon impact, and distribute the force over a wide area of your body. And with almost half of the area open on the Pro & Air level pads, they offer much better ventilation than standard pads.
Pro, Air & Lite lightweight mountain bike knee protection
The first of this new generation of Trail Skins was limited to a single Pro-level (white labels, above) with additional side impact protection and skid plates that mostly appealed to more aggressive riders. The newer Air (blue) & Lite (green) lines hope to make protection more accessible to a broader range of mountain bikers, and make them more comfortable for all-day pedaling.
More than just three levels of knee protection, the expanded Trail Skins family now includes two levels of elbow guards, two levels of chest protection, and a pair of padded shorts. Mix and match to get the best combo for your style of riding…
Dainese Trail Skins Pro light mountain bike protection
The 85€ Trail Skins Pro Knee Guards are the same we saw back at Crankworx, with Pro-Shape 2.0 vented main knee pad, inside protection against hitting the bike frame and outside skid protection. The pads get a mostly closed back, with a small articulated opening at the back of the knee, and two short velcro straps to secure the pads at the top & bottom.
Now, a similarly constructed 75€ pair of Trail Skins Pro Elbow Guards offers the exact same protection tech for your arms.
A lightweight mesh 150€ Trail Skins Pro Tee gives you the same Pro-Shape 2.0 articulated pads on the shoulders, plus removable chest & back protection inserts that share similar “Auxetic” shaping for freedom of movement.
The 100€ Trail Skins Shorts don’t officially get a Pro-Level name, but fall in between Pro & Air lines with small protection pads over the sides of the hips. They feature a super stretchy body fabric with a padded chamois that is exposed inside and outside of the shorts (à la X-Bionic) to eliminate seams or friction between your butt & saddle.
Dainese Trail Skins Air light mountain bike protection
The new Air line essentially keeps the core pads of the Pro family, but scaled back with lighter weight, simplified and more vented protection overall.
The 70€ Trail Skins Air Knee Guards share the same Pro-Shape 2.0 knee pad & side skid plate, but feature a simplified fit. Held in place with a simple extended sleeve design – essentially a long lightweight mesh knee warmer, elastic grippers at the top and bottom hold the knee guards in place, likely reaching up under the grippers from a pair of padded cycling shorts.
A matching 60€ pair of Trail Skins Air Elbow Guards give arms the same protection, again held in place by wide elastic bands with silicone grippers.
The Air family also gets a 120€ Trail Skins Air Vest, which is the same chest & back protection as the Pro, minus the articulated shoulder pads. The heart of the removable Auxetic Tech protection inserts are lightweight, high-density foam protectors with cutouts to let them follow the contour of your body as you ride.
Dainese Trail Skins Lite light mountain bike protection
For now the Lite line only includes the 60€ Trail Skins Lite Knee Guards, that take an even more simplified approach.
They feature similar mesh sleeve construction, but use the thinner but less vented Pro-Shape 2.0 pad (at right above) which is foldable.
Their secret super power is the ability to roll them up tightly into a cylinder a bit larger than a water bottle, so you only need to wear them for technical descents. Then you can strap them onto your frame with the included velcro strap, or pop them into a hydration pack.
Dainese Trail Skins Riding Impressions – Dial in the perfect fit
I’ve been riding with the new Dainese Trail Skins family of lightweight protection off and on since early September, wearing all three of the different levels of knee guards, plus the Air Vest and Trail Skins shorts depending on the occasion (no elbow pads, though.)
Review: lightweight Air Vest back protection
With a zip up the side, the mesh Air Vest has worked quite well for lending a bit of extra security while riding in the bikepark, without the need for a protection backpack. It is quite low-profile, and since it is limited just to the torso, it fits comfortably under a regular riding jersey (you don’t even notice it in the berm photo above, or even the tighter fitting jersey below).
Neither the chest or back protector inserts offer much real ventilation tucked right up against your skin. So I mostly rode with the chest insert removed on even remotely warm days, and sweated profusely on a couple longer climbing rides with just the back protector in the vest.
The vest comes in an XS-XXL range, with size charts putting me dead center in L, but I think sizing down one would be good. The vest is incredibly long, stretching & extending down far below my crotch. And the trick to comfort on longer days is getting it to stay down to keep the pads from riding up (and out of place of optimal protection). Tucking it inside your padded shorts is a minimum, but still keeping the protectors in place required regular readjustment.
The vest also includes a couple of almost unusable tiny rear pockets beside the protector. Dainese says this is mostly intentional, as they don’t really want you to carry much – perhaps just a gel or bar in each – lest you risk getting injured in a crash if you put something larger or harder there.
Review: lightweight Pro, Air & Lite knee protection
The knee pads are all available in sizes XS-XL. I was able to fit into sizes S, M & L, generally getting the sense that dropping down one size (from Dainese fit charts) gave me the best overall comfort, although sizing down two time resulted in pads that stayed even better in place.
I rode first with the Pro version (above) but never was super happy with my fit. Sizing down to S kept them from moving at all. But I never really liked the short velcro straps that had to be adjusted behind my leg where I couldn’t see them, preferring the more simple fit of the Air or Lite pads.
I’m also curious about picking up rocks, mud & debris while riding (or crashing?) The open layout of the main knee protection on the Pro (white) & Air (blue) Knee Guards makes them amazingly vented – you definitely notice while descending on a cool morning. But I had to consciously make sure to clear debris after kneeling for trail side repairs or after a (cough… small) crash, to make sure I didn’t have any rocks stuck in them that might come back to bite me on the next over the bars moment.
Ultimately though the longer, simpler Trail Skins Air became my go to for bikepark days, tucking nicely under the grippers from my padded shorts and staying comfortably in place all day.
And for more mixed all-mountain trail riding (especially in hotter weather) the tiny Trail Skins Lite pads rolled up in a pack, then were quick to slip on for long technical descending… or post-ride pumptrack sessions playing around like a kid on my daughter’s 24″ hardtail.
As for the padded protection shorts, they are the Trail Skins element I have used the least probably. They are comfortable, with super soft body fabric and a comfortable chamois, but I haven’t gotten the sense that the little hip pads offer much real benefit to me personally. They feel a bit odd when you pull the waistband of many regular trail short over top of them, but once in place they do their job & disappeared from my thoughts mostly. But again, I get the sense that sizing down would give me a more secure fit, especially in a crash.
All of the latest Dainese Trail Skins pads are available now, direct from Dainese or through their international dealer network. Our personal suggestion is to find a shop where you can try them on, as a close and secure fit seems critical to get the most out of their comfort and flexibility while riding.