PRODUCT TEST: HIP PAD SHOOTOUT
In most sports, there are minimum requirements as far as the gear an athlete should wear. In mountain biking, those basic requirements have long been a helmet and a pair of gloves. Mountain biking is great exercise, and it’s highly exhilarating; however, riders take a risk every time they throw a leg over the saddle. Of course, we wouldn’t quit our sport for anything, but it might be time for riders to upgrade their shorts to ones that not only offer comfort but add protection too. The EBA crew decided to test a few pairs of protective shorts that can easily be concealed under a rider’s normal trail gear. Honestly, your riding buddies won’t know you’re wearing them until you hop right up from your next crash completely unfazed. We selected liner shorts from Forcefield, Six Six One and G-Form to see how they performed. Here are our thoughts.
MOST PROTECTIVE: FORCEFIELD CONTAKT
Forcefield Body Armor launched its brand in 2003, having years of knowledge and experience in body protection products. The company currently makes padding for a wide range of sports, such as skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, motorcycle racing and much more. Forcefield’s Contakt shorts are mountain bike-specific and have all the features a rider could ask for.
Tech Features: The Contakt shorts from Forcefield have an eight-panel design and meet CE level 1 protection requirements. A 3D CoolMax anti-bacterial chamois is built into the shorts to offer riders the highest level of comfort. The shorts also feature heat-activated body molding, which allows the shorts to better conform to a rider’s body. The padding in the Contakt shorts is 9 millimeters thick and is constructed from FLHex Armour. Riders will need to remove the padding before they toss the shorts into the washing machine. These shorts sell for $170 and come in sizes ranging from extra small to extra large.
Field Test Results: The Contakt shorts are the most expensive pair in our lineup, but they continued to deliver top-notch performance ride after ride. The shorts have flexible padding that require a short break-in period. Once we spent 15–20 minutes in these shorts, we completely forgot we even had pads on. The liners fit well under most of our trail shorts, and the chamois provided comfort during multi-hour rides. The Contakts are by no means cheap, but they provide an ergonomic fit, and the pads gave us lots of coverage without sacrificing breathability or comfort.
GREAT VALUE: SIX SIX ONE EVO COMPRESSION
Six Six One is a Southern California-based company that was established in the year 2000 and has been working with world-class athletes since that time to bring the best products to market. Six Six One’s 2016 athlete roster was stacked with some of the best riders in the world, including Loic Bruni, Loris Vergier, Finn Iles, Tomas Lemoine, Kyle Strait, Aaron Chase and Ben Cruz. We’d have to guess that having the feedback of these great athletes has been an invaluable resource for Six Six One’s product development team.
Tech Features: Six Six One’s Evo Compression shorts feature D30 hip pads that harden on impact but stay flexible while riding. These pads meet CE level 1 protection standards and can be removed, allowing riders to toss these shorts into the washing machine. The shorts also feature EVA foam around the rider’s thighs as well as just under the rider’s lower back. A moisture-managing gel chamois is stitched in place, and the shorts have snap buttons, giving riders the ability to attach the shorts to other pieces of Six Six One body armor. The Evo shorts have silicone grippers to prevent the leg openings from creeping up, and come in sizes from small to extra large. Six Six One sells these shorts for $100.
Field Test Results: The Evo Compression shorts have a comfortable fit with minimal bulk, making them easy to fit under most baggy shorts. The chamois is comfortable enough for trail riding, and the pads are unobtrusive while pedaling. We especially liked the silicone leg grippers and found they kept our shorts from creeping up our legs while pedaling. The hip pads offered a large area of coverage, and the EVA foam pads felt lightweight. The shorts provided us with excellent breathability due to their vented compression fabric and allowed us to forget we were even wearing extra protection during our rides.
BEST OVERALL: G-FORM PRO-B COMPRESSION
G-Form is a company that needs little introduction, as it is among the leading innovators of lightweight protective apparel for many sports and outdoor activities, including bicycling, skateboarding, snow sports, soccer and baseball. G-Form is also now the top choice of Hollywood stunt professionals. G-Form’s magic material is designed to harden on impact but stay flexible the rest of the time. This means a rider can wear a lightweight and fairly slim pad that will still offer loads of protection.
Tech Features: The Pro-B short from G-Form is a bicycle-specific short that utilizes G-Form’s proprietary impact-absorbing RPT pads to help protect the hips and tailbone during a crash. These shorts feature a built-in chamois and are constructed from moisture-wicking UPF compression fabric that helps keep riders dry and comfortable. G-Form added an elastic leg gripper to prevent the shorts from riding up and designed the shorts with multiple panels for a more ergonomic fit. These shorts are easily the slimmest shorts in the lineup and are like a second skin. The Pro-B shorts sell for $120 and come in sizes from small to extra large.
Field Test Results: G-Form’s Pro-B liners are the lightest in our roundup and are built with slim pads that were easy to conceal under our riding shorts. The leg grippers held the liners in place well, even while pedaling; however, the waistband fell short of our expectations. Our test riders found the waistband rode lower on their hips than the other pads in our lineup. These shorts, however, would easily be our go-to choice for longer days in the saddle due to their low-profile pads and ergonomic fit. The Pro-Bs were the easiest to wash since we didn’t need to take the time to remove the padding before tossing them into the washing machine. Overall, G-Form’s Pro-B shorts combine ample coverage to a rider’s hips and tailbone while still offering great pedaling performance.