Dozens of companies make knee pads, just check out our best mountain bike knee pads guide, but very few are able to call on the expertise of one of the raddest downhill and enduro racers on the planet.
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In 7 Protection's range there are quite a few pads with Sam Hill signature and the Lite is sort of the baby bear of the family, in the sense that it has the lowest protection level and the lightest weight.
We tested the regular Sam Hill pad just under a year ago and rated it highly on fit and protection but the Lite is definitely a slimmer design. It features a SAS-TEC protector and uses a similar Lycra construction but less lateral protection, although it is also 15 percent cheaper.
Design and specifications
The Lite uses a stretchy lycra for the main body, which has a slight grid pattern in the surface to help wicking and it’s also Rip Stop. This literally does what it says on the tin – if you get a little nick or rip in the material, it won’t get any worse. The Lycra also has a slight compression effect, which is claimed to increase circulation and reduce muscle fatigue. To be honest I’ve not noticed this on my test rides.
All the seams are double-stitched for durability and there is a gusseted construction to help the pad conform to those odd shapes at the back of the knee. The Sam Hill Lite is also available in four individual sizes, rather than crossover sizes like small/medium or medium/large. This doesn’t make it fit any better it just means you have greater choice and is really good for riders outside the norm.
To increase scuff resistance and improve the general wear and tear, there’s a thicker reinforced material directly over the knee. This is also loose fitting, so it can slide easier making it less likely to tear.
Why is the SAS-TEC pad removable? The material doesn’t like being washed at high or even medium temperatures, meaning you have to remove the insert and hand wash. There’s a cutaway on the inside but it’s a chore and it’s something you can forget really quite easily – I did.
Inside each pad is a branded SAS-TEC protector. Like D3O, this is a smart polymer that exhibits a viscoelastic behavior, which means if you introduce an impact force it stiffens significantly. SAS-TEC also molds to your body shape via a process called ‘heat contouring’, which is why the protector can feel quite hard in really cold weather. Unlike the EVA foam you get in cheaper pads, it also doesn’t break down during repeated impacts, so overall it’s a win/win but the downside with all smart materials is they are pretty expensive.
Pad stability is pretty good too due to silicone grippers on the top and bottom but the gripper on the top is quite harsh and often at the end of a ride when I pulled the pads off there’d be a red welt on my skin.
Although the Sam Lite is incredibly easy to pull on, there’s even a pull tag on the back, it does bunch slightly at the back of the knee and this creates a sort of temporary seam, which I found caused slight irritation on long trail rides. The SAS-TEC has a profiled edge and an interlocking matrix, so doesn’t dig but I’d still only rate the comfort as average.
The Sam Hill Lite is definitely more breathable and lightweight than it’s bigger brother but the slightly flimsier construction means it just isn’t as stable. This meant I had to keep tugging them up during long pedals and it increases the risk of the pad getting pulled off your knee after the initial impact, especially if you rag doll down the trail.
In theory, the 7 Protection is for riders who recognize the benefits of wearing a knee pad, but they don’t want to wear one. The Sam Hill Lite weighs absolutely nothing (72g a knee) is easy to pull on, and even take off during a ride, but the flimsy construction is not as stable as the regular Sam Hill knee pad or as comfy.
Tech specs: 7 Protection Sam Hill Lite knee pad
- Price: $79.99 / £79.99
- Sizes: S, M, L, XL
- Colors: Black
- Rival products: 7 Protection Sam Hill knee pad, Endura MT500 Lite knee pads, Leatt AirFlex Pro