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Race Face Ambush knee pad review

The Race Face Ambush knee pad uses a classic design that offers good protection, but the bulky construction and complex strap system won’t be for everyone

Race Face Ambush knee pad review
(Image: © Jim Bland)

Our Verdict

Good levels of protection and easy mid-ride on-off functionality will suit backcountry riders, though this does add a little bulk

For

  • - Open back means there's no need to remove shoes
  • - D30 pad offers trusted protection
  • - Decent price

Against

  • - Quick-release strap design isn't for everyone
  • - Run warmer than average
  • - Bulkier fit isn't best suited to slim riding trousers

Bike Perfect Verdict

Good levels of protection and easy mid-ride on-off functionality will suit backcountry riders, though this does add a little bulk

Pros

  • + - Open back means there's no need to remove shoes
  • + - D30 pad offers trusted protection
  • + - Decent price

Cons

  • - - Quick-release strap design isn't for everyone
  • - - Run warmer than average
  • - - Bulkier fit isn't best suited to slim riding trousers

The Ambush knee guard from legendary Canadian brand Race Face has been in its lineup for some time now. With a traditional construction the Ambush pad left us feeling nostalgic, but how does it stack up against the latest best mountain bike knee pad offerings? Keep scrolling as BikePerfect hits the dirt to find out.

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Race Face Ambush knee pad review

The Ambush pads open up fully so there is no need to take your shoes off when putting them on (Image credit: Jim Bland)
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Race Face Ambush knee pad review

The pad wraps around the knee and is held in place with velcro straps (Image credit: Jim Bland)

Design and aesthetics

The stand out feature of the Ambush’s construction is the relatively unique open-back design - an attribute that allows the pads to be put on without the need to remove your shoes first, and is something that makes sense for riders who frequently take on hike-a-bike missions or spend lots of time climbing in the search of big descents. Race Face has achieved this design with a series of velcro straps that work together to provide a simple yet secure closure. 

Providing the impact-absorbing protection is a D3O foam pad insert. D3O is an inelegant foam that stays malleable for pedaling but firms up instantly upon impact to provide lab-proven shock absorption. D3O has proven itself and is used in some of the best knee pads on the market so it’s a welcome feature here. Race Face has also added foam padded sidewalls to further increase the protection around the entire knee area. 

Whilst they’re certainly no featherweights, Race Face has made the most of perforated neoprene to encourage airflow and manage moisture during warmer sessions. Alongside this, the interior of the pad is Terry lined for additional sweat-wicking comfort. Covering the D3O pad is a tougher material that feels like it’ll be durable enough to take several slams and scrapes.

There’s a wide size range from XS through to XXL, and at $114.00 / £79.99 they’re a pretty affordable option for the level of proven protection on offer.      

Race Face Ambush knee pad review

D3O has a proven record of effective protection (Image credit: Jim Bland)

Performance 

Out of the packaging the Ambush guards feel and look different from the majority of the pads we’ve tested recently, the fit, aesthetic and strap design takes us back to the days of the immensely popular 661 Kyle Strait pad. But along with this nostalgic feel comes a familiar level of comfort and security. The entire guard feels locked in place by the two substantial velcro straps, and the sizeable D30 pad and foam padded sidewall combo leave no doubts about protection levels when rallying down aggressive terrain. 

The flip side of this is the Ambush pads do feel like they’ve retained some of the old school knee pad bulk too; they’re noticeably chunkier than some of the best alternatives, and movement can feel restricted when worn with some slimmer riding pants, a feeling we’ve not experienced with the Sweet Protection knee pad or 7 Protection Sam Hill knee pads we’ve recently reviewed. That being said, due to the open back design it feels that Race Face may have had shorts in mind during the design phase, as putting the Ambush pads on at the trailside is a total cinch. During a recent hike-a-bike mission I strapped the pads to my bike for a little carrying protection before strapping them on at the summit right before I rode back down again. This feature provides high levels of quick-release protection to riders who invest in hiking to hard-to-reach summits. 

Operating temperatures are warm if you do leave them on to climb, but this isn’t anything out of the ordinary for a pad with this much protection. The pad itself isn’t removable either, something that requires additional care when washing along with longer drying times, compared to removable alternatives. 

Clean styling leaves nothing to be desired, and the wide and accurate sizing range should cover every demographic.  

Race Face Ambush knee pad review

The Ambush pads have an old school vibe (Image credit: Jim Bland)

Verdict

With good levels of protection and a pleasing price tag, the Ambush knee pads from Race Face have the potential to be a sorted option for the right rider. Those who will use the quick installation design will struggle to find this feature elsewhere, but those riders who are looking for a normal knee pad may find the extra straps annoying. The Ambush pads have their place with the right client, but we’re not willing to trade from our current favorites for regular trail and enduro duties just yet.   

Tech Specs: Race Face Ambush D3O knee guard

  • Price: $114 / £79.99
  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
  • Colors: Black
Jim Bland

Jim Bland is a review and buyer's guide writer based in North Yorkshire, England. Jim’s chosen riding genre is hard to pinpoint and regularly varies from e-bike-assisted shuttle runs one day to cutting downcountry laps the next. Always on the hunt for the perfect setup, he can regularly be found hammering out test runs in odd shoes, playing with volume spacers or switching tires in between laps to see what performs best. His ultimate day out includes an alpine loam trail, blazing sunshine, and some fresh kit to test.  


Rides: Santa Cruz Tallboy, Specialized Kenevo


Height: 170cm 

Weight: 60kg