Road cyclists and I have next to nothing in common. They think I’m crazy for riding on trails in nature with chirping birds and edible plants and swimming holes and stuff. I think they’re insane for wanting to spend their weekends riding on off-gassing petroleum pancakes inches from deadly traffic and exhaust fumes. They ride for fitness and training and goals and health and stuff. I ride to escape, have fun, explore the mountains and feel connected to wild places. The sports we’re doing aren’t even close to each other—I have more in common with a deer hunter than a roadie, and I spent more than a decade of my life being a judgmental, preachy vegan. The only thing roadies and I have in common is that we both call our things bikes and “go on rides.”
Despite our differences, and the fact that roadies wear hardly any clothes, they make one apparel choice I can really get behind: knickers. Roadies wear the shit out of knickers. And roadies, if they’re really good at one thing, it’s technical apparel. They wouldn’t be caught dead walking into the espresso bar without a dialed kit.
Knickers keep your knees warm and happy. I’ve been wearing them most of my life in temps right up to around 70 degrees simply to keep my knees running smoothly. I practically feel naked without them.
Before I found knickers, I wore knee warmers. They kept my knees warm, but moved around, needed constant fiddling, and would leave a mark—or even a rash—on my leg where the silicone grippy stuff was. Knee warmers are annoying, and I haven’t worn a single pair since finding knickers.
Except if you count the zillion pairs of kneepads I’ve worn over the years, which are essentially knee warmers with foam and non-Newtonian fluids and shit. Basically kneepads are heavier, clunkier, more annoying knee warmers.
So if the solution to knee warmers is knickers, isn’t the solution to kneepads knicker pads?
Yes, yes it is.
For at least the last five years, anytime an apparel brand asks for product feedback or ideas, I immediately say I want someone to make knickers with built-in kneepads. And finally last year, I see the Fox Enduro Pro Tight in the 2021 Fox catalog, sitting there, overshadowed by flashy riding pants and jerseys and helmets. This unassuming set of knickers very well might have been the product I got most excited about in 2021. I’m not saying this idea traces back to me in any way. I’m certain it doesn’t, but boy howdy was I glad to see that someone else had the same idea and brought it to fruition.
I wouldn’t say that every part of the Fox Enduro Pro Tight is my favorite. I prefer the materials and chamois of the Kitsbow Merino knickers. There’s definitely a downside that comes with complicating the design of a kneepad by having to also design a whole liner short and chamois. People, including myself, are picky about their chamois. But when faced with the choice of traditional kneepads or a pair of knickers with removable D3O kneepads built right into them, I suddenly become less picky about the butt pad part.
Also collecting dust alongside those wonderful Kitsbow Knickers is every pair of regular kneepads I have. I’ve been sent at least five new pairs since getting the Enduro Pro Tights a year ago, and haven’t even bothered to open a single pair of them. The new Rapha ones look nice, but I’m not even curious how they are because there’s not a chance in hell they’re as comfortable or as trouble-free as these are.
And I’m more than happy with the protection performance. When you first pull them on and the D3O inserts are cold, they don’t seem like they’ll stay in place very well or be very comfortable. But once they warm up and start conforming to the shape of your knee, they sort of disappear and become very comfy, and I haven’t had any issues with them rotating out of the way during a crash. I wouldn’t say they have the best side coverage, but for frontal impacts, I’ve been more than happy with their ability to deaden some pretty hard hits.
For me, the Fox Enduro Pro Tight represents what I think should be the future of knee protection. The idea just makes sense, and Fox did a great job pulling it off. Here’s hoping this is just the beginning of many more options of knicker-kneepad mashups.