Motocrossers have long been familiar with the AXO name. AXO began as a motocross boot manufacturer and quickly moved into motocross apparel and protective gear. They expanded to mountain biking in the early ’90s— only to abandon us. Now, AXO is back. While their dedicated line for cyclists may not be nearly as expansive as their offerings for our moto cousins, we were interested to see what AXO would bring back to the mountain bike table.
Following the current trend in the downhill racing world toward mobility over complete coverage, the $60 AXO FR-1 elbow pads and $80 FF-1 knee pads are AXO’s minimalist approach to safety gear. Both pads are constructed of vented neoprene for a flexible feel without heating up too much. The impact areas on the pads feature Kevlar for durability. The inner padding is taken care of by a flexible, impact-absorbing foam manufactured by a German company called SAS-TEC that specializes in impact-resistant body armor for motor sports. The foam pads can be removed for easier washing. Along with the protection on the knee pads, there are supplemen- tary side pads. To help the pads stay in place, they feature elastic hook-and-loop straps.
The knee pads feature top and bottom straps, while the elbow pads have just the top strap. The FR-1 elbow pads also have grippy rubber strips running laterally around the inside of the top and bottom rim to help grip the rider’s skin and stay in place. The backs of the FR-1 elbow pads have a breathable mesh at the inside of the joint to allow extra mobility.
Field test results:
In any resort lift line, you can see a smattering of different takes on what is necessary protec- tion for downhill mountain biking. Riders who feel most comfortable with full-torso protection, padded shorts and a knee/shin pad combo will feel too exposed with these AXO pads. On the other end of the spectrum, riders who put mobility on the bike at the top of their list will be more interested in the FR-1 and FF-1.
The pads are more substantial than some other soft-shell offerings while still offering plenty of flexibility. The pads stayed where they were supposed to, and we never had any issues with our jersey or shorts getting caught on rough edges or straps while riding.
While AXO took some steps to make the pads breathable, there’s no doubt that wearing safety gear will cause some extra perspiration. Overall, with protective gear, the less we have to think about it, the better. With the AXO gear, we were able to concentrate on the trail and forget the pads were even there.
For trail riders looking for an ultra-light knee pad for aggressive or enduro-style riding, the FF-1 will become somewhat obtrusive during a long day in the saddle. For downhill riders looking for a lightweight setup with plenty of protection where it counts, AXO’s FR-1 and FF-1 have you covered.