Innovative protection technology from an all-star company
Two years ago a group of seven former employees who worked at different protective equipment companies, including 661, launched the new brand 7IDP, or Intelligent Design Protection. This band of designers and product managers consider themselves to be people who think and do things a little differently from other bike protection manufacturers. The company’s products use advanced materials, but not “over-intelligent” ones. The designers display some disdain for the kind of companies that use a variety of modern polymers that change their traits during impact. Beside this, their products are characterized by advanced ergonomics, improved ventilation, and above all increased protection that goes beyond the “more-of-the-same” in the saturated field of body armor.
Although it is not explicitly mentioned, 7IDP are the protection branch of the Royal clothing company, so that over the past two years of their existence they managed to gather (probably without too great an effort) a dream team of riders to examine, advise, and improve their products. Among them are the Steve Pitt’s British Syndicate, the legendary Chris Akrigg, Kurt Sorge, Canyon’s Enduro groups with Fabien Barel, and several other stars.
For this review, we got two models – the burlier Tactic and the lighter Covert.
The heavyweight contender: 7IDP Tactic
For this review, we got the Tactic model, which is the “senior” knee protector in 7IDP’s line. It is relatively robust, with a bulky kneecap and healthy side covers, with a declared weight of 228 grams. Alongside the protection and the of use different fabrics in order to create flexibility and provide ventilation, the guard includes several innovative technological features quite different from what we have been used to see. One of them is an external, flexible cover made of a novel polypropylene compound named Curv, which is characterized by improved durability and a high capacity to disperse energy upon impact. Another feature is a “floating” knee dome, where the knee rests in a type of cushion, and the hardened protective outer floats above it without contact or friction.
The Tactic’s securing and adjusting mechanism is based on the proven Boa system, which we usually encounter on high-end, expensive cycling shoes. It tightens a thin, strong steel cord which is woven through hardened rubber tubes. The advantage offered by this unique clamping system lies in the uniform distribution of pressure around the knee, and its increased durability to wear and tear, as it does not stretch.
On the trail
The Tactic is not the kind of knee guard that you wear and forget about, yet it does not interfere during all pedaling – the floating dome concept works big time. We didn’t feel the thin plastic-coated steel cords of the clamping mechanism, but during some rides we experienced a nagging rubbing sensation at the back of the knee, caused by the rubber pad which tightens the Tactic to the upper part of the biceps. However, going up one size may have solved this problem (the tester’s thigh was on the upper limit of the size table).
We loved the ability to adjust the Tactic on the fly using only two fingers: a tad more secure before a significant descent, and releasing some tension to increase circulation during climbs. Another piece of gear to tinker with during the transition between climbs and descents, in addition to adjusting the dropper post and opening the shocks…
The Tactic encases the knee on all sides, sits firmly in place and does not rattle and move even under intense bouncing. Throughout the test period we experienced no crash significant enough to truly test the technological element, but we can testify that it provides the rider peace of mind.
At face value, it’s very clear that the Tactic is made of very high quality materials. We found no signs of stretching, but then again this is not a minimalist protective sleeve to be thrown in the washing machine every two weeks. As we see it, the Tactics’ main weakness lies in the clamping mechanism, which is exposed to external blows. However, this is a standard Boa mechanism which – while expensive – is available and can be replaced with relative ease.
For better: increased protection, pedaling without limitations, sits firmly in place, a unique clamping mechanism
For worse: price, ventilation, some rubbing
The diverse fighter: 7IDP Covert
The Covert is the light knee guard in 7IDP’s line. It is based on a light elastic sleeve made of a lycra front and mesh fabric on the rear side. The Covert has no external tightening system, and holds itself in place via a sticky silicone band at the top, and flexible rubber strap at the bottom. Ostensibly, this is a light knee guard, but like others made by 7IDP, this one too hides a technological twist.
The Covert offers three levels of protection in one knee guard. On the inside is an internal pouch containing three layers of protective, removable pads, each offering a different level of protection. The first is a very soft and flexible polymer pad, the middle is denser and more rigid pad, and the third is a hard plastic dome. Each of the two flexible layers can be worn by their own, or be attached to the hard plastic dome. In ride where you need increased protection, you can use all three at once.
On the trail
Let’s begin by stating that the Covert is one of the most comfortable knee guards we have ridden with recently. It is light and is not felt at all on the leg, even during intense pedaling. Is does not “strangle” the foot and remains relatively well ventilated. The bottom rubber strap and the silicone band left it sitting solidly in place even while riding under the most aggressive terrain, and also during falls.
As a “light” knee guard, the Covert offers only frontal impact protection. In most cases this is enough, but this factor should be taken into account when fitting the required protection to the type of riding you’re about to embark on. Nevertheless, we find the option of changing the level of protection according to the nature of the ride on the same platform no less than ingenious. In most rides – especially those with extensive pedaling – we chose the lightest protection, but the additional layer of protections, and especially the hard plastic dome, makes the Covert appropriate an all-around option for all but the most aggressive riding styles. This is especially true taking into account the practical ease of replacing the pads, and the ability to carry the additional protective pads on your back while riding in changing terrain.
After a relatively long and intensive period of use, which included many machine washes without the protective pads (another advantage of removal protection), the Covert has not registered any wear. The lycra fabrics and elastic meshes maintained their elasticity and did not expanded, and the durable material on the front of the knee guard remained intact even during occasional unwanted encounters with the ground.
For better: The ability to change the type of protection on the fly, pedaling without limitations, lack of movement while in use, and style.
For worse: Admittedly, we could not fault it.