By David Alden
I’m always a bit apprehensive when it comes to testing safety gear. I mean, to test shoes you ride and walk around a lot, to test shifters and derailleurs you ride and shift a lot and so on. So am I supposed to crash to write a full and complete review on this stuff? When the box full of 661 safety gear arrived, that’s all I could ponder. But, when I laid all of the gear out, I figured that if I did go down, I was going to be pretty well covered. From the top, the gear includes the Full Bravo full-face helmet, the Straight Jacket chest protector, MTB knee&shin pads and DJ elbow pads. Pretty good coverage indeed. Over the course of testing this gear, I did three styles of riding. The first was downhill oriented freeride mountain bike rides, the second was a couple of days on my BMX bike at the local dirt jumps and the third was a few sessions at the new skate park that just opened in my hometown, also on my BMX bike.
Before I break it all down for you, I want to let you know that I’ve been riding BMX bikes for over 20 years, some of that professional freestyle. Add to that my time riding slalom and a little bit of DH, and that’s a lot of time spent encased in safety gear. With that in mind, here are my impressions on the 661 gear.
These combo knee and shin pads also made me a little skeptical. I’ve been used to wearing separate shin pads and knee pads, for total coverage. When I saw that these only protected about half of my shins, I thought I was in for trouble. But when I realized that ninety percent of my scars were covered by the pads, I felt a little bit better.
As a one-piece unit, the knee-shin pads offer pretty good flexibility. One of the best parts about using a one-piece pad like this is that the knee and shin pads can share a couple of straps, keeping the backs of your legs open for mesh, for ventilation. The down side of this is if you happen to hit the back of your legs, you’ve got nothing to protect you. If you look around, you’ll see a lot of the top pro downhillers and slalom racers using pads like this. They cover just enough, and still give you the freedom to pedal efficiently. I felt totally comfortable using these on my mountain bike, but for BMX, I’d rather have my full coverage.
I ended up on my knees a couple of times, and the pads protected me without a problem. The ABS plastic shells should last through many crashes and slides too.
I liked the design, and the construction, but the topmost strap was a little tight for me. I was actually able to loop the strap back on itself, to get it out of the way, and the pads still fit okay. Personally, I’d look for a little more room, but I could just be fat. (Or is that phat?) Try ‘em on for yourself. These are available in small/medium and large/x-large, for about $49.95.
Contact: 661 (a division of the Valencia Sports Group—the same folks that bring you AXO gear), 28307 Industry Drive, Valencia, California, 91355; 661.257.2756; www.vsportgroup.com