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IXS Carve Evo+ Review

An aggressive set of knee pads for enduro racing or general sending
IXS Carve Evo+
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Price:  $119 List | $79.99 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Burly, aggressive, confidence-inspiring
Cons:  Bulky in the saddle, poor articulation
Manufacturer:   IXS
By Pat Donahue ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 27, 2021
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 14
  • Protection - 30% 9
  • Fit and Comfort - 20% 7
  • Pedal Friendliness - 20% 7
  • Ventilation and Breathability - 20% 6
  • Durability - 10% 9

Our Verdict

The IXS Carve EVO+ are stout and protective knee pads best suited for enduro and gravity riding. These pads clearly prioritize protection over outright breathability and pedal-friendliness. While the armor quality, placement, and supplementary padding were all impressive, they aren’t the most breathable or comfortable knee pads. That shouldn’t be terribly surprising given their appetite for gnarly trails and high speeds. The styling is also a little busy with multiple shades of grey, a logo, some text, and straps. These pads are on the expensive end of the spectrum, and while we do think the quality is there, we don't think they are perfect.

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IXS Carve Evo+
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Burly, aggressive, confidence-inspiringProtective, comfortable, retains nice pedaling abilitiesWisely-placed protection, dialed fit, reasonable price, pedal-friendly for protection levelExcellent fit, pedal-friendly, sleek design, just enough protectionWell-rounded, attractive price, dialed fit
Cons Bulky in the saddle, poor articulationHeavy, not the best for long ridesA little clammy, sleeve could be longer at topNot for riders who want to push their limits, narrower range of applicationsPoor ventilation, could be prone to ripping
Bottom Line An aggressive set of knee pads for enduro racing or general sendingA perfect blend of substantial protection, supreme comfort, and respectable pedaling abilitiesA high-quality and versatile knee pad that splendidly blends protection and pedal-friendlinessA sensible option for trail and all-mountain riders who want to retain a high level of pedal-friendlinessA well-rounded knee pad with a quality fit at an attractive price point
Rating Categories IXS Carve Evo+ Fox Racing Launch D3O Leatt Airflex Pro Leatt Airflex Hybrid Dakine Slayer
Protection (30%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
Fit And Comfort (20%)
7.0
10.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
Pedal Friendliness (20%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
Ventilation And Breathability (20%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
Durability (10%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Specs IXS Carve Evo+ Fox Racing Launch D3O Leatt Airflex Pro Leatt Airflex Hybrid Dakine Slayer
Weight (per pair, size L) 454 grams 445 grams 256 grams 363 grams 366 grams
Padding Material Xmatter protection foam D3O polyurethane AirFlex impact gel AirFlex gel, Sliding hard shell knee cup DK impact foam
Body Material AeroMesh, 40% Polyester, 25% PU, 15% Nylon, 15% Kevlar, 5% EVA 20% nylon, 40% neoprene, 5% polyester, 5% spandex Moisture Cool, Airmesh Knitted base layer, MoistureCool and AirMesh fabrics Aramid fiber
Adjustments? Yes, Upper and Lower LoopLock straps No No No No
Safety Certifications CE EN 1621-1 Level 1 CE EN 1621-1 Level 1 CE EN 1621-1 CE EN 1621-1 EN 1621-1 Level 1
Available Sizes XS-XXL S - L S - XXL S-XXL S - XL

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Carve EVO+ are effective and functional knee pads. The protection levels are excellent and they really do exude confidence in dicey situations. The armor and padding is smart and well-placed and should protect the knees well in the event of a gnarly crash. While protection is undoubtedly a key metric, other areas were slightly less impressive. The articulation of the sleeve and pad is a little funky and the material is quite thick and warm in most areas. Still, these could be a great option for riders who prioritize protection and primarily use chairlifts or trucks to get to the top of the hill.

Performance Comparison


The IXS Carve EV0+ are burly pads better suited to enduro and...
The IXS Carve EV0+ are burly pads better suited to enduro and gravity riding than pedal-heavy trail riding.
Photo: Pat Donahue

Protection


The Carve EVO+ deliver excellent levels of protection. They fit in beautifully with other heavy-duty enduro or gravity knee pads while avoiding being too overly bulky or clumsy. They exude confidence in the gnar, feel substantial and tough, and padding covers a healthy amount of the surface area.

The IXS Carve EVO+ have lots of well-placed padding and feel very...
The IXS Carve EVO+ have lots of well-placed padding and feel very substantial.
Photo: Pat Donahue


These pads offer an average-length sleeve. They run from approximately 3 inches above the knee down to the mid-upper shin area. The main armor plate features Xmatter viscoelastic padding. This padding is removable and feels a lot like the popular D30 material. It feels firm against the knee but can be easily bent or manipulated. The main armor plate is quite wide over the kneecap and tapers slightly above the knee. Below the knee, the pad narrows as it transitions over the shin. Additionally, the Carve EVO+ has a patch of hard foam above the knee cap to protect against handlebar impacts as well as ribbed padding on both sides of the knee.

These pads feel very substantial. A combination of the thick material and the generous padding really deliver a tough feeling. We experienced a mid-high speed crash while wearing these pads. The front-wheel washed out on a loose corner and we landed directly on the right knee. After being dragged across the ground for a few feet, the knee in question was totally unharmed as was the knee pad. We can’t say the same thing about the rider’s arm that got shredded.

We feel the comfort of the Carve Evo+ pads is one area they could...
We feel the comfort of the Carve Evo+ pads is one area they could improve. The materials don't feel great against the leg and the sharp articulation of the pad and sleeve feel awkward off the bike.
Photo: Pat Donahue

Fit and Comfort


This is an area where the Carve EVO+ suffered a little bit. While we wouldn’t say they are ill-fitting or brutally uncomfortable, they do have their quirks. If IXS could address some of these issues, the Carve EVO+ could really be a contender.

The AeroMesh sleeve is quite thick. It feels very tough and isn’t especially pleasant against the leg. While other knee pads feel plush and soft on the leg, the Carve EVO+ is a bit harsher. Yes, these knee pads were designed to be tough and burly, but other manufacturers were able to achieve this with a much more pleasant feel.

Considering their protection, the Carve Evo+ have a surprisingly low...
Considering their protection, the Carve Evo+ have a surprisingly low profile and fit well under a pair of shorts.
Photo: Pat Donahue

The actual fit of the sleeve is pretty good. It is consistent throughout the leg and there are no areas with excess material. They come in six sizes, XS-XXL. We feel the fit of our size large test pads is pretty consistent with other large knee pads. A silicone strip in the upper cuff helps keep them in place. These pads also use two LoopLock straps to fine-tune the fit. We aren’t totally sure they are necessary. That said, you might be glad to have those straps if you were in between sizes and opted for larger pads.

One other key fit issue is the articulation of the sleeve and padding. The Carve EVO+ are designed with a pretty significant bend in the padding and sleeve. When you are holding them in your hands, this articulated bend is visible. When you are wearing these pads and standing up straight, you are fighting against this articulation. It is notable and uncomfortable. Of course, when you hop in the saddle and start riding, it isn't really an issue.

There is no way around the fact that these are beefy, heavy, knee...
There is no way around the fact that these are beefy, heavy, knee pads. Pedaling abilities were not a primary focus of the design team.
Photo: Pat Donahue

Pedal Friendliness


The Carve EVO+ posted a respectable score in terms of pedal-friendliness. This clearly wasn’t a top priority in the design process, but given how tough and burly these pads feel, they pedal well enough.

When you are in the saddle spinning away, the pads do a pretty good job moving with you. There are no bunches of excess material at the top of the pedal stroke. The firm Xmatter pad is a bit stiff but does a decent job sitting against your knee throughout the motion. There is no irritation or abrasion of the knee when pedaling.

We were happy to wear these pads on fire road climbs up to our favorite downhill trails. If you truly want enhanced levels of protection, you will be reasonably happy with how well they pedal. Riders who prioritize climbing abilities and regularly find themselves on long rides will be better suited by less aggressive pads.

Although there is mesh in the rear of the pads, these are big, warm...
Although there is mesh in the rear of the pads, these are big, warm, knee pads.
Photo: Pat Donahue

Ventilation


By this point, we have made multiple mentions of the thick sleeve material and hefty amounts of padding. It should come as no surprise that the Carve EVO+ did not breathe particularly well. In fact, it is safe to say these are among the warmer pads we have tested. When you are grinding away in the saddle on hot days, these pads are noticeably warmer than others.

These Carve Evo+ have a fairly narrow mesh panel down the rear. This is intended to let moisture and humidity escape from the back of the knee. This feature seems to work well enough but doesn’t balance out the stifling nature of the rest of the pads. These are the type of pads that we'd be inclined to slide down and wear around our ankles on significant climbs.

These knee pads are certainly built to last. They feature thick...
These knee pads are certainly built to last. They feature thick materials and lots of armor.
Photo: Pat Donahue

Durability


The Carve EVO+ scored extremely well in the durability metric. These burly pads are built to last. We crashed reasonably hard directly onto these knee pads. This crash included a knee-first skid across a loose-over-hard surface. After skidding about 3-4 feet, there were no rips, tears, or even notable scuffs. They might not be quite as durable as the pads with hard plastic knee armor, but they are the next best thing.

These protective pads will be the best value for riders who...
These protective pads will be the best value for riders who prioritize protection over pedal-ability.
Photo: Pat Donahue

Value


The Carve EVO+ are among the most expensive pads in our review. We feel the quality of protection is top-notch but the comfort levels and fit quirks are problematic. These will represent the best value to enduro and gravity riders seeking highly protective pads that still have a relatively low-profile appearance.

Conclusion


The IXS Carve EVO+ knee pads are a solid entry into the competitive knee pad market. We feel the protection levels are impressive and the pads are built to last. While they may not be the most comfortable or pedal-friendly pads we've tested, we feel they are a good option for the gravity crowd who seek a bulk-free and protective set of pads.

Bouncing down rocky chutes is the proper application of these pads.
Bouncing down rocky chutes is the proper application of these pads.
Photo: Pat Donahue

Pat Donahue

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