IXS Carve Evo+ Review
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IXS Carve Evo+
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|Pros||Burly, aggressive, confidence-inspiring||Protective, comfortable, retains nice pedaling abilities||Wisely-placed protection, dialed fit, reasonable price, pedal-friendly for protection level||Extremely pedal-friendly, lightweight, comfortable||Well-rounded, attractive price, dialed fit|
|Cons||Bulky in the saddle, poor articulation||Heavy, not the best for long rides||A little clammy, sleeve could be longer at top||Minimal protection, durability concerns||Poor ventilation, could be prone to ripping|
|Bottom Line||An aggressive set of knee pads for enduro racing or general sending||A perfect blend of substantial protection, supreme comfort, and respectable pedaling abilities||A high-quality and versatile knee pad that splendidly blends protection and pedal-friendliness||Minimalist knee pads for riders who prioritize a high level of pedal-friendliness over protection||A 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||Sweet Protection Kn...||Dakine Slayer|
|Fit and Comfort (20%)|
|Pedal Friendliness (20%)|
|Ventilation and Breathability (20%)|
|Specs||IXS Carve Evo+||Fox Racing Launch D3O||Leatt Airflex Pro||Sweet Protection Kn...||Dakine Slayer|
|Weight (per pair, size L)||454 grams||445 grams||256 grams||222 grams||366 grams|
|Padding Material||Xmatter protection foam||D3O polyurethane||AirFlex impact gel||SAS Tech||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||N/A||Aramid fiber|
|Adjustments?||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||N/A||EN 1621-1 Level 1|
|Available Sizes||XS-XXL||S - L||S - XXL||XS, S, M, L, XL||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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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