In this week's show, Ray talked us through his insurance win, we have another look
If you're not used to wearing a certain piece of protective clothing, then when you first put it on it's going to feel foreign, and if it’s not comfortable, then you're not going to want to wear it at all.
For most people, there needs to be an obvious reason for something, or they're not even going to try it. Boots, Helmet, gloves, they all make sense, but are knee braces really required?
I was invited to try out some Pod knee braces, and at first, I thought "aren't they just for top-level riders?" but I went along, got sized up, and tried them out on a few rides. Before I go into my findings though, let's look into the Braces themselves, what they're made of and what they're for.
Pod is an Australian company, making a range of knee braces from entry-level K4 right up to the ones Chris Birch uses, the K8. Pod stands for Protection On Demand.
The Pod K8 is the flag-ship, top offering brace from Pod. The K8 brace is the stiffest and lightest brace Pod make, and they're usable for more than just off-road motorcycling. Other uses include CrossFit, skiing, snowboarding, and the list goes on. The material they're made out of is different to other offerings available also. The Chassis of the brace is made from Carbon fibre. The top and bottom cuffs are a little more flexible, meaning they fit a wider range of riders. There is also overlapping, removable knee cap protection with a nylon upper and a CE-rated lower, providing protection regardless of whether you're sitting or standing. With 4 numbered straps, showing which order to do them up, the straps directly above and below the knee are meant to be tight, to keep the brace in place and working properly. Then the upper and lower straps attached to the cuffs are firm but looser, to provide a little more comfort. The K8 utilises a foam lining instead of material, meaning they don't absorb sweat or smells and are easy to clean. They're pretty hardy, with few moving parts, which means they're going to last and protect for a long time. The Pod K8 is one of the only offerings on the market that is a rated class 1 medical device, so if you are recovering from an injury, you can speak to your doctor about whether they will aid in your recovery. They also have a 5-year warranty.
What do they do?
They are built to protect the ligaments and cartilage in the knee. They work to stop overextension of the knee and keep everything aligned. The main way they work though is by transferring force. When you're riding off-road, and hit a slippery tree root, for example, the first thing a lot of riders do is go to put a foot out. This can put a lot of force through your leg, and the knee, being the weakest point, is prone to soft tissue damage. That could put you off the bike for 6-12 months.
If you are wearing pods, the knee joint is supported, and the force is transferred. Instead of all that force going directly to the knee, some of it is redirected to the thigh, which is the strongest muscle and bone in the human body. It can take a lot more force, meaning you're less likely to suffer an injury. The Pod K8 also won’t let the knee rotate laterally, so if you snag a foot, you're less likely to cause damage. A lot of top levels riders say they would rather break a bone than cause soft tissue damage to their knee, as bone breakages heal much better and much quicker.
Before I got the Pods, I was riding the Beta RR 430 on a street near my house and lost the front end. It was slow, probably around 35kp/h, and I hit the ground on my left-hand side. I’ve done this sort of fall many times over the years on the dirt, and suffered no damage at all. However this time, on the road, I was sore. Thanks to my gear, I didn't sustain much more than slight abrasions to my skin and some bruising. However, my left knee twisted in the fall, and I was limping around for a good 8 weeks afterwards. I can’t say for certain that if I had been wearing the Pod K8s then I would have been fine. But, that is the exact sort of injury these devices are there to protect against.
Since then, I have worn the Pod K8 knee braces on both my Tenere 700 and long-term test bike Beta RR 430 in a variety of conditions and terrains, and am pleased to report they're comfortable, even more so with the optional sleeve worn under them. I expected them to be bulky, heavy and move around or slide down, but I've not experienced any of that. They stay in place and you almost forget you're wearing them. They do feel a bit foreign when you first start wearing them, but much like a new pair of gloves, you get used to them.
Most recently, I took the Tenere 700 on a trail ride, in atrocious conditions. It rained the whole day, causing the trails to get very chewed up. Riding such a heavy bike on slippery trails, where you're not exactly sure which way the bike is going to go. I was thankful that when I did need to put a foot down, I had the extra protection. When I inevitably dropped the bike, I was able to get up completely unharmed and carry on.
The Pod K8 Knee braces have become an essential part of my off-road riding kit. Sure they take a little longer to put on, but I'd much rather take an extra 5 minutes to get ready for a ride than take up to 12 months off the bike because I blew out my knee.