Georgina von Marburg puts G Form's protection offerings to the test.
Words: Georgina von Marburg
Photos: Nick Waygood
Using quality protection when you plan to press send is more important than ever. Especially when you need to be at work (in one piece) on Monday.
The G-Form Pro-Rugged pads were introduced as a more durable alternative to their X2 and X3 models, without giving anything up in terms of comfort and ease of use.
Unlike the previous models, the Pro-Rugged has a layer of Armortex fabric covering their famous SmartFlex padding, while maintaining the same flexibility and breathability they’re known for. The intended market is anyone from casual riders who find pads a general inconvenience, to those who’s serious mileage necessitates light and minimalist protection. Exactly how light are they? The knee pads weigh in at approximately 280g; for comparison, equivalent models in Troy Lee Designs (‘Speed Sleeves’) and Fox (‘Enduro D30’) are approximately 230g and 325g respectively. The G-Form Pro-Rugged therefore lie very competitively within an ever-expanding range of protective mountain bike gear.
Fit and Durability:
A common struggle for all trail lords is the constant need to adjust their knee and elbow pads. The most simple solution is grippers on both the upper and lower insides of the guards. Yet for such a minor feature, it’s extremely rare to find. So when I opened the Pro-Rugged, the first thing I checked for was grippers. Bingo! We have a winner. The upper gripper has the suction power of a small vacuum, and the lower gripper has the same squeeze as your favourite pair of socks. With soft, double knit compression fabric in-between all this, the Pro Rugged required zero adjustment during rides. Ventilation is aided by the light and breathable mesh behind the knees. Once pulled on, they were hardly noticeable over 2000m of climbing and 6 hours of shredding in mildly warm conditions.
But like all apparel, many pads are prone to stretching and degradation over time. What feels like a glove on the first ride, can feel like a potato sack a few weeks later. Fortunately, this was not the case with the Pro-Rugged. After several washes and over 20 hours of riding, they have maintained their original grip and shape. The only degradation appears to be cosmetic, with the small screen-printed logos beginning to peel.
And now for the feature you won’t notice until you need it – protection. Like all G-Form products, the Pro-Rugged utilises SmartFlex technology. Soft, light, and flexible, the molecular structure in SmartFlex padding won’t harden until impact - giving you the best of all worlds. I’d like to say I crashed while testing these pads because I was fully committed to a proper review; alas, I only crashed because I wasn’t committed enough to a rock garden. In any case, the pads held up surprisingly well. Where other minimalist guards will leave you slightly bruised or scratched, the Pro-Rugged compromises little on protection and I rode away scot-free. There was one rogue thread protruding from the Armortex fabric after impact, but this was surprisingly minor damage given the wispy and airy fabric around the guards. Unlike helmets, pads don’t have a one-crash policy attached to them. It’s not necessary to immediately replace your pads after impact, so they should be able to withstand multiple hits over time. In this regard, the Pro-Rugged lives up to its name. Its rugged protection and durability, combined with a flawless fit and negligible weight, will surely make it a popular option for a variety of riders.
- Excellent protection for minimalist pads
- None so far!
Pro Rugged elbow: $139
Pro Rugged Knee: $159
The E-Line pads are the heaviest-duty option in the G-Form range. Dubbed “E-Line” for “Enduro” and “E-bike,” these are the kind of pads you envision on a 40-something year-old dad who just bought a 170mm eMTB to “keep up with the boys,” or an early-2000s DH racer before pants were cool and gym was a thing. Short hand: they’re not pretty. But are they functional?
After more protection reviews? See below.
Fit and Durability:
The E-Line boasts motorcycle level protection (CE 1621-1), with a hard plastic layer enveloped by Armortex which shields the SmartFlex base. Adjustable velcro straps and zippers are responsible for holding these serious protection measures in place. In doing all this, they inevitably compromise the glove-like fit and minimal weight mastered by the Pro-Rugged. But despite their comparative bulky appearance, the E-Line pads were breathable enough in the autumn sun; the denser mesh absorbs enough sweat over several hours to prevent noticeable discomfort. One feature which would have greatly enhanced the comfort is – again – grippers on the top and bottom of the pads. Like many of their competitors, the E-Line only has grippers on the inside of the top of the knee and elbow guards. To be fair, having more movement around the calves and elbows did aid in ventilation; but the result is a bottom half which moves with every pedal stroke and eventually needs adjustment during a ride. Another disappointing feature was the overkill zippers on the knee guards. These should be convenient, allowing installation and removal without taking your shoes off and being the last to get ready; however the small zippers were so frustratingly tedious to access under the fabric hoods, you may as well have taken your shoes off and pulled them over. These frustrations may appear nominal, but they emphasise the E-Line is not the ideal candidate for everyday use.
Rather, they are the ideal candidate for shuttle days and downhill racing. The excellent level of protection is undeniable, and this is the priority in such circumstances. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I didn’t crash in these during testing; but if I did, I wouldn’t be thinking about the zippers as I slammed into the ground. Interestingly, the G-Form website claims the hard shell helps riders “slide on hard surfaces” during impact; this is something which wouldn’t occur to most punters, but it makes sense. So while the hard shell is not aesthetic, it does have multiple protective functions.
- Hard shell offers ultimate level of protection
E-Line elbow: $189
E-Line Knee: $199
Unlike competitors, the American brand is solely focused on protection products for various sports; regardless of individual needs, they’re a reputable and progressive brand to cushion dirt naps. For those riders new to wearing armour on the bike or spending hours at a time in the saddle, stick to the Pro-Rugged. But if you’re pushing the limits of your abilities, or the limits of your private health care plan, E-Line is the unquestionable choice. In this way, G-Form has successfully produced two very different pads with a diverse range of riders in mind.