Knee braces have kind of followed the evolutionary path of computers: What was once considered to be military-grade high-tech and almost completely unobtainable by John Q. Public has been now been surpassed many times over in the civilian market.
There’s no doubt that the U.S. military is currently playing with technology and materials that we might not see in the general marketplace for decades, but when it comes to knee braces, the current state of the art is good enough for the task at hand, and in the case of Alpinestars’ Fluid Tech Carbon knee braces, it might be overkill. What was once available only via a doctor’s prescription has been far surpassed by what Alpinestars is bringing to the consumer market via the Fluid Tech Carbon.
Designed with the same care and attention to detail that the Italian company puts into its world-famous motocross boots and other products, the Fluid Techs bristle with advanced technology and exotic materials in an effort to combine the best protection, the most custom fit and comfort with the lightest weight possible. Alpinestars that the exoskeleton-style Fluid Tech Carbon is 40 percent lighter than its B2 knee braces.
The Fluid Tech helps reduce the risk and severity of injury by preventing excessive hypertension of the knee in an accident. Thanks to innovative engineering the Fluid Tech is ultra-lightweight and offers a highly customizable and secure fit, while affording improved directional movement of the knee articulation while riding.
The measure of any good knee brace is how well it allows the knee joint to pivot without making the knee joint feel bound up or otherwise impeded from its normal range of motion–in other words, how much it feels like you aren’t wearing a knee brace when in fact you are. The Alpinestars Fluid Tech’s knee pivot system features a double-pivoting hinge that utilizes tool-free, fast, easily interchangeable extension stops (0, 5, 10, 15, 20 degrees) to prevent hyper-extension injuries, but Alpinestars engineers worked to ensure that the brace feels, as its name implies, fluid.
The Fluid Tech’s patella/knee cup protection system is claimed by the company to be ergonomically sculptured. It’s constructed of semi-rigid Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) backed by shock-absorbing PU memory foam. The knee is secured top and bottom by elastic straps, and it is designed to allow the multi-directional freedom of movement that knee brace wearers wish for. Additional knee protection is afforded by upper and lower patella cuffs, and comfort is addressed by lateral-side knee padding to help avoid pressure points.
Additional comfort features include channeled padding and mesh zones for optimized ventilation and airflow, and each Fluid Tech brace is supplied with leg-size adjustment spacers (1mm, 2mm and 3mm) on either side of hinge along with two pairs of flexible, anatomically optimized spacers (6mm and 9mm) for improved directional articulation performance. Alpinestars’ dual X-strap system is used to help secure fitment of Fluid Tech brace in all riding positions. The X-straps and include combined buckle and Velcro closures for easy fitment and removal.
Alpinestars sent us a pair of the Fluid Tech Carbons for evaluation, so we shot them over to our lead test rider, Southern California pro Ryan Abbatoye to give us the rundown. Abbatoye is a staunch believer in wearing knee braces to protect his knees, but he also admits that the bulky feel of most braces is something he can do without.
“It’s easy to hyper-extend and twist your knees when you’re riding, and I don’t want to trash my knees because my business depends on it,” Abbatoye said. “My Asterisk knee braces were the only ones I’ve ever had, and I basically wore them out, so I was looking to try something new.”
Abbatoye said that the first thing he noticed about the Alpinestars Fluid Tech Carbon braces was how light and compact they are compared to the Asterisks.
“They felt great right off the bat,” he said. “It really doesn’t feel like you’re wearing them, but if you’ve never worn knee braces, they will take some getting used to. But, I like how easily they move through the range of motion, and the X-strap system does a really good job of keeping them in place. The last thing you want is a knee brace to start wandering around on your leg when you’re riding.”
Abbatoye rides hard, and sometimes he crashes. Other time he just tries to crash but fails, and that often involves sticking out a leg awkwardly, prime time for a knee injury. So far, he says, the Fluid Tech Carbons have done their job by protecting his knees.
“There have been times when I’ve gone down and landed directly on my knee and the Fluid Tech knee cups have really saved me from pain,” Abbatoye said. “The more common one for me, though, is when I land from big jumps and sometimes I hit so hard that my foot slips off the footpeg and jams into the dirt. The Fluid Techs have prevented that hyper-extension, which, if you’ve ever done it, really hurts even if you don’t suffer a serious injury. Another common one for me is that when my foot is out and the bike slides a little bit, it’s easy to twist a knee. With the knee braces, you have that much higher level of confidence. You’re not scared to stick out your foot. What I like about the Alpinestars is that I don’t feel any binding win the knee. They don’t feel wide, and you don’t notice them when your legs are contacting the sides of the bike.”
Of course, this peace of mind comes at a cost. Just as premium helmets command a high price, the Alpinestars Fluid Tech Carbons are about as far away as the penthouse is from the bargain basement. Plan on spending $349.95 per leg if you want to strap on the Fluid Tech Carbons. Even so, Abbatoye put the cost into perspective.
“It’s obviously not a cheap investment, but would you rather spend $600 or $700 for knee braces or lose six months and have to pay who knows what for surgeries?” Abbatoye said. “It’s like a helmet: You should want to try and get the best helmet out there. It’s the same with knee braces in my opinion. They’re definitely important to me. If I showed up to a track and realized I had forgotten them at home, I probably wouldn’t ride. The cool thing about the Alpinestars Fluid Tech Carbons is that now I can ride with great knee braces, and yet it feels like I am not wearing them.”
Fluid Tech Carbon Knee Brace, $349.95 each
Available in international sizes S, M, L-XL and 2XL.
2780 West 237th Street
Torrance, California 90505