MXA TEAM TESTED: ALPINESTARS KNEE BRACE
WHAT IS IT? The Alpinestars Fluid Tech knee brace is an ultra-lightweight brace that offers a customizable and secure fit.
WHAT’S IT COST? $349.95 (each).
CONTACT? www.alpinestars.com or (800) 409-0903.
WHAT STANDS OUT? Here’s a list of things that stand out with the Alpinestars Fluid Tech knee brace.
(1) Updates. The Fluid Tech knee brace received some updates in key areas last year. Alpinestars addressed some problem areas that the MXA wrecking crew had complained about in the past. Alpinestars’ new Ergo Fit spacer allows for a closer and flatter feel to the bike. The thicker spacers are still included, but we vastly prefer the thinner Ergo Fit spacers, because the thick spacers always produced a pressure point on the medial side of the knee. Alpinestars also beefed up the lateral side padding for more support. In addition, a new material was used on the dual-strap system and a new carbon polymer compound was used on the chassis for greater strength.
(2) Construction. The Fluid Tech’s frame is comprised of a carbon polymer compound that’s CE certified by the European Union. The material is light, strong and resilient. Coming in at under 1.30 pounds per brace makes the Fluid Tech one of the lightest braces on the market. By comparison, the Troy Lee Designs Catalyst X brace comes in at 1.40 pounds and the Pod K4 at 1.38 pounds.
(3) Movement. The Fluid Tech brace has a system that works much like the Human Motion system of the Pod knee brace. This system provides tension in one direction and a springy feel in the other. The difference between the two systems is that the Alpinestars brace has two elastic straps that position the knee cup under tension, while the Pod brace spring loads the hinge. The Fluid Tech brace provides more tension in both directions. We have always loved the way spring-loaded braces feel. It’s akin to having bionic legs. It makes riders with good and bad knees get up out of the saddle easier. Overall, this system makes riding easier on the body. It’s probably more psychological than mechanical, but every test rider mentions it.
(4) Knee cup. The ventilated knee-cup system is constructed from semi-rigid TPU plastic that is backed by memory foam for comfort. The patella cup is overlapped by two TPU shields that leave no area of the leg exposed, regardless of how far the knee is bent.
(5) Adjustability. The Fluid Tech brace is one size fits all. Thanks to a wide array of different thicknesses of Ergo Fit spacers and adjustment pads, the brace can be custom-fit for most leg sizes. However, we only recommend using the thin Ergo Fit spacers with no shims on the medial side of the brace to avoid the inevitable pressure point. The Fluid Tech brace has a tool-free poly-centric hinge system equipped with easily exchangeable extension stops that are offered in 0, 5, 10, 15 and 20 degrees to prevent hyperextension injuries.
(6) Performance. The previous iteration of the Alpinestars Fluid Tech knee brace was not on any MXA test riders’ list of favorites. But, thanks to the small updates made to the Fluid Tech knee brace, we have to say that Alpinestars has taken a big step in the right direction. When we replaced the Ergo Fit spacer with the thin Ergo Fit spacer on the medial side of the brace, it made for a better contact patch to the frame of the brace. This eliminated the pressure points we experienced in the past. The new lateral-side padding helped minimize previous pressure points. We did notice that the knee-brace pads flattened out very quickly. This caused the brace to fit incorrectly. We had to keep adding new shims to narrow the knee width. Bottom line: more durable pads are needed.
WHAT’S THE SQUAWK? Two quibbles: (1) We would like to see the brace offered in more chassis sizes for a better fit. (2) The side knee padding works well when it is new, but it doesn’t stay new for long.
MXA RATING: The updated version of the Alpinestars Fluid Tech knee brace took this brace off MXA’s no-fly list and put it back on our test riders’ knees. It is comfortable, light and adjustable.