Glance around the car park at any UK trail centre (or indeed any popular riding spot) and you’ll notice the ever-increasing use of lightweight body armour for general riding-around kind of rides. While there’s an undeniable logic to not wanting to put yourself off the bike for several weeks on account of a berockened knee or similar, we can’t help thinking that the sorts of limb threats likely to be encountered on many rides don’t warrant quite the level of protection sometimes adopted.
Scratchguardz are a new UK-designed product pitched as offering “the same protection as a pair of gloves, but for your shins”. They’re very specifically not body armour – they’re not going to render you immune from pedal strikes or landing on rocks. What the designers really have in mind is undergrowth and overgrown trails – thorns, gorse, nettles, all that kind of stuff – and warding off the worst abrasions from crashing.
They’re designed, then, to fill the gap between nothing at all and full armour, without being as over-warm and flappy as full trousers. They’re made from 600D breathable polyester, with slightly stretchy Velcro straps to keep them on. Being completely flexible, they roll up to go in your pack, and they weigh pretty much nowt.
They’re certainly comfortable and unintrusive (although this arctic camo pattern wouldn’t be our first choice). The breathable fabric and slightly padded mesh back keep things suitably cool (although we haven’t had a chance to try them in properly hot conditions yet). Scratchguarz are available in four sizes, based on calf circumference – the M were spot on for the fairly spindly editorial pins, with S, L and XL also available. There’s also a version with a windproof front for colder weather, at the same price as the normal model.
Clearly Scratchguardz are somewhat location-specific. On well-groomed purpose-built trails they don’t have a great deal to offer except a bit of extra warmth. But if you favour staying off the beaten track and often find yourself sweeping through excess vegetation and returning with your legs torn to bits (and there are no shortages of spots that fit that description) then Scratchguardz are what you’ve been waiting for.
Positives: Work as claimed, lightweight, comfy
Negatives: Won’t ward off pedal strikes
It’s been a while since we’ve had a product on test that’s quite so “yay or nay” as Scratchguardz. If you regularly ride little-travelled trails and are plagued by spiky undergrowth, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without them. If you usually ride well-maintained trails that are mostly clear of foliage, you’ll wonder what the point of them is. They do what they claim (which is what we usually rate products against – if your specific conditions don’t demand the level of protection offered by Scratchguardz then clearly your personal rating would be somewhat lower) and for the price of a pair of gloves they’re pretty good value (if you need them).