In skating, the two most important pieces of protection are the helmet and knee pads. Take a look at one of the most dangerous disciplines in skating, mega ramp skating. Even the guys that wear the least amount of protection are rocking knee pads and helmets. Knee pads in skating can do two things. They protect your knees from impact damage and they allow you to slide safely to a stop. I myself skate many different disciplines including transition, long-distance, downhill, techslides and more. My top go-to knee pads are the 187 Fly and Pro. 187 Pads, without a doubt, are some of the best on the market.
Check out the Fly Pads Price on Amazon.
Check out the Pro Pads Price on Amazon
Pro Pads vs Fly Pads – What are the differences?
The Pro and Fly models have several differences and one isn’t inherently better than the other. It depends on what your preference is. By the end of this review, I hope you will know which one will suit you better. In summary, the Pro pads are thicker and more customizable where the Fly model costs less and is thinner. Yet, the truth is much deeper.
In terms of impact protection, the Pro is superior. The Pro internal padding measures at 30mm whereas the Fly measures 20mm. It seems that both models use the same type of foam padding. Along with being thicker the Pro model also wraps around and above the knee a bit more than the Fly. I don’t have the exact measurements for this but I would say it’s about 10mm longer over the knee and around 5mm on both sides.
For direct impact protection, there is a noticeable difference between the two models. When I fall on a ramp in my Pro model I rarely feel pain. On the flip side some bigger ramp bails leave me with some pain in the Fly. These falls are usually when my knee is hitting first or taking the brunt of the force from the impact. When I fall somewhere flat like on a road the Fly usually does just as good as the Pro due to the force of the impact being smaller.
This brings us to talking about slide protection. When it comes to crashing or bailing on the road I usually prefer my Fly pads. Because the Pro model is thicker and taller over the knee they tend to stick out further than the Fly knee pads. This can cause them to catch the ground and pull on your knee cap before they start to engage the slide and lock-in.
This feeling is unsettling but has never hurt my knee at all. It just doesn’t feel good and could cause minor injury to someone with weaker or injury-prone knees. I’ve never had this issue with the Fly knee pad. Once it hits the ground there is no tugging or shifting it engages in the slide right away. There is a workaround to eliminate this on the Pro model. I discovered that if I am wearing a knee gasket under the Pro model that it doesn’t tug on my knee when it catches the ground. For those who don’t know, a knee gasket is a compression sleeve with donut-shaped padding around the knee cap. This adds extra padding and stability for the knee cap and surrounding area.
Let’s talk about fit and comfort. This is one area for me where there is no contest between the two models. The Pro model hands down are more comfortable than the Fly. The reason for this is simple: both models outside straps are identical. The lower strap is a static strap that goes through a plastic buckle allowing for a secure fit. The top strap is dynamic elastic with velcro allowing the fabric to expand and compress. Where the main difference lies is in their inside straps. The Fly model uses a stretchy neoprene sleeve to secure the pad to the leg. This means you need to put them on before you put on your shoes and they aren’t coming off until the end of the session. The Pro uses the same type of neoprene fabric, but, instead, it is two pieces and added velcro for the top and bottom. This allows you to customize the fit tighter or looser on the top and bottom based on preference. The other nice aspect about this is you can put them on after you have your shoes on and re-adjust later.
The sizing between the two sizes isn’t consistent. When I ordered the Fly I measured the circumference of my knee according to their chart. It said that I could be either a medium or large. I bought the medium first, then returned it for a large, and then one more time for an extra-large. The way they have you measure for their pads doesn’t take into account people like me who have thunder thighs. Even with the extra-large, they felt a tad snug. After a few sessions of breaking them in they molded to my leg and fit quite well.
What is interesting is that my Pro model is a size large and fits perfectly, so there’s some discrepancy between the model’s sizes. My recommendation is that you find a local shop to try them on to buy them. That way you’re not spending money and time exchanging them.
Build Quality and Durability
Both models use the same ballistic nylon fabric and plastic knee caps. The ballistic nylon is as durable a piece of fabric as you can get without losing mobility. After several falls on the same location, I have made holes/tears on both my Pro and Fly right knee pads.
This was because I was falling in the same spot trying to do a specific trick. I feel like the material held up to more than its fair share of abuse. Also, it’s not a big deal because it’s easily patched with some gorilla tape. So in this regard, the Pro and Fly are on equal footing. The plastic knee caps are very durable for slides and cover roughly the same surface area on both models. The main difference is that the Fly model holds them in place permanently with grommet rivets. This means eventually the rivets will get worn away and the cap will come off.
The Pro model holds them in place with a velcro lock system. This system holds the cap securely in place and it won’t come off unless you want it to. The velcro system is behind the cap keeping it protected from damage. This allows you to replace the caps when they get worn out. Another advantage that the Pro has is that you can remove the interior pads to make washing easier. This also allows you to replace the pads if they ever get damaged.
The last feature the Pro has over the Fly is that you can order a custom pair with the colors of your choosing. This, of course, costs a pretty penny. This applies to the fabric, straps, and even the cap color. Not a functional feature, but a feature nonetheless.
Both the Pro and the Fly are made by 187, so the customer service experience will be the same with each. I haven’t had much need for interacting with them, but my experience with 187 customer service has been great. I had a question about why I could remove the pads on the pro model. I sent an email and got a response within an hour or two. 187 also has a great reputation in the skate community, which speaks volumes on its own. Since skaters support companies that do right by them.
As far as price goes, as I am currently writing this, the Fly model is $43 and the Pro model is $100 on the 187killerpads.com. Sometimes you can find either model for cheaper on certain overstock sites. Even at full price though, either model is worth it for what they offer in protection and durability.
You can check the current price on Amazon for the:
To sum it all up. Choose the Pro model if you like better impact protection, replaceable knee caps, a comfortable fit or a customizable look. Choose the Fly if you want a lower profile pad that is good quality for the price.