Much like many of you I never put much thought into wearing knee braces. Sure, I spent big bucks on boots, helmet and a chest protector but I was always under the impression knee braces were for those that have been unfortunate enough to have had an injury. Now after tearing my ACL and 6 months off the bike due to surgery and rehab I know different. I can only hope that this article will impress upon you the need to brace your self. Every time you get on the bike with unprotected knees is like riding without a helmet. Your local shop might carry one of these brands or your parts guy may only know of one and recommend it but in fact, many companies make affordable off the shelf braces that are designed to prevent injury. My goal is to inform you of what is out there, give you the information and let you decide what brace is right for you. My accident was not supposed to happen, the front end washed out while I was slowing down to exit the track. I got off the bike going about 7 miles per hour and POP! the ACL was history. Still to this day I shake my head thinking if only I knew... Looking back at it I am certain the injury would not have happened had I been wearing a brace. The worst part, aside from the pain and 6 months of rehab, was calling my wife from the driveway and informing her that she would have to come out so we could go to the Emergency Room, she was not very happy about that. For years I have done a lot of running in Nike Air Max, generally 30-35 miles a week. For years the Max worked great, going through a pair every other month. I never strayed from the Max, then one day I tried on the Reebok DMX and like that I switched. The DMX feels better to me and lasts 2-3 times longer for me. The point is, don't get hung up on a brand or what other people say is the best because everybody is different. I urge you to make your own informed choice in selecting knee braces. Try them on, run in them, ride with them if you can because your knees are worth the effort you put in to selecting a brace. I have compiled a list of several brace options that will allow you to compare each brace with non-bias facts. What you need to understand before reading is that there are two theories of bracing. The first is the rigid frame construction (CTi2, Cell, Edge and Defender Pro). The thought is to build a brace that will mimic the motion of the knee but offer stability through material strength. These brace designs are many time stronger than the knee and offer little to no margin of flex. The goal, to ensure that injury does not occur by transferring the load to the brace instead of the joint. Is it possible that if the brace does not give that something else might? Yes, but understand that a broken bone is MUCH easier to recover from than torn ligaments, tendons and cartilage. The second theory is the flexible frame construction (Rage and RS6). The thought is to build a brace that will mimic the motion of the knee but allow the brace to flex with the contour of the leg to maximize surface contact with the leg while offering strength and stability to the joint. These brace designs are also many time stronger than the knee but do flex. The goal, to ensure that injury does not occur by the brace absorbing the load and displace it across a large area. Is it possible for the brace to flex too much and allow injury to occur anyway? Yes, that is why brace material is of such great importance. Which ever type of brace you choose do your homework, find out what it is made of, what kind of research and testing went into the brace and what kind of history the company has with braces. Keep in mind that brace frame strength is best determined while the brace is on the leg. What you are about to read is a composition of factual data provided by the Manufacturer and data and experience I have gained while wearing these braces through rehabilitation workouts, running and finally back on the bike riding. Please read about each brace before reading my opinions because it is important for you to choose what is right for you, not what is right for me. I would like to thank Asterisk, Innovation Sports, Dil and XO-Skeleton for choosing to participate in our review. And a special thanks to Brad Freeman, General Manager of Asterisk for all of his help. He truly understands the need to inform the public and was more than happy to share his expertise with me. Fell free to contact me with questions regarding testing conditions, specific questions, your comments about the article and or your experience with firstname.lastname@example.org Each review is shown below and on following posts. Asterisk, Cell Asterisk LLC is a new venture created by Jim Castillo, the founder and chairman of Innovation Sports and creator of the C.T.i II knee brace. Unfortunately, the C.T.i II is not readily available at the retail level. Asterisk set out to design a knee protection system better than any available today, making them accessible through retail shops and reasonably priced so that extreme sport athletes can afford to wear them as a normal piece of protective equipment. The result is an advanced knee protection system utilizing never-before-seen design technologies. Price including patella cup: $549 a pair Initial Impressions: 1) Out of the box... OMG! Very cool looking 2) 28.1 oz. on my scale and felt strong 3) VERY easy to adjust extension stops. 4) VERY comfortable great fit 5) Fits well with boots! 6) Does not catch on pants liner 7) Very high quality... everywhere 8) Lace up system is no gimmick, it works 9) Adjustable thigh and calf extenders give a custom fit 10) Knee sleeve to be worn under the brace is great Initial Concerns: When you reach full extension the brace does not snap abruptly like all of the others I reviewed, it felt rubbery. This was somewhat of a concern so I called Brad Freeman, General Manager of Asterisk and voiced my concern. Low and behold it was not a flaw it is an engineered revolution. Before the brace locks at full extension there is a buffer that begins to slow the action (about 5 degrees before locking). In addition to buffering once you lock at full extension the brace flexes inward to make the condylar padding tighter on the knee for added support. Once you understand it and trust the fact that it works you will wonder why it has not been done before, it is like suspension for your hinges. Setting up the Brace: The Cell will take more time to get set up right than traditional braces because it is NOT a traditional off the shelf brace. It is a custom/traditional/alien hybrid. You adjust it to conform to your leg the way a custom brace does. One Allen head drive fits all adjustments and it is included with the brace. The Cell fit like a glove and just looks cool. The two most crucial points of a knee brace to be tight when strapped on are directly above and below the knee. The lace up system works really well and I was able to get the brace tighter because it disperses across a larger area than a strap. However it feels like the brace is tightest near the clasp which is great for directly below the knee (calf) because it laced "up" out of the box, but not so great for directly above the knee (hamstring) because it laded "up" as well. It took a bit of lace tugging to get the brace to be tight right above the knee so I unlaced the hamstring lace and laced it downward. Much better fit now and I have the two most crucial points of my knee cinched the tightest. TIP: Set the brace up at home before you get to the track or trail so you don't rush to go ride. Proper set up will ensure maximum support and comfort. At a 90 degree angle the Cell offers outstanding impact protection above the knee. Weight lifting and running: During leg workouts and running the Cell feels great, no migration down the leg. Smooth fluid motion in the hinges and the lace up system allows you to wear the brace tighter without discomfort so it feels super supportive. The knee sleeve that is worn under the brace is very comfortable. It is made of a different material than the others and breathes very well, after 3 hours it still felt good. The sleeve itself is long, extending from my ankle to my upper thigh. I fold the excess below the brace up and the excess above the brace down over the brace to hold the laces in place. The lace up system is fast and it works! Riding: The brace fits well under normal riding gear (2000 MSR Rage pants) only slightly more bulky than the Edge. Pinching the tank with the brace feels awkward at first but with in minutes I had forgotten I was wearing it. The brace does tear up tank and/or shroud graphics, after a day of riding with the Cell I noticed a tear on my shroud graphic. Range of motion was very good but somewhat stiff when I try to start the bike. I suspected that the ROM was limited at an acute bend because I was able to cinch the brace tighter than the others. I tested my theory by loosening the Cell and going back to the others and pulling them tight to the point of being uncomfortable... I was right, You can just get the laces SO much tighter than the traditional strap it is easy to over do it. The knee cup is the awesome, fully covering the knee, there is no gap to allow an unprotected impact to occur. Support: The brace felt as strong and as molded to every curve of the leg as the CTi2 did. If you are recovering from an injury you will rebuild muscle that has atrophied you will then need to re adjust the brace to fit because an accurate fit is key to maximum support. There is no doubt in my mind that this brace would have saved me from an ACL injury... if I had only known then what I know now, but hind sight is 20/20. Maintenance: Wash with mild detergent let air dry. Water sport friendly. Likes: Ultra custom fit Easy to adjust everywhere Smooth action Buffering action at full extension Very fast putting on and faster taking off Fits well under riding gear Very comfortable brace Completely innovative knee cup is awesome Lace up system The knee sleeve is wonderful The cost! Customer support Dislikes: Hard on graphics Contacts: Asterisk 19762 Pauling Foothill Ranch, CA. 92610 USA Tel: 949.609.0084 Toll Free: 800.459.2999 E-mail: email@example.com www.asterisk.com General Information Provided by Asterisk Cell Features Ultra-light Carbon composite rigid frame construction. Lace up strapping system. Full coverage knee cup. Adjustable thigh and calf cuffs Adjustable condylar padding. Cell Sizes Caliper Measurement Circumference Small3 5/8 - 413 - 14 Medium4 - 4 3/814 - 14 7/8 Large4 3/8 - 4 5/814 7/8 - 15 1/2 X-Large4 4/5 - 4 7/815 1/2 - 16 1/4 Take a caliper or tape measurement (medial/ lateral at joint space) in a standard weight bearing position See Part Two for the "DLL Defender"