Trail Riding in Dainese Trail Skins Lite Kneepads, HGC Shell, HGR Pants & Gloves

Trail Riding in Dainese Trail Skins Lite Kneepads, HGC Shell, HGR Pants & Gloves

After enjoying many previous items from Dainese, I was stoked to test more of their gear this year. I got my hands on their HGC Shell and HGR Pants, plus a pair of HGR gloves and their Trail Skins Lite kneepads.

Unfortunately I wasn’t too impressed with the weather resistance of the shell or pants, and had issues with the fit of both as well. Luckily the gloves and kneepads fit properly, and after many test rides I came away pretty happy with those pieces.

Trail Skins Lite Kneepads

Dainese Trail Skins Lite kneepads under HGR pants

The Trail Skins Lite kneepads are a slim, flexible pair designed for XC or Trail riding more than enduro… but I specifically wanted to see how they worked with different trail riding pants.

The Trail Skins Lites fit under 7mesh’s Flightpath pants easily, and the pants don’t hang up on them while you pedal. They also fit under Dainese’s HGR pants (pictured above), which are slimmer than the Flightpaths, and still pedal just fine.

Dainese Trail Skins Lite kneepads, pair

I’m wearing size XS pads. The lower hems are snug on my calves, and the top hems are just snug enough on my thighs. As you’d hope given their thin construction, these are easily the least motion-restricting kneepads I’ve pedaled in. Throughout all my test rides, I never experienced any discomfort from any part of the pads.

I wish Dainese had trimmed down the length of the pads’ sleeve sections more. There is a fair bit of sleeve length above the pad itself plus some below, and I’m not sure it’s necessary. Even with shorter socks and a chamois on, the pads almost completely covered my shins and well overlapped the chamois’ legs.

Despite their leg coverage, the Trail Skins Lites are cooler to wear than most other kneepads. I could feel air coming through the perforated pads while riding, and the thin sleeves don’t trap much heat in. 

Dainese Trail Skins Lite kneepads, folded up

Now of course the price you pay for flexibility and coolness is the Trail Skins Lites’ light-duty protection. I never smashed a knee during my test rides, but it’s safe to say these pads are limited to the ‘better than nothing’ class of protection.

Hems vs. Chamois

Dainese Trail Skins Lite kneepads, with chamois

I learned one lesson with these pads – I went for a ride with the top hems over top of my chamois legs, giving the grippers no chance to grab my skin. The top hems slipped down easily, leaving the pad sitting in front of my kneecap instead of covering it. When I wore the pads under my chamois legs, the grippers did grab my skin and the pads held their position. For the next few weeks, they stayed put consistently for up to 3-hour loops with no adjustments.

However, I had one recent ride where the right pad simply wouldn’t stay up. I was wearing an older chamois with loose-fitting legs, and I suspect without the legs helping to hold up the pads’ hems, they were able to slip downwards. With my tighter-fitting chamois the Trail Skins Lites always did great, but on this ride, the right pad wouldn’t stay up. The left pad was fine for most of the ride… but then it gave up and slipped downwards too.

It’s possible the hems are stretching out, as I’ve worn these pads quite a few times. This is why I think an adjustment strap on the top hem would be a worthy addition. Despite that, I’ve found if I stick to wearing my tight-legged chamois’ the pads will stay in place. And as long as they do, they’re exactly the under-pants option I was looking for!

The Trail Skins Lite kneepads come in black only, and in sizes XS-XL. MSRP is $75.

HGC Shell

Dainese HGC Shell, front

Designed to protect you from nasty weather, the HGC Shell is made from a 2.5 layer, 10,000mm waterproof fabric with taped seams. The fabric offers some stretch, and the shell’s hood is largeenough to fit over a helmet. 

For storage you get two large mesh backed pockets/vents on the front, and one large zippered pocket across the lower back. Other details include a silicone gripper in the lower hem, a waist drawstring, glove-friendly pulls on all zippers, and adjustable cuffs.


Dainese HGC Shell, sleeve

I’m wearing a size medium jacket – Aside from one significant issue, the HGC Shell fits me well. The body length is perfect with the front reaching just below my waist and the dropped tail covering my butt. Unfortunately in my case, the HGC’s sleeves are too short! In riding position the sleeves pull up my arms leaving a considerable gap between my gloves and the jacket. I’d need another two to three inches to ensure proper arm coverage.

I like the HGC Shell’s collar design, but how it sits can be a bit unpredictable because of the shell’s stiff water-resistant zipper.  Fully zipped, the collar sits high enough for you to tuck your chin inside on wetter or colder rides, which is great. However, sometimes the collar creeps under your chin and sits against your neck. Since the zipper props up the jacket, the sides of the collar don’t fall away when you partially unzip it. Standing on their own, they can get in your face and be a bit irritating. Dainese did include a fabric hood to keep the zipper itself from touching your chin and neck.

Temperature and Coverage

Dainese HGC Shell, SF climbing

One of my first trail rides with the HGC Shell was in damp 13° C (55º F) weather. With a thin long long-sleeved jersey underneath, I was sweating after 15 minutes of climbing. I opened the shell’s front vents and the zipper halfway, and that kept me warm but not overly hot for the remainder of the ride.

I went for another ride at 15° (59º F) with a thin SS jersey underneath, and I got sweaty. While the chest vents are noticeable, the HGC Shell’s arm and armpit ventilation is not great. I think pit zips or vents would be a worthy addition to this jacket; without them, the front zipper becomes an essential means of dropping heat (even with the front vents).

As winter set in I found the HGC Shell could be worn into pretty cool temperatures, paired with two thin layers or one insulated jersey underneath. Since the fabric itself is quite windproof and doesn’t breathe particularly well, keeping the zippers closed will hold your warmth inside.

Dainese HGC Shell, fit

Aside from the short sleeves, the shell provided good coverage for me and never restricted motion in any way. I usually came home with two inches of mud spray on the bottom of my jerseys at most, and only got my jersey’s lower hem wet in the front on one rainy ride. 

The HGC Shell’s large hood fits over a helmet and leaves enough room to ride comfortably; in fact, I had to cinch it down to keep it from blowing off! It would be awesome if you could button the hood down while not in use, as it’s pretty big and floppy.

Water Resistance

Dainese HGC Shell, wet

During Crankworx Whistler I got to test the HGC Shell in warm, damp conditions. After a ride in intermittent light rain for nearly an hour, the jacket mostly kept me dry but the sleeves were wet inside. I suspect this was from my arms sweating, as it never happened again in cooler temperatures.

I finally got a chance to get properly wet in the HGC Shell, and wasn’t too impressed with its water resistance. Unfortunately Dainese describing this shell as ‘totally waterproof’ did not match my test results…

I rode in steady rain for just under an hour, mostly in exposed areas. This time, I made sure to ride slowly and casually to ensure I wasn’t getting sweaty. By the time I got home, most of the HGC Shell’s inside was wet. Only the lower back portion was dry inside – the sleeves, shoulders, hood and front were soaked. I was only dry because my mid layer hadn’t soaked through yet. The HGC Shell will keep you protected from light showers, splashes, and splatter, but a steady rainfall will get through this jacket before long.

The HGC Shell is available in Tradewinds (as tested) or Periscope colors. Men’s sizes go from XS-XXL. Women’s models are available in Tradewinds only and in XS-XXL sizes.  The HGC Shell sells for $240.

HGR Pants:

Dainese HGR Pants, front

Dainese’s HGR pants are designed with durability in mind, and they offer a streamlined fit. I had some issues with the sizing, but rode the pants regardless to see how they performed on-trail. 

As for construction the HGR pants are slim in the legs but feature articulated knees. The legs taper down towards the ankles, where you’ll find simple cuffs with no stretch panels or zippers. Built for durability, the pants’ fabric isn’t particularly light or thin.

Dainese HGR Pants, back

The HGR Pants provide two zippered hand pockets, which are not huge but I’m happy to have them – they offer secure storage and remained comfortable with smartphones and keys inside.  One final touch is Dainese’sHook Button system, which allows you to carry Dainese’s gloves on your waist and save some pocket space.


Dainese HGR Pants, on me

Now, regarding sizing: The sizing guide led me to request XS pants which are listed on Dainese’s Italy website as size “USA-UK 32″ (these pants are not shown on the USA site). However, looking at a different size chart our editor found XS pants waist size listed as 27.2-29.5”, which is far more accurate.

Discovering that discrepancy explains why the XS pants are very tight on my waist, which is around 31”. The waist features a zippered fly with Dainese’s Slide-Fit closure that provides three notches for adjustment, but they’re not evenly spaced. Two sit close together and the third seems to ensure those with smaller waists can clinch down the pants further. I’m using the largest notch and thanks to the fabric’s stretch, I can just squeeze into the pants. After several rides in them, the waist isn’t loosening up at all.

The other fit issue I had was the legs – they are far too short, though this would make sense given that I should be in a larger size. I could easily use another 2-3 inches of length to keep my ankles covered up.

Weather Resistance

Dainese HGR Pants, SF, riding

Despite having a very lean cut (and being too small for me) I can say the pants pedalled perfectly well, with no restriction of motion. While I wouldn’t call them excessively warm, the HGRs are not the coolest pants. On most rides, I noticed my phone got wet with sweat, even in temperatures down to roughly 10° Celsius (50º F).  

During some rainy rides I found out the HGR pants are not very waterproof like the jacket. After about half an hour pedaling fully exposed to steady rain, my thighs were soaking through and my legs started feeling wet. By the end of the 50-minute ride, my thighs were saturated. The saddle area also soaked through, so I wish Dainese had made at least that area of the pants more waterproof. Puddle splashes and mud splatters were easily fended off by the pants, but they didn’t hold up to much actual rain. 

The HGR Pants are available in Tradewinds, Sand, or Black colors. Sizes go from XS-XXL. MSRP is 179.95€.

HGR Gloves:

Dainese HGR Gloves, pair

Dainese’s HGR gloves have left me with nothing to complain about, proving to be a durable, tactile and comfortable pair. I’ve worn these gloves quite a few times over this summer and fall, and they hardly look used.

I’m wearing size smalls, and they fit me very nicely. They are snug, but with a bit of stretch to the fabric they offer a precise fit. Finger length is perfect for me, and the cuffs easily cover my wrists. The Velcro wrist closure provides a snug, secure fit, and has remained perfectly comfortable. I’ve had no issues with irritating seams, stitches or bunchy areas anywhere on the HGR gloves.  

Dainese HGR Gloves, palm

Even with some silicone printing for grip, the HGR gloves’ palm fabric is thin and provides great grip feel. I noticed these gloves were tactile enough that I rarely removed them when fiddling with my phone or camera. Conveniently, the fingers are very touchscreen-friendly.

Temperature-wise, these gloves are pretty typical. The perforated palms, thin back panels and mesh between the fingers all vent heat well. There are lighter mesh-backed gloves out there, but the HGRs are perfectly suitable for spring, fall, and hot summer rides.

I only have one minor suggestion regarding the HGR gloves: I think the pull tabs on the cuffs could be trimmed down a bit. That’s the worst I can say!

The HGR gloves are available in Black, Military Green, Grey, or Sand colors. Sizes XXS-XXL are available, for the price of $45.

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