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The making of the Slayco96 Knee Guard with Axell Hodges

The history of Axell Hodges and his relationship with EVS is a story in itself.  Axell grew up racing motocross and was a mainstay on the amateur motocross scene for several years.  He had worn and tried a number of different knee braces from competitors of EVS, but after suffering yet another significant leg injury, Axell ditched his knee braces, and became a knee guard guy.  Axell was quickly on the rise in terms of his popularity when he was first exposed to the EVS knee guards.

One day as Axell started to gear up to go riding he experienced something that every rider can relate to, forgetting a piece of riding gear.  In this case it was his knee guards.  Axell yelled over to his friend saying he had forgotten his knee guards.  To his surprise, a pair was being tossed over to him.  His friend happened to have an extra set of EVS knee guards.  Immediately he was impressed with the level of freedom and comfort they provided.  For the next year, Axell continued to wear the EVS knee guards asking his friend to reach out to EVS to get him a new pair as he wore through them.  No one at EVS knew about any of this until his friend ‘spilled the beans’ one day over a phone call.  This allowed the EVS team to be introduced to Axell and start a relationship. 

As 2020 approached an internal conversation at EVS brought the idea of a signature product.  Due to the pandemic and the uncertainty of how long it was going to last, the conversation was put on pause.  In the fall of 2021 the EVS team pitched the idea to Axell and his father Phil, suggesting Axell could build the knee guard from the ground up.  They saw the value in working with EVS long term, and were excited with the idea of a signature product.  Thus, research and development began.  Unlike what Axell had done with other brands, this would be a ‘from the ground up’ product and would require an extensive amount of initial preferences and wants from Axell.  Going into the meeting, the mindset was that it would be ‘the first of many’ in order to get exactly what Axell wanted.  He was extremely engaged in helping create the Slayco96 guard from the very beginning, stating exactly what he liked in his current pad of choice, the TP199, and outline certain ‘must haves’ and ‘wants’ in his future guard.  Next was the fabric types to be used and where, what density of protective foam to utilize and how durability concerns were going to be addressed.  An important feature Axell asked for was a more minimalist and low-profile feel while still incorporating a feeling of stability and protection.

The first round of prototypes arrived in the spring of 2022 and were sent to Axell immediately.  There was a lot to unpack in terms of how the product fit him, what his initial impressions of it were, and, of course, how he felt wearing the pad on the bike.  After about a week, Axell called the EVS team with some overwhelmingly positive feedback.   It was comfortable, breathable, fit him well, low-profile and minimalist, stabile and allowed him the freedom and movement he craves while he’s on the bike.  The next step would be to test the durability of the knee guards. 

For the next few months Axell wore them for any opportunity he saw fit.  From mountain biking to snowboarding to freeriding on his dirt bike and even competing!  Axell won the 2022 Red Bull Imagination Free Ride event and competed in the 2022 Summer X Games where he won the Moto X 110 event and finished second place in both Best Whip and Quarter Pipe High Air all while wearing the first set of prototypes.  In summer of 2022, the EVS team regrouped with Axell and learned about some small changes he would want to see.  It was clear that he was happy with the direction of the pad so far.   The EVS team encouraged Axell to start thinking about the aesthetics of the pad and what he would want that to be.  Similar to the process of breaking down the knee pad itself from a design and functionality perspective, Axell influenced what he would want to see in terms of logos and colors throughout.  By late holiday season of 2022, the branding and naming of the Axell Hodges + EVS collaborative knee guard had been established and the EVS Slayco96 Knee Pad was put into production. 

Now it was time to focus on the marketing.  Thus, a photo/video shoot was organized and the EVS Team spent a full day with Axell at Slayground to capture the essence of the collaboration.  From there discussions for the official launch, swag (including hats, stickers and posters) and coordination of the presence of his signature knee guard on the Slayco Store website began.  It was clear to see that he valued working with EVS and wanted to make sure that even the little things were squared away and ready to go for the launch day. 

After plenty of hard work from Axell, Phil and everyone at EVS, the Slayco96 Knee Guard launched in mid August of 2023.  The path to the Slayco96 Knee Guard and a partnership between EVS Sports and Axell Hodges was a fun experience and involved alot of work from many people.  However, in the end everyone is thrilled with the end result. 

Were you one of the lucky people to receive a limited EVS Slayco96 Hat?  If not, send us a message at and let us know how much you enjoyed this blog.  Please note this is while supplies last.

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