As an Enduro rider, you’ve likely taken a few big stacks here and there. You will know the importance of having good protection, from helmets through to knee pads. And you’ll know that having a good set of knee pads can mean the difference between riding out of the park or not. So now you want to know, what are the best enduro knee pads?
We will look in detail at the best knee pads on the market and which ones are ideal for enduro riders.
The best knee pads for enduro riders are the ones that allow you to pedal, barely knowing that they are there- until you need them!
What makes the best Enduro knee pads?
First and foremost, protection is critical. It is the reason you wear the knee pads in the first place, so ensuring the protection is the best you can get is essential. You want a knee pad that provides a bit more protection than just your standard knee sleeve that provides protection against abrasion and bruises. You need enough protection to prevent injury to the knee joint and more serious knocks to the knee.
Things to look for are materials that harden on impact, such as D30 and VPD. These materials are better than your standard plastic hard shell as they have a remarkable ability to absorb energy on impact. They are also flexible and malleable, which allows you to pedal comfortably- which leads to our next point.
If the knee pad is not comfortable, you likely won’t reach for them as you head out for a mountain bike.
When buying a set of knee pads, you need to look for how the knee pad will stay in place, anything that can rub on your skin as you pedal, and the ability to pedal in them.
Having a breathable or well-ventilated set of knee pads is particularly important for enduro riders, as a fair amount of pedaling is required.
A thing to keep an eye on is how you get the knee pad on. Slide on knee pad sleeves with thin, elastic material tends to tear or stretch out of place. You want a durable material that will last a few crashes let alone trying to get them on!
You may notice that none of the pads listed below are strapless knee pads. This is because the amount of padding that an enduro rider requires would not be held securely by a strapless knee guard. Instead, more practical straps are used to keep your knee joints safe and secure!
6 of the Best Enduro Knee Pads
The best enduro knee pads are ones that cover those points above, with emphasis on comfort while pedaling and protection.
Fox Racing Launch Pro D30
- Double layer impact protection for highly protective knee pads
- D30 Pad
- High quality
- Heavyish knee protector
The Fox Racing Launch Pro D30 is a cutting-edge design. It is one of the only mountain bike knee guards using both the old school plastic pad as well as the newer, high-spec D30 material. The idea behind this is similar to that of a helmet. The outer part is wear-resistant, which helps dissipate the residual force of the impact, and allows the rider to slide across the ground rather than come to an immediate halt. The inner layer, constructed of D30, absorbs the energy to redistribute it away from your knees, keeping them protected.
The Fox Launch Pro D30 not only protects well but also looks good and feels good once on. They slide on over your knees and are held up by Velcro straps at both the top and bottom of the sleeve. No matter how much pedaling you do, they won’t be sliding down on you. Additionally, the material around the pads is a perforated mesh which helps with ventilation.
Fox Racing Launch D30
- D30 Pad for Impact protection
- Foam protector around the knee
- Adjustable strap at top and bottom of knee sleeve
- Inserts can’t be removed- so they can’t go in the washing machine
However, if you just can’t justify the price of the Pro version, the Launch D30 is an excellent alternative.
The Fox Launch D30 is a fantastic set of mountain bike knee pads, being highly protective while still pedal-friendly. The D30 material is flexible and comfortable to pedal in but hardens on impact to protect the knees a bit more. Around the sides of the knee, you will find that there is significant padding to keep the sides of the knee cap protected.
The pads are held up with velcro straps at the top and bottom and have a hole at the back of the knee for a bit of ventilation. In the past few years of riding with these, I have never had them slide down on me. They are very comfortable to ride in, have never rubbed or pinched my skin, and have saved my knees more times than I can count! For an enduro rider, the Fox Launch D30 is a very viable option.
ION K Pact ZIP
- SAS-TEC protection
- Top and bottom strap, as well as a zip for a secure fit
- Foam padding around the sides of the knee
- Quite a snug fit
- Zip (like all zips) has a tendency to stop working
The ION K-Pact knee pads are very similar to the Fox Launch D30. Instead of D30, Ion uses a SAS-TEC viscoelastic pad that sits over the kneecap and slightly down the shin to provide a bit of extra protection. The SAS-TEC material is flexible and comfortable to ride in and hardens on impact. Around the sides of the knee are a pair of foam pads for additional protection.
The velcro strap at the top and bottom of the pads adjust the fit. Perforated neoprene (essentially much more breathable wetsuit material) provides protection against abrasions around the rear of the leg.
Essentially the ION Pact zip is a breathable and pedal-friendly knee pad whilst providing a fair amount of protection.
- Slim but still provides plenty of protection
- Foam Padding around the sides of the knee
- Top strap for a secure fit
- Ventilation is average
If comfort is what you are after, the 661 DBO is certainly a contender. Very well ventilated, and no pressure points make wearing the 661 DBO pads very enjoyable!
The 661 DBO provides a pretty significant amount of protection into a slim profile. They aren’t a bulky set of knee pads, and you can quite comfortably pedal for 1-2 hours in them. They sit just beneath the hem of the shorts (no rookie gap here!) without causing the shorts to bunch as you pedal.
The inner pad is removable, which allows you to wash the knee pads, which is a very valuable feature in knee pads (as you learn over time!).
- Pre-molded fit
- Excellent protection of the knee joint, shin and lower thigh
- Velcro strap at the top of sleeve and back of the knee
- Not the most pedal-friendly. Better suited to less pedaling, more descending!
On the bulkier end of the scale, the 100% surpasses an excellent choice if the Enduro doesn’t have too much pedaling involved!
Just looking at the 100% surpass, you can see it is made for the hardcore. Pre-molded to the attack position, and foam padding around the main section of the pad to protect the shin and lower thigh. The central pad is hard, not particularly flexible, and very highly protective. The pad is held securely in place by a strap at the top and just below the knee. There is also a silicone gripper holding the knee pad in place.
While the surpass is made for getting big air, high speeds and gnarly drops, it isn’t particularly breathable. It will certainly get a bit warm and sweaty as you grind your way up the hill. But the second you get moving, you can feel the breeze flowing through the perforated vents in the pad.
POC Joint VPD System
- VPD protective pad
- Very comfortable
- Pedal friendly
- Velcro strap at the top of the pad
- Moisture-wicking material
- Look really good!
- Reasonably pricey
POC has created the ultimate pedal-friendly pads with the POC Joint VPD System. They are a comfortable, lightweight knee sleeve that ultimately allows you to pedal without being restricted.
While the POC Joint VPD isn’t as protective as the knee pads listed above, it still protects well above its weight! The VPD system is a three-layer material that hardens on impact but allows for great ventilation and flexibility. It covers a decent area of the knee and can absorb substantial impacts for great knee protection.
The POC Joint is made for Enduro riders who are in the in-between category. They aren’t the minimalists’ pads, nor are they bulky downhill pads. Simply put, they are ideal for the 1-2 hours rides where extra protection is warranted. If you want to be extra cool, you can even get the matching elbow guard!
All six pairs of knee pads are excellent choices for the best enduro knee pads. The choice you make will be largely dependent on the amount of padding you require.
If you are looking for a burlier pair of knee pads, the Fox Launch D30 Pro and the 100% Surpass are the two top contenders. For a more ‘pedal-friendly option, our top picks would be the POC Joint VPD and the Fox Launch D30. Comfort is an understated component of knee pads. But in reality, if they are uncomfortable, it is unlikely you will take pads with you on every ride!
If you enjoyed this post on the best enduro knee pads and want more mountain biking gear advice, check out our post on the best padded mountain bike gloves, or the comparison between the Bell Super DH and Bell Super Air R.