Even when you are just cruising around the local bike park after work, things can go belly up. The protection that knee pads offer can make the difference between walking out of the park and riding out of the park. The only downside is the increased difficulty in pedaling with the knee pads on. Here we have found the best pedal-friendly mountain bike knee pads, so you don’t have to sacrifice comfort or protection!
Knee pad designs were originally heavily focused on downhill riders, who got a shuttle or chairlift ride to the top. Hence there wasn’t a focus on how to actually pedal in them. Nowadays, there are some knee pads that are so comfortable to ride in that you often forget they are there!
What to look for?
When considering a pair of pedal friendly mountain bike knee pads, there are a few things to look out for.
a) Knee Protection
Technology has come a long way. You can have a very thin layer that is far more protective than the plastic protection in the ’80s, which was significantly bulkier. Foams which are flexible and relatively squishy, but harden on impact, have dominated the knee pad market for mountain bikers in recent years. Look for technology such as D30 or G-Form for flexible material that hardens on impact for pedal-friendly protection.
While moving in knee pads, you can get fairly warm. Having good ventilation can make a world of difference to your comfort levels while riding. Look for mesh panels on the back of the leg and thin, breathable materials.
Unfortunately, the downside of having light and thin materials can mean a lack of durability. Knee Pads tend to tear beneath the top attachment (especially if they are tricky to slide on) and at the back of the leg. Catching a pedal on the back of the leg is not uncommon, and a thinner knee pad is more susceptible to tearing.
The 6 Best Pedal Friendly MTB Knee Pads
We have taken all these points (and more) into consideration to present you with the best pedal-friendly mountain bike knee pads.
1. Fox Enduro D30 Knee Guard
Fox has created an exceptional lightweight knee pad for trail riders and enduro riders alike. The Enduro D30 pads are flexible enough to wear comfortably while pedaling but hardens on impact to provide a very protective barrier.
The Enduro knee sleeve is reasonably long, sitting mid-way up your thigh and protecting the upper part of the shins. These mountain bike knee pads are not a pair that you need to worry about falling down while you descend either. The elastic bands at the top and bottom of the sleeve hold the pads in place without causing too much pressure on your quadriceps or calves either.
The ventilation is excellent. Very easy to pedal all day in these, and I do, in fact, pedal in these for hours on end. The mesh on the back of the pads helps with the breathability and manages the sweat. The only issue that I have come across is that the mesh ripped when I caught it on the pedal accidentally. In all, it was my fault, and they aren’t designed to handle pedal scrapes. But it does make a testament to the durability of the mesh.
2. Leatt Airflex Pro
Leatt has created a breezy, protective knee pad that sits securely as you pedal. The ventilation has been incorporated into the design of the protection rather than as an afterthought. When you put these on, you feel very protected without overheating.
The AirFlex Gel padding is flexible while riding and hardens on impact. The fact that they are so flexible makes all-day riding pretty easy! There is additional padding around the sides of the knee too. This protects the small and fragile bones on either side of the knee cap and makes you feel that much more confident about the knee pads.
The back panel is constructed of ‘MoistureCool’ mesh and has a large cut out behind the knee. And if you do start to sweat in them, they have anti-bacterial fabric to stop the smell! The knee pads are held up by an elastic strap and a silicone gripper, so they won’t be slipping down as you pedal. However, if you crash at high speeds, there isn’t much stopping them from moving. Hence if you do tend to ride park laps often, we’d recommend going for a pad with straps holding them in place.
In all, a fantastic set of pads for all-day riding. Certainly, one of the best-ventilated knee pads on the market at the moment if that is your priority. Pedaling in the Airflex Pro is comfortable and is recommended for the trail or enduro rider wanting a light and breathable set of pads.
3. Troy Lee Designs Speed Knee Guards Review
Before you even put the TLD Speed Knee Guards on, you know that they are going to be comfortable. The knit mesh backing holds it in place, and the thicker material keeps you warm on cooler rides. The silicone grippers at the top and bottom of the sleeve prevent the pads from falling down while riding or during a crash which is essential!
In terms of protection, it has a 4mm thick pad of D30 (which is the material that hardens on impact if you’ve missed that!). While it might not be able to fully shelter you from high-impact rock strikes, it will take the brunt of the bigger strikes. The thicker material also assists in preventing scrapes and scratches further up and around your leg.
The primary disadvantage of the TLD Speed Knee Sleeve is the limited ventilation. They run a little warm for climbing up longer hills, which I suppose is good if you are looking for knee warmers?! The other disadvantage is the limited coverage of the pads. They could extend around the knee a little further to protect the sides of your knee a bit better. But other than that, an excellent pair of knee guards that will last you a very long time!
4. G-Form Pro X2 Knee Guards Review
The G-Form Pro X2 has been a very popular set of knee pads in recent years, and it is easy to understand why. While the padding wouldn’t necessarily suffice for a hard-core downhill rider, they provide ample protection for a trail rider.
The padding is constructed of RPT, which hardens on impact. The padding covers the majority of your knee, with a little extra armor on either side of the knee. And the padding extends a little down towards the shin for extra protection. It also needs to be noted that the sleeve provides UPF-50 sun protection to keep you that bit more protected while out enjoying the sunshine!
These are certainly minimalist knee pads. They are lightweight and breathable but pack a punch in terms of protection. The RPT material is perforated to help with airflow and keeping the knees better ventilated.
They are held in place through an elastic sleeve and silicone grips at the top. These are made for all-day use, from beginner through to the more advanced riders!
5. POC Joint VPD Air Knee Pads
The POC Joint VPD Air Knee pads are POC’s ‘light’ version of the knee pad. The top strap holds the knee pads in place well for descents and while you are pedaling. The VPD (visco-elastic polymer dough) is another ‘hardening in impact’ material. The advantage of VPD is how light and flexible it is. This makes the POC joint super easy to pedal in!
The biggest flaw in the POC joint VPD Air knee pads is the limited protection. Compared to the other pads on this list, these ones do not cover a large portion of the knee area. For some rides/riders, especially those wanting to do all-day-long type trail rides, this may be fine. However, for those riding park laps or similar, it may not be sufficient protection.
The pads are held up with a velcro strap above the knee and a silicon strip near the top to stop it from moving around. I do prefer the velcro straps for pedaling (as opposed to elastic bands), as it means you can loosen them while you pedal. This stops the pressure on your muscles, and you can ride much more comfortably!
These are super comfortable, all-day-long kind of knee pads. And as an additional bonus, the Polygiene’s anti-odorant treatment is used to stop them from starting to smell! A high-quality mountain bike knee pad made for those wanting to go long distances but don’t necessarily need bulky protection.
6. Fox Launch D30 Knee Guard
The Fox Launch has an emphasis on protection, but the ability to pedal in them is still great. I don’t bother taking them off on flat rides (such as riding home from the park), as they are absolutely fine for pedaling in. What I do find difficult is how sweaty they get on climbs, so I do tend to avoid putting them on until I need them.
The protection is excellent. The D30 material is flexible until you need it, and it extends from over the knee down to the shins. This gives you a little more protection than many other knee guards. On either side of the D30 pad, there is some reasonably dense foam padding. This keeps all the fragile bones on either side of the knee padded and out of harm’s way.
The adjustable straps on the top and bottom of the sleeve mean that they never slide out of place. And it also means I can undo the Velcro strap to keep the pads around my calves/shins until I need them.
The downside of the durable material (perforated neoprene) is that they are very warm to ride in. The backs have a circular hole cut from behind the knee, which helps with airflow. But generally, they tend to get a bit sweaty.
They are an exceptionally durable set of knee pads too. You can pull them on without having to worrying about them ripping, and they can certainly handle a crash or two. I have used mine for over two years now, and besides the smell, they are still in fantastic condition!
Effectively, the Fox Launch D30 is a pedal-friendly option for the rider wanting greater levels of protection but doesn’t mind the warmth that comes with it!
When looking for the best pedal friendly mountain bike knee pads, it does tend to be a bit of a trade-off between how much protection the pads offer and how well ventilated they are while riding. Fortunately, as new technologies develop, we are getting higher quality products that are not only highly protective but also reasonably lightweight. The Fox Enduro D30 knee guard and the Leatt AirFlex Pro are good examples of striking a balance between the two.
For a little more impact protection, consider the Leatt AirFlex Pro and the Fox Launch D30, as they provide frontal and side protection for the knee and shins.
For those of you who do tend to spend a bit of time at the park, you will want set of knee pads that are a bit more protective. If you pedal a bit as well on your rides, you can either store the knee pads around your shins/ in a bag/ on the handlebars etc until you need them. Or consider investing in two sets of knee pads, each serving different purposes.
As far as protective gear goes, knee pads are very essential items for mountain bikers.
If you want more information on knee pads, check out how to choose MTB knee pads here.