In this comparison, we look at the Fox Launch Pro D30 vs Fox Launch D30. The difference, besides the ‘pro’ in the name, is quite substantial. We will look into the differences between the two pairs of pads and whether the Pro version is worth the extra dollars.
Knee pads have made leaps and bounds in the progression of the technology used in recent years. Gone are the days of pure plastic shells to protect your patella. In place of these, we have malleable material that hardens on impact. The D30 material is flexible and comfortable to pedal in but will harden under impact. Doing so absorbs the energy from the impact and distributes it away from the knees, keeping the knees intact.
Fox Launch Pro D30 Review
- Highly protective
- Comfortable fit
- Breathable and sturdy materials
- Very adjustable velcro straps
- No inner and outer knee protection
- The back mesh panel is prone to wear and tear
Intended Use: Downhill and Enduro
The Launch Pro D30 combines the old school with the updated technology to create one of the highest performing knee pads out. The ‘old school’ outer plastic cap covers the ‘high-tech’ silicon-filled pad. This provides a couple of benefits.
- Having a slippery, hard surface allows the rider to slide across the ground, as opposed to coming to an immediate stop
- It can handle a few more crashes on rock. The standard outer material on modern knee pads tends to rip, whereas the hard outer shell can withstand a bit more wear and tear.
- The harder material helps, ever so slightly, to dissipate a bit more of the energy from the crash.
Fox Launch D30 Review
- Pedal Friendly
- A large amount of protection
- Comfortable fit
- Very durable
- Very adjustable velcro straps
- Inner Pads aren’t removable
Intended Use: Enduro, through to more techy trail rides
The Fox Launch D30 is another high-performing knee pad from Fox. They are a ‘wear every ride’ kind of knee pad. They are super comfortable, pedal-friendly pads that also provide a decent amount of protection.
The Launch D30 knee guards are less expensive than the ‘Pro’ version, but for some, the extra protection is a bit of an overkill and not worth the additional cost. We will look into the differences below.
The two knee pads are reasonably similar in construction. The sleeve is made of perforated neoprene, which is comfortable to wear, somewhat breathable, and isn’t much of an issue when they get wet. The Pro version has a slightly more advanced version, the ‘Ariaprene’ technology. It is a lighter, more breathable material that has the advantage of not stretching out of shape over time.
Both the Ariaprene and the standard neoprene materials are highly durable. You can expect to get several years of use and crashes out of either of these pads. They both have a pre-curved ergonomic fit, which refers to the aggressive bend in the knee. This bend means you will have ultimate comfort while descending.
Both knee pads have a velcro closure system at the top and bottom of the sleeve to hold the knee pad in place. This prevents the knee pad from sliding down in a crash. To assist the strap, both sets of pads actually have a silicone gripper around the top of the sleeve to grip the lower thigh to stop the pad from sliding around. The velcro actually lasts very well too. After multiple years of use, my velcro straps are still in great nick.
The similarities end when you start thinking about the actual knee protection. The plastic cap covering the knee joint on the Launch Pro is a giveaway! The Launch Pro D30 has a D30 pad protected by a plastic casing, whereas the Launch D30 has a D30 pad, but no plastic cover.
It is also a removable hard cap, so if it does happen to snag on something, you can always replace it. But once you remove the cap, it leaves a large velcro patch on your knee- so it isn’t really an option to ride without it.
Back of the Sleeve
There is also a difference when looking at the backs of the knee. The Pro version doesn’t have a hole at the back of the knee but instead has a light and breathable mesh material. The back panel is actually separate from the lower part of the knee sleeve, which allows for greater mobility while pedaling. However, it does tend to confuse you a little when you put your foot through the wrong hole, taking it on or off!
The Launch D30 has a large cut-out at the back of the knee, which helps with the ventilation. Some riders find that this hole can pinch the skin if it doesn’t fit correctly, but personally, I have never found it an issue.
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What is D30?
Both knee pads have D30 technology making up the knee pads. D30 is a high-performing impact protection technology that has taken over the mountain biking world. You will find it in knee and elbow pads, gloves and other body armor. The reason it is so popular is that it offers a comfortable, lightweight and flexible material that hardens on impact. As it hardens, it distributes the energy away from your body, keeping your joints and bones protected from high energy impacts.
Protection of the Knee Cap
There is no doubt that the Launch Pro D30 provides a fair bit more extra impact protection. As mentioned earlier, the outer plastic cap provides benefits in being able to slide and handle harder knocks. It works in conjunction to redistribute the energy from the impact with the inner D30 layer, which sits against the knee cap.
While the Launch D30 does not have an outer cap, it still has great protective capabilities. The D30 material hardens on impact, absorbing the majority of the knock. Around the sides of the knee is foam padding which protects the knee joint from sideways knocks.
Protection around the Knee
The advantage of the Launch D30 is that the pad covers a large part of the knee and down to the shin. It covers a much larger area of the knee than the Launch Pro and has padding on the sides. Without the shin and side of the knee padding, you feel a little exposed in the Launch Pro D30, whereas you feel much more secure in the non-Pro version. Hopefully, future models of the Pro version will increase the amount of protection around the knee.
The winner of the protection comparison is the Launch Pro D30. The damage to the knee will most commonly occur in hard and fast strikes to the front of the knee cap. While the sides and shin are less protected, the plastic shell on the knee cap does help stop rock strikes which are the most common injury.
The ventilation of the Launch D30 isn’t too bad. No knee pad is going to be excellent given that they are a giant block of protection preventing pretty much all airflow! The perforated neoprene helps, as does the large hole at the back of the knee.
The ventilation of the Launch Pro is still reasonably good, considering the plastic cap allows no air around the knee cap. The Ariaprene material is a little more breathable than the Launch D30, which is nice. But it does lack the hole at the back of the leg, which could be utilized for better airflow, in our opinion.
The main downside to the Fox Launch D30 is that you can’t remove the inner pads to wash the sleeve. You can still hand wash them, but if you are like me, they will get cleaned a bit more if they were machine washable!
In terms of ventilation for a mountain bike knee pad, Launch Pro D30 is the winner of the ventilation comparison. The lighter, more breathable material means you won’t get so warm during longer rides. Being able to wash the knee pads is also a bit of a bonus.
Comfort & Pedal Friendly Comparison
When you are pedaling, there is clearly a large amount of movement occurring at the knee joint. Knee pads are constructed to go around the knees, but they do tend to limit movement. The designers at fox have worked to ensure this isn’t the case.
When looking at the side profile of the Launch D30, you can see the effort the designers have gone to ensure the pedal friendliness of the pads. The foam padding on the sides of the knees illustrates the effort gone into making the knee pads as pedal-friendly as possible.
The pro version is slightly harder to pedal in due to the hard cap. As you pedal, you can feel the hard cap against your knee, which you don’t feel in the non-Pro version. But in saying that, they aren’t so heavy that they slide down as you pedal (which is common with heavier pads).
The Launch Pro D30 is easy enough to pedal in for rides around an hour, hour and a half. The Launch D30 is probably a little better, and you could comfortably ride for upwards of an hour and a half. Climbing is a different story, as they do tend to get super sweaty, but I find putting knee pads around my shins/in a backpack for climbs is much better anyway.
The Pro version has that slight advantage of having moisture-wicking fabric, which is a step up from the not so breathable neoprene on the Launch D30.
In the end, the winner of the pedal ability goes to the Launch D30. It’s simple, comfortable, and makes for an enjoyable mountain bike ride.
When it comes down to it, and you are out for a mountain bike ride, you just want to be comfortable and know your knees will be safe if you come off. Comfort comes with ventilation, a pad that doesn’t slide down and doesn’t pinch your skin. Either knee pad can offer you this, so the deciding factor is the level of protection.
The Fox Launch Pro D30 will offer better protection against hard and fast rock strikes to the top of the knee. However, it doesn’t protect you from the frame hitting the side of your knee or the outside of your knee hitting a rock. And, it does come at a much higher price.
The Fox Launch, on the other hand, is excellent value for money for an enduro or trail rider. The protection is more than suitable for an enduro and trail rider. It is super comfortable to pedal in and highly durable.