Most famous for pioneering the modern-day neck brace, South African company Leatt also produces a broad range of protective wear for mountain biking that includes helmets, body armour, spine protectors, elbow pads and knee pads.
On test here is the Airflex Pro – one of Leatt’s lightest, thinnest and most flexible options in its extensive knee pad range.
Designed with breathability and pedalling comfort in mind, the Airflex Pro is a minimalist-style knee pad that’s designed to appeal to cross-country and trail riders. If you’re after protection for your knees without having to strap on heavy duty cyborg-style armour, these should be right up your street.
Leatt Airflex Pro Knee Pads
- Lightweight, flexible and pedal friendly slip-on softshell knee pad
- CE certified as impact protection [EN1621-2]
- 6mm thick, pre-curved 3D padding
- Perforated for ventilation
- Additional side & upper knee impact protection
- MoistureCool & AirMesh fabrics for venting and antimicrobial properties
- Silicon printed cupped knee
- Silicone printed non slip cuffs
- Sizes: Small, Medium, Large, X-Large & XX-Large
- RRP: £77.99
Like many modern lightweight knee pads, the Airflex Pros feature a Lycra tube construction with silicone grippers lining both the top and bottom cuffs, and a third silicone-lined elastic band runs over the back of the calf. There’s a distinct lack of Velcro straps or zippers, which keeps everything lightweight and streamlined. The inherent mechanical stretch built into the fabric keeps the whole assembly secure around your biscuits & cheese.
Size-wise, Leatt offers these pads in size Small through to XXL. I’ve been testing a pair of Medium Airflex Pro knee pads, and the fit has been spot-on. The elastic cuffs aren’t so tight as to cause any harsh pressure points, but they’re snug enough to prevent slippage. Even on some recent 2-hour climbs up in the alps where I deliberately left them on, the Airflex Pro pads have stayed exactly where they’re meant to from start to finish.
Helping with articulation, the main pad uses a pre-curved shape that bulges out away from the knee cap, leaving a small air gap between the skin and pad. This eliminates any tugging at the knee cap even as your legs bend through the pedal stroke, which is good news for my somewhat sensitive knees.
Thanks to the open back and perforated padding, the Airflex Pro pads do well to manage sweat build-up. They’re not as breathable as the breezy Dakine Trail Skin pads, but they’re very good. The whole back panel of the pad is made from an open-eyelet mesh fabric, which does help with ventilation, but is also potentially more vulnerable to sharp pedals and chainrings. After four months of heavy use, there are a couple of small holes in my test pads, and some of the stitches around the lower cuff on the right pad have also come loose.
I’ve been riding in some hot conditions over the past month, and that’s left pretty much every item of clothing drenched in sweat by the end of the ride. My steamy ways have managed to decimate Leatt’s anti-microbial claims, as the pads have developed a pretty heinous stink in recent weeks. Following repeated requests from my wife, a cold-water cycle through the washing machine has returned the pads to publicly acceptable levels.
The bullet-sprayed pad is made from a spongey material that isn’t dissimilar in function to D3O or VPD. It’s nice and bendy to the touch, and gets noticeably gooier in warm weather. Give the pad a good whack though, and the material firms up to absorb and distribute that impact energy. The 3D shaped pad wraps around the side of the knee cap, and also extend down slightly to cover the top of the shin bone. Compared to the standard Leatt Airflex knee pads, the Airflex Pros get additional foam pads sewn in around each side of the knee and on top as well.
According to Leatt, the Airflex Pro knee pads notch up 15 points on the brand’s own protection scale. To put that into perspective, that’s a couple of points higher than the bulkier 3DF 5.0 knee pads, which use thicker but simpler padding. It falls a bit short of the 21-point rating of the 3DF 6.0 knee pads though, but to be fair, those do have more coverage and hardshell caps over the top of softer padding.
Unfortunately for me, I’ve managed to test the padding on the Airflex Pro knee pads on a few occasions, and thankfully they’ve been up to the task each time. Most recently, a total arse-over-end crash in the Alps saw my entire bodyweight slam against a large rock slab. While I split open my elbow and gave my hip bone a nasty haematoma in the process, I was only left with a slightly dull ache on the bony part of my inside knee.
The 6mm pad might not seem like much, but it certainly punches above its weight when it comes to these kinds of hard and blunt impacts. Of course, compared to a hard-shell pad, it isn’t going to provide the same level of safety against jabbier rock strikes. That’s where the Leatt 3DF 6.0 pads are a better choice. But that’s the tradeoff you make when going for such a comfortable and flexible knee pad.
Having tested 14 knee pads in last year’s ‘Pads For Pedalling’ group test, I’ve gotten a pretty good feel for what works and what doesn’t. And factoring in the flexibility, comfort and protection on offer, the Leatt Airflex Pro have quickly risen to the top of my favourite lightweight knee pads.
If you’re after outright protection, then yes, you’ll still want to look for something burlier, such as the Troy Lee Designs Raid knee pads or Leatt’s own 3DF 6.0 knee pads. For those who want something that’s more comfortable and easy-pedalling for trail riding, then make sure you put these on your list.
|Product:||Airflex Pro Knee Pads|
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 4 months|