Review: Don’t like wearing bulky, uncomfortable knee pads? Leatt’s Airflex Pro is made for you

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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.

leatt airflex knee pad
The Airflex Pro is one of Leatt’s lightest knee pad options.

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
leatt airflex knee pad
The Airflex Pro uses a single-tube construction with breathable mesh on the back.

Comfortable Fit

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.

leatt airflex knee pad
Silicone-lined elastic cuffs.

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.

leatt airflex knee pad
Holes at the back provide ventilation and are lined with soft fabric to minimise irritation.

Ventilation

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.

leatt airflex knee pad
Elastic bands are used over the top of the calf.
leatt airflex knee pad
The mesh fabric can me more susceptible to wear and tear.

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.

leatt airflex knee pad
The Airflex Pro adds in more padding on the side and top of the knee caps.

Flexible Padding

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.

leatt airflex knee pad
Flexible, 6mm thick padding is pre-cuved to wrap around the knees.

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.

leatt airflex knee pad wil
These have become my go-to choice for all-day pedalling.

Overall

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.

Review Info

Brand:Leatt
Product:Airflex Pro Knee Pads
From:Hotlines, hotlines-uk.com
Price:£77.99
Tested:by Wil Barrett for 4 months

Comments (14)

  1. Is there any chance of a review on heavy duty knee pads rather than the current crop of “light” pads? I had a fairly serious crash last year and need something more, but struggle to know whats available apart from Dainese.

  2. @imrobert – Absolutely! I’m planning to try out some of Leatt’s 3DF 6.0 pads in the near future, but we could definitely do with another group test on hardshell-style pads.

    Stay tuned…

  3. @singletrackwil, any recommendations for side / hip padded chamois shorts,
    got some IXS superb although handwash only, i’ve tried the fox titan and it feels like a cricket box..
    dont fancy peddling wearing them..

    TIA

  4. @whatyadoinsucka – Not sure if it’s what you’re looking for, but I’m a fan of the Alpinestars Paragon bib shorts, which have a slide-in spine protector and removable pads for the hips. The hip pads are pretty slim, but they don’t affect pedalling too much.

    I gave those shorts an Editor’s Choice award last year: https://singletrackworld.com/2018/02/wils-pick-of-the-bunch-the-singletrack-editors-choice-award/

    As for non-bib shorts, have a look at options from POC, TLD and Leatt – they all do under-baggy shorts with armour built into them.

    ST Wil.

  5. thanks @ singletrackwil i’ll look into

  6. It’s great to see safety kit being impact tested. Although you seem to have gone that extra bit further!
    It’s all very well someone saying, for example, a helmet is comfy to wear and looks cool. But if it doesn’t work (ie protect the bits underneath) it’s kind of missing the point.

    These pads look like the same sort of concept as the Dakine Slayers which I have. The foam pads on the sides look like an interesting difference.

  7. @uberpod – Well, I never intended to test the knee pads that thoroughly, but then I am supposedly meant to be a professional 🙂

    You’re right about the comparison with the Dakine Slayers – the Leatt Airflex Pro is designed for a very similar purpose and rider. Having used the Slayers, I’d say they aren’t as breathable as the Airflex Pro. But the full-wrap construction does give them a more robust feel overall. Protection wise, there’s a touch more meat to the main pad on the Slayers, but the total coverage is less than the Airflex Pro once you factor in those additional side and top pads.

    The Slayers did very well in our group test last year: https://singletrackworld.com/2017/07/review-dakine-slayer-knee-pads-winner-best-all-round/

    The other knee pad that comes to mind is the Scott Soldier 2, which are similarly flexible and breathable; https://singletrackworld.com/2017/05/review-scott-soldier-2-knee-pads/

    ST Wil.

  8. I have Alpine Stars Paragon knee pads – how do these pads compare to mine?

  9. Also my paragons pull up flush to my under shorts – I could do with a fabric clip like on a suspender belt to connect them together – any recomendations?

  10. @fotorat – The Alpinestars Paragon is a great knee pad! Definitely on the lighter side, and also really well ventilated. The padding isn’t as flexible though – Alpinestars uses a more basic polyurethane cup for the Paragon knee pad, which doesn’t articulate to the same level as these. As a result, I’ve found the stiffer pad means they can shift around a bit more while pedalling, whereas the Leatt Airflex Pro stay in place a lot better.

    Good question about the clip! I’m not sure there’s any bolt-on solution, but why not enlist the help of someone who’s handy with textiles to create something custom?

    Aside from that, there’s definitely a brand out there doing a combo knee pad + inner short that connects the two together, but I can’t for the life of me remember the brand.

    If anyone knows the brand that does that, please let us know!

    ST Wil.

  11. It is 661 that has the pad connectors.

    For under shorts, also have a look at the G-form shorts, their padding is some of the most flexible(=comfy) and at the same time covers a good bit of surface.
    The Alpine stars bibs protect so little area, I returned them.

    The POC shorts I have are very stiff and bulky on the side pads, so not very comfy to wear for pedaling. Nice for DH. Their newest knee pads are great though, so if they start using those foam pads in the shorts they’d have a winner.

  12. Real-world feedback on these pads: I’ve had these pads for about 2 years now, had a fair few crashes on them, definitely saved my knees. I’ve had a few grazes between the padding, and I’ve torn some of the back material a little bit.

    Very comfy for pedalling in, although you need to twist them so that they are parallel to your shin bones, or they can rub. Plus I’ve found a tiny bit of chamois cream on your knee caps reduces any rubbing.

    I wear these as my heavy duty pads, for DH and Enduro trails, plus things like Swiss and French Alps. Great wee pads.

  13. not for me that’s for sure, not enough side coverage or coverage around the knee, a common place to git is the side of the knees against frame or against the ground or rocks.
    So far Poc joint VPD Dh are my favourite pads, they are sweaty & heavier, but the padding is thick so it offers good protection, unlike their gloves, which only offer some protection against bleeding from hits, but it will hurt.
    I prefer Velcro straps for secure fit.
    I don’t like big gaps between padding as this is a space where a sharp object can hit like a rock a broken tree.
    Poc pads are easy to repair if damaged, but the pads reviewed here can easily be repaired too, & you can replace the mesh with stronger material if you got some sewing skills or hands for that, without any major modification.

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