James Vincent gives us his longterm review of Leatt’s soft-shell 3DF 5.0 Knee Guards
It’s incredibly rare that you’ll see me out on a bike sans knee pads. Ever since I had a relatively innocuous low speed crash that left me with a loose ACL and needing 13 stitches in my left knee, I’ve worn pads. In fact, in the 19 years since that incident, I can probably count on one hand the rides I’ve ridden where I haven’t worn them.
For some unknown reason, my elbows, wrists and shoulders all escape unscathed (famous last words), but my knees continue to take the brunt of any crashes (which to be fair are few and far between, but when they happen, they happen in a big way).
I have no doubt that I’m doing something wrong, but until that changes, I’ll continue to wear pads. And so it is, my ideal knee pad is something soft and relatively unobtrusive that I can happily pedal in all day, while providing enough protection to keep my delicate patella in one piece.
Upon first inspection, these 3DF 5.0 Knee Guards from those South African purveyors of protection, Leatt, looked like they’d fit the bill.
Leatt 3DF 5.0 Knee Guard Features
- 3DF AirFit Impact Foam
- CE Certified as impact protection [EN1621-2]
- Pre-curved 3D design for better fit and function
- Perforated for ventilation
- Increased Side Protection
- Aramid Outer Layer
- Anti-Odor & Wicking Fabrics
- Silcone printed non slip cuff
- Sizes: S/M & L/XL
- RRP £74.99
The 3DF 5.0 pads are a slip on affair, so you’ll be fitting them at the start of a ride, rather than faffing around with them at the top of a Lakeland pass while your riding buddies scoff Haribo. Fortunately, they’re very comfortable and you won’t object to wearing them while pedalling in all but the hottest of conditions.
They feature a pre-curved foam pad for the primary protection, and plenty of additional protection at the sides. If you’ve ever had the misfortune to catch the side of your knees you’ll appreciate this extra padding.
The outer soft shell is hard-wearing aramid (similar to kevlar), and there’s a mesh back with plenty of ventilation, including a whopping great hole right at the back of the pad so there’s no bunching up of material. A silicone lined elastic cuff works in tandem with a single velcro strap at the top of the pad to let you fine tune the fit, while the lower cuff relies on some elastic and silicone thread.
Fit & Comfort
Fit is generally good, although they are a little on the bulky side. With my legs straightened, the preformed foam pad creates a little air pocket between the pad and my kneecap. Because they stick out a bit, you’ll want to wear them with looser fitting shorts to avoid things bunching up and rubbing too much.
Having said that, this preformed pad does make them supremely comfortable to pedal in – to the point where I don’t even think about them anymore. I’ve worn them for big days in the mountains, uplift days, and night rides where we seem to spend more time in the pub afterwards than actually out riding.
Through all of this, my one real complaint with these pads is that the lower elastic band has a tendency to ride up, necessitating a quick readjust occasionally so the pads are covering my knees. According to the sizing chart on the Leatt website, my legs should have fitted into the XL/L, so that’s what I’ve been riding, but I do wonder if I could get away with a S/M for a little less bulk and a slightly slimmer fit.
It’s worth noting that the lower cuff doesn’t have the grippier silicone printed band that the top cuff has, which likely contributes to the issue as well. The good news is that Leatt has updated the sleeve design on the 3DF 5.0 knee pads for 2019, and they now feature a silicone band on the inside of the lower cuff, which should address the problem I had.
If you’re after a really low profile and slim fitting yet heavy duty pad, Leatt offers the Airflex Pro (read our review here). Interestingly, these actually rate higher on Leatt’s own protection scale, but with considerably reduced bulk. Those pads aren’t as highly rated for direct rock strikes though, so just make sure you choose your pad depending on the sort of terrain you normally encounter.
In The Name Of Science
I’ve crashed in these pads a couple of times, and my knees are still intact, which is nice. Not that you’d know it from looking at the pads – they’re holding up really, really well. They get chucked in the wash when they start to hum and come up gleaming everytime, with the velcro still doing its thing and the elastic still being elastic. The mesh backing still looks fresh and intact, although I should point out that I ride exclusively with clips, so the pads aren’t being subjected to flat pedal pins on a regular basis.
I like these knee pads a lot. They’re supremely comfy, even on mega long rides, and they’ve kept my knees intact despite the many meetings they’ve had with the earth. I can also vouch for how useful these are while kneeling down beside the trail to shoot photos.
The lack of a silicone gripper on the lower cuff means that they can ride up when using them, so I’d definitely recommend seeking out the newer 2019 version, which should already have addressed this problem.
Looking for more knee pad reviews? Then check out our group test, which has 14 different knee pads tested & reviewed!
|Product:||3DF 5.0 Knee Guards|
|Tested:||by James Vincent for 9 months|