When it comes to designing highly respected and lusted after gear, Troy Lee Designs has long been on the podium as an industry leader. With a long history of blending artwork and performance, Troy Lee Designs has outfitted what they claim are some of the world’s fastest riders. They seem to have found their niche in the delicate balance of eye-catching, yet sleek apparel and protective gear and the Troy Lee Designs Stage Knee Guards have been getting put to the test to see if they maintain that elite pedigree.
TLD’s newest Stage knee guards check off all the boxes that consumers have come to expect from the brand. These mountain bike knee pads are surprisingly low-profile for mid-range coverage. The lightweight Troy Lee Stage knee guard utilizes D3O technology for maximum impact protection in a thin profile. The D3O padding is able to flex and fold making it easy to match the movement of your leg, making it less noticeable during climbs and while pedaling. There is a thin layer of mesh that helps aid in breathability, but as you can see, is also a liability.
Along with fully covering the kneecap and extending around to cover the inside and outside of the knee from frame impacts or the ground, the Stage’s knee protection extends slightly below the knee for that extra bit of security. Above the knee, the fabric comes up an extra few inches, preventing any chance of a gap between the pad and your shorts.
The TLD Stage knee guard utilizes a sleeve fit. There are no adjustment straps, so you should be diligent when sizing the pad. Instead, the TLD Stage knee guard pads rely on a snug elastic strip with silicone to keep the pads in place, and it works well if sized right. There is definitely a break in period for the elastic around the upper and lower part of the pads. The first several rides I found the silicone grippers to be pretty tight and sometimes caused chaffing until they stretched out a bit. For sizing, I’d recommend getting a pair that fits a little snug, in anticipation of this. I tend to identify as a ‘cusp’ rider when it comes to sizing for most things, but the XS/SM size seemed to fit me well with my 16.25” thigh circumference. Any larger, and I would bump up to the MD/LG. In addition to the aforementioned sizes, Troy Lee offers an XL/2XL.
For all of the pedal enthusiasts out there, one of the most attractive features will certainly be the highly breathable mesh backing. No doubt designed to keep you as cool as possible, it also has the added benefit of not having itchy or uncomfortable seams. While other knee pads have tried to ditch the stitch, Troy Lee seems to have figured out how to prevent the pesky bunching of material behind the knee bend. While the front panel is covered with an abrasion resistant material, the mesh in the back can be vulnerable to rider error. Clipless riders may not have as much of an issue, but flat pedal riders seem to be on borrowed time with keeping the mesh fully intact. Unfortunately, once the mesh is compromised there isn’t much you can do to save it from its own demise: one small pinhole can quickly become the Achilles heel.
During testing, I was able to see how the Stage knee guard performed in a few crash scenarios. When it comes to slide outs, it stayed in place. Like, really stayed in place. There was no sliding and the abrasion resistant material was relatively easy to wipe off and get back to shredding without the embarrassment of a huge dirt streak across it. Troy Lee Designs’ embroidered logo is harder to stain than their previous screen printed pads so if you like clean looking gear, this could be a big plus. In high speed crashes, the D3O really held up to hard pack dirt and larger rocks. The thinness of the pad material struggles with small and pointy surfaces. I never received broken skin from these types of crashes, but the occasional small bruise did happen during my test period. It definitely reduced the damage taken by at least 90% which left me capable of getting back to it right away, but if you’re regularly riding sharp, rocky terrain at high speeds, you may want to consider one of TLD’s thicker, more protective knee pads.
The Troy Lee Stage Knee Guards are not by any means the most affordable option out there, but they nestle in quite well with the price of many competitors. At $79 retail, their price tag seems to make sense for their brand and what you get.
Overall, I’d say Troy Lee Designs has done well with the Stage Knee Guards. A go-to option for anyone heading out for a pedal or moderately aggressive trail riding. While they do a great job of keeping you cool, I wouldn’t recommend them for cold or wet days when you’d prefer to keep the heat in. Their protection level is what I’d call mid-range and ideal for aggressive 120mm riders up to 140-160mm riders who want something light and thin.
Highlights include fit, comfort after breaking in and ventilation. While the fit can be finicky at first, once broken in they feel snug, yet keep your mobility unhindered. Their sleek design makes them easy to fit under any shorts with no bulk or awkward stretching. My only tale of caution is to warn those with a tendency to catch a pedal strike or abrasion to the calf. The breathable, yet delicate mesh can easily make these otherwise durable knee pads a short-lived affair.
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