LEATT AIRFLEX ULTRALITE KNEE PAD REVIEW
Words by Robert Johnston | Photos by Ian Linton
The trail knee pad market is hotter than ever, with an increasing number of lightweight knee protectors out there to choose from to protect your knees from crashes on the more pedal-focused days. Leatt’s Airflex material has been a top performer in the protection world for the last couple years, offering a competitive alternative to the common D3O protectors, and Leatt has been expanding their range of Airflex-equipped pads to offer a knee pad for just about every rider out there. We put their Airflex Ultralite knee pads to the test over the Scottish winter, and it’s safe to say they’re a solid option in the minimalist knee pad market.
The AirFlex Ultralite is Leatt’s most breathable and lightweight knee pad offering, making use of their AirFlex impact gel protection to protect the kneecap and top of the shin from damage. This AirFlex impact gel offers a flexible protector that can conform to the knee while pedaling yet hardens and dissipates energy when impacted to reduce the peak forces on the knee in a crash. It features considerable perforations to allow air to flow through to the knee and aid in keeping things cool, with a 3D ribbed design to increase the effectiveness of the protection. Leatt rates the AirFlex Ultralite knee pad at a protection rating of 10 out of 25, signifying its minimalist intentions, but it still passes the EN1621-1 standard for knee protection.
The AirFlex protective insert is held by a high-rise sock made primarily from an AirMesh moisture wicking fabric, which is designed to offer great airflow and wick sweat away from the skin to keep things cool and comfortable. This sock has elasticated cuffs with generous silicone print on the inside to keep the knee pads in place. The sleeve and AirFlex insert are given a pre-curved knee cup to aid in comfort, and there’s a Kevlar strip on the most damage-prone area of the front of the knee pad to fend off abrasion. The Leatt AirFlex Ultralite knee pads are available in sizes XS-XXL, with a retail price of $79.99 / £99.99.
I’m a big fan of the lightweight but still usefully protective knee pad segment. For more aggressive use cases there’s no substitute for thicker padding, but units like the Airflex Ultralite can do a surprisingly effective job at fending off impacts and abrasion. These pads are about as light and airy as I’ve yet to come across, which makes that protection all the more impressive. The mesh is highly breathable and the perforations in the Airflex protective material do a good job at limiting heat buildup – don’t get me wrong, you still know you’re got something on your knees, but they’re damn comfortable for their protective capabilities. The cutout at the back of the knee combines with plenty of flexibility in the material to prevent them from causing just about any restriction, and they stayed in place throughout testing with both pants and shorts. This is no doubt a combination of the long sleeve extension up the thigh, combined with a thin but effective grip strip.
These pads have been with me for just about every ride since they arrived with me in December, be it muddy mountain biking or BMX riding in the Spanish heat. During this time they’ve been put to the test a couple of times, and no doubt kept me rolling after a glancing blow after a slide out on a corner. They didn’t prevent my pants from ripping, and my knee certainly still felt an impact, but they prevented any skin loss that was certain without them and I only had very minor tenderness to show for it. By the end of testing and after many wash cycles, the Kevlar front covering has started to peel off of one of the pads, but otherwise they’re showing no signs of deterioration. They’ve avoided taking on any smell during this time, but I’ve been quite proactive in giving them a wash after every strenuous and sweaty ride, so this isn’t a huge surprise. The AirFlex inserts can be removed easily from the knee sleeve, making the them all the more likely to go in the wash following a ride. Consider me impressed – these are my new pedal-minded knee pad benchmark.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Ultralite was the correct name for Leatt’s lightest and airiest knee pad offering, but they still manage to pack impressive protection for XC-trail riders to fend off some minor to medium crashes. I’ve been very impressed by the Leatt AirFlex Ultralite knee pads overall.
Price: $79.99 / £99.99