Fox Racing Launch Elite Knee Pads REVIEW
Words by Sourpatch
Knee pads have their work cut out these days, as riders push increasingly hard and fast on shorter travel bikes, as well as demanding increased freedom of movement and ventilation. Fox decided to set about creating their take on the ultimate pedal-friendly knee pad, by taking a D3O sleeve and adding some high-performance materials, and the result is the Launch Elite knee pad. We’ve been giving these some hammer on the trails for the last while, and it’s time to share our thoughts.
The Launch Elite is the pinnacle of Fox’s current knee pad offerings. Their goal was to make a knee pad that successfully blends mobility, comfort and most importantly protection, with a level 1 CE certification.
Fox uses CE certified D3O LP1 inserts as the main piece of protection in the Launch Elite Knee pads. Those D3O inserts are encased in a SuperFabric skid panel for maximum durability and flexibility. The Super Fabric also provides an aesthetic flair to the pads, which we dig. A total of four bonded Poron pods are nested on the sides of each knee pad to provide additional protection without limiting movement.
All those pads are intertwined onto a lightweight, minimalistic sleeve designed to help with comfort and flexibility as well as wicking sweat off the leg when pushing hard on the pedals. The Launch Elite knee pads are meant to stay in place thanks to a generously-sized gripper panel engulfed in silicone print. The sleeve also features an antimicrobial treatment to reduce odor, meaning they require less frequent washing.
Being that the Launch Elite Knee Pad is Fox’s premier knee pad, they come with a price tag to match. These knee pads have an MSRP of $164.95, with an extended knee/shin option at $174.95. Fox ticked off just about every size a rider could need, ranging from Extra Small to 2XL, so the chances are you’ll be able to get the right fit in Fox’s take on the ultimate knee protector.
Prior to receiving the Launch Elite Knee pads, I had been switching between Fox’s Enduro Pro knee pads and Leatt’s Airflex Hybrid knee pads depending on the day. Those pads each had their own pros and cons: the Enduro Pros I would use on lighter duty days on mellower trails; while the Airflex’s would be the ones I would take when the trails got a little more tech. Neither of the pads were my favorite when it came to pulling double duty. That’s where the Launch Elite Knee pads come into play, blending the performance of the two into one excellent package.
Fox’s Launch Elite knee pads meet a lot of my desires when it comes to knee protection. The fit is on point, with a very snug cuff around the calf and a relaxed yet grippy upper cuff around the thigh. The 3+ inches of silicon print in the gripper initially raised some hair-waxing concerns. Those concerns, however, didn’t rise to be a problem, and the pads stay in place relatively well without fully stripping my thighs of hair. I did find myself adjusting the pad on my left leg at least once on most rides, but could never pin down the culprit, so it could well be an isolated issue for my body geometry. As for breathability, the Launch Elite knee pads are middle of the road. They are by no means outstanding in their breathability, but they do not get unbearably hot either, and I’ve been happy putting miles into them in the early summer heat.
The bread and butter of the Launch Elite knee pad comes from Fox’s ability to maximize protection while still making the pads pedal friendly. Many times, there’s a clear give and take, where a brand focuses on one of these items. Pedaling with these knee pads on, I tend to forget that they are even there: they just blend in with my legs, and I only notice them being on again while standing around waiting for the camera guys to do their thing. The pre-curved D30 LP1 inserts don’t hinder the pedaling comfort yet increase downhill confidence thanks to their solid protection and great coverage. The side padding is effective at preventing top tube bashes or glances to the knee from being too sore, too.
The Fox Launch Elite knee pads have allowed me to consolidate my gear bag down to just two pairs of knee pads. I use these for most of my riding now and will bust out the Fox Launch Pros when it is time to head to the bike park. Though the price tag is a little eye watering, their performance goes a long way to justifying it.
The Wolf’s Last Word
As was Fox’s goal, the Launch Elite Knee Pad checks off every box they were aiming for. These knee pads are extremely comfortable; don’t hinder mobility on the bike whatsoever, and they offer some of the best protection for a pad that is pedal-friendly. Though I do find these pads very comfortable with good coverage, I do find myself needing to adjust the pads placement every now and again. This was a lone issue for myself as the rest of the crew never had to adjust on the trail and likely has everything to do with differing leg sizes. All in all, they’ve become my go-to trail knee pad, and they’ll take some knocking off the top step.
Sizes: XS – 2XL