Best Light-Duty Knee Pads for Mountain Biking

Best Lightweight Knee Pads for Mountain Biking
(Image credit: Alpinestars)

Mountain bikes are becoming ever more capable, and advancements in geometry and suspension have us gliding through rowdy terrain on short-travel bikes that would push the DH bikes of yesteryear to their limit.

Even with these rock-and-root gobbling sleds, crashing is still very much a part of the ride, and quite often the first part of your body that meets the ground is your knees. Just like our bikes and helmets, knee pads have come a long way — gone are the days of the sweaty hard shells that were better suited to a sword fight than riding a mountain bike.

Knee pads have become nearly as essential as helmets, with everyone from enduro and downhill riders to even some XC guys and gals sporting joint protection. Below we've put together a selection of our favourite light-duty knee pads.

Best overall

Knee pads

(Image credit: POC)

POC Joint VPD System

Incredibly comfortable and simple design

These lightweight knee pads from POC are made from foam and fabric entirely, making them feel plush and supremely comfortable. The lack of hard materials like plastic, mean there's no restrictions to your movement, and it's easier than ever to maneuver your way around the trail with confidence. These knee guards get the job done and feel great, whether you're charging, pedalling, or hanging around at the trailhead.


Knee pads

(Image credit: Kali Protectives)

Kali Protectives Strike Knee/Shin Guard

Great protection for short blasts

These knee and shin guards from Kali Protectives are solid and comfortable, and promise reliable protection while out on the trails. They fit comfortably, though they’re better suited for shorter rides, as they can start to feel irritating after a couple of hours of wear. However they’re decent value for money and they look good. There’s a breathable back panel to help your legs stay cool, as well as non-slip grips to hold them in place.

Budget option

Knee pads

(Image credit: BodyProx)

Bodyprox Protective Knee Pads

Entry-level protection on a tight budget

If you’re not looking to spend a lot, these soft and sponge-like knee pads from Bodyprox are a good option. The high-density foam padding offers a decent level of shock absorption to help reduce muscle fatigue, while remaining comfortable and breathable. They also offer a certain level of compression, to give your blood circulation a bit of a boost.

Most comfortable

Leatt AirFlex Pro knee pads

(Image credit: Leatt)

Leatt AirFlex Pro

Like Wearing a Second Skin

With a pre-curved design, Leatt's AirFlex Pro is made using 3D-moulded soft padding, which is heavily perforated for max airflow. Beyond the chief protector the side pads do well to fend off abrasions and, even though they are strapless, the AirFlex Pro stays put almost like a second skin. 

While the pad does well to fend off light impacts, when you get walloped you're still going to feel it. 


Alpinestars Paragon knee pads

(Image credit: Alpinestars)

Alpinestars Paragon

So good and so light, even cross-country riders would give them a shot

Some of the lightest of the bunch, you might even be able to coax gram-conscious XC riders into padding up with the Alpinestars Paragon. With no straps, the Paragon features plenty of elasticated mesh and silicone detailing to keep everything in the right place.

The padding itself isn't a high-tech non-newtonian material like some of the others listed here but the polyurethane cup offers CE-certified impact protection and features a few ventilation holes, too. 

Best design

Fox Launch Enduro knee pads

(Image credit: Fox Racing)

Fox Launch Enduro

Lightweight knee pad for all styles of riding

While the Launch has 'Enduro' in the name, they are a bit under-gunned for that particular style of riding. The Launch Enduros are lightweight, soft pads which allow for a full range of motion and the tube-style knee sleeve feels a bit like a heavy knee warmer at times. The chassis of the pad is made from a perforated neoprene with a lycra panel on the back of the knee to prevent pinching. The interior features plenty of silicon detailing to hold it in place.

The padding is asymmetrical; putting the padding where you need it on each leg and the light density soft foam is not only perforated but also articulated to cradle your kneecap extending a few centimetres down onto your shin.


G-Form Elite knee pads

(Image credit: G-Form)

G-Form Elite

A comprehensive knee protection padding option

With the protector on the exterior of the pad, G-Form's Elite offers a unique aesthetic. G-Form uses what it calls RPT mapping to put the padding in the right places. The flexible non-newtonian armour offers decent coverage around the bony protrusions of your knee and dramatically dulls the force for rocks doing their best to bruise your joints.  

The lycra tube is strapless and features silicon bands designed to grip your skin, even when you get sweaty. We didn't have issues with them sliding down even on long rides because the are so tight and easy to position.

1. Fit and comfort

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Even if a knee pad uses newfangled materials, has fantastic ventilation, weighs almost nothing and also has a built-in force field that prevents sharp rocks from stabbing your knees, if they are uncomfortable you probably won't wear them. The latest crop of knee pads are pre-bent with ergonomic cupped protectors to help them stay in the right spot. Most rely on a combination of silicone grippers and velcro straps to prevent the pad from sliding around, though there are a few strapless designs — these models require a particularly snug fit which may get progressively looser over time as the elastic loses some of its spring.

Beyond looking for a pad which matches the shape of your legs, the combination of length, circumference, fasteners, silicone grippers, cutouts, seams, and zips will all play a role in overall comfort. If any of these factors aren't quite right, they may pinch or chafe.

2. Protection

Knee pads are available in all different levels of protection from lightweight lycra sleeves with a bit of foam padding sewn in, to those that feature removable viscoelastic or non-newtonian protectors designed to blunt and disperse heavy slams. While these modern materials are more efficient and often lighter weight than standard polyurethane foam, they also come with a significant price tag. 

Each pad will also offer different amounts of coverage but at the very least should extend well beyond just the knee cap itself. Burlier options will also feature secondary padding to protect other boney outcrops on the sides of the knee. 

3. Ventilation

As a general rule, the more padding on offer, the warmer it will be. Most feature moisture-wicking fabrics and are perforated to allow some airflow, but there is only so much heat these features can disperse. In this regard, it's about finding a balance between how much protection you need and how sweaty you're going to get. 

4. Durability

Given that the whole idea of a knee pad is to protect your limbs from dirt, rocks and roots when things go pear-shaped, the materials used throughout the pad need to be robust. Quite often, canvas, kevlar or similarly tough materials will be used over the cap to prevent rips and tears. Quite a few of the knee pads below also feature a removable protector that can be pulled out for washing or even replaced if damaged. 

Colin Levitch
Freelance writer

Born and bred in Colorado, and now based in Australia, Colin comes from a ski racing background and started riding as a way to stay fit through the summer months. His father, a former European pro, convinced him to join the Colorado State University collegiate cycling team, and he hasn't stopped since. It's not often he pins on a number nowadays, and you'll likely find him in search of flowy singletrack, gravel roads and hairpin corners. Colin has worked at Bikeradar and is a regular contributor to Australian Mountain Bike and Cyclist magazines. 

Rides: BMC Team Machine SLR01, Trek Top Fuel 9, Ibis Ripley