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POC VPD Air Legs review – pull-on knee pad with full-on protection

Contoured knee sleeve for all day riding comfort but can the slim construction and lightweight protection be enough to save you if things go pear-shaped?

POC VPD Air Legs
(Image: © Paul Burwell)

Bike Perfect Verdict

The POC VPD Air Legs knee sleeves offers low level protection and weight but they're not light on your wallet. The quality is superb however and they do really fit like a glove, albeit a slightly more expensive one.

Pros

  • +

    Incredibly lightweight

  • +

    Easy to pull on and sold in five individual sizes

  • +

    Fully packable and easy to carry

  • +

    Low profile – can be worn under jeans/trousers

  • +

    Contains smart technology insert

Cons

  • -

    Low level protection and can move under impacts

  • -

    Silicone leaves a reverse POC on your skin

  • -

    Some bunching at the back of the knee

According to POC, the VPD Air Legs is a pull-on knee pad aimed at riders looking for minimal padding and protection, but with high-level comfort and breathability. To achieve this the VPD combines a lightweight material body but with a high-tech VPD protective insert.

Our testing explained

For information on Bike Perfect's testing procedures and how our scoring system works, see our how we test page.

If you check out our best mountain bike knee pads buyers guide, you’ll see knee pads of different weights and protection levels. The VPD Air is in the featherweight category, so can be worn all day but there’s still enough meat in the design that should you have any off-road beef, you aren’t going to lose any skin.

POC VPD Air Legs

POC's VPD Air Legs are premium priced protection with visco-elastic polymer dough inserts (Image credit: Paul Burwell)

Construction

To keep the weight low, the back of the VPD Air is made from a fine Lycra mesh, which is naturally four-way stretch, so fits all those curves and imperfections. Unlike the Scott Soldier 2 knee guards we tested recently, the VPD Air knee is not shaped in this area. However, it still sits tight against the knee, which allows the Lycra to pick any sweat and wick it away.

On the front is a slightly thicker material with a tighter weave and less stretch; the idea is it keeps the insert centered on your knee. There’s a seam across the middle of the knee that creates a small amount of articulation, so the pad moves with you. The insert is also shaped so it fits better but it doesn’t wrap round as far as the Scott Soldier 2 or the Endura MT500 Lite we’ve tested previously.

POC VPD Air Legs

The Lycra body of the pads does a decent job of wicking away sweat (Image credit: Paul Burwell)

This knee sleeve takes its name from the VPD insert and stands for ‘visco-elastic polymer dough’ – a patented substance that is soft and pliable when you’re riding along but then stiffens under impact. It has very similar properties to the D3O used in the Scott Soldier 2 and SAS-TEC used on the 7 Protection Sam Hill Lites.

The other trait of VPD is it’s heat moldable, so put this pad on, ride for a bit and it’ll fit better. It also has some large perforations formed into the cap to increase air flow.

POC VPD Air Legs

The POC logo grippers do their job, but left logos in my legs (Image credit: Paul Burwell)

Since this is a strapless design, keeping the pad in place are two elastic hems. The top hem gets some silicone gripper on the inside, which works even when wet but I found it can leave a slight red mark (in the shape of the POC logo) on your thigh after even just a short ride. 

A lot of manufacturers produce knee pads in cross-over sizes like small/medium and medium/large but POC offers the VPD Air in five individual sizes, meaning you’re more likely to achieve a better fit.

POC VPD Air Legs

The pads are machine washable unlike some other alternatives (Image credit: Paul Burwell)

Performance

Like D3O, the VPD polymer does mold to your shape when it warms up. It also has a similar degree of change during an impact and is just as durable, so can handle repeated whacks much better than the standard EVA foam you get in an entry-level knee pad. There’s a slight weight increase but at just under 200g (for a pair) you’re never going to feel that while riding. This pads also folds up small, so you can stash it easily in a pack or jersey pocket.

Overall protection is limited and it’s not the most stable on the knee, so it can roll down if you end up sliding down the trail. I’d recommend a more substantial knee pad if you intend doing any gravity riding, but for trail use this pad will definitely take the sting out of smaller impacts and ward off gravel rash.

The other good thing about the VPD is it's machine washable (D3O and SAS-TEC need special care) so the insert is fitted permanently and there’s no pocket seam across the front of the knee to cause irritation. 

Verdict

The smart insert adds around 30 percent to the cost, but the VPD Air Legs offers a great fit and is much easier to live with. There was some bunching at the back of the knee, and the gripper is slightly too tight but if you want lightweight trail protection and POC’s fabled build quality, this is it.

Tech specs: POC VPD Air Legs

  • Price: $70 / £70 / €80
  • Sizes: XS- XL
  • Weight: 194g (pair)
  • Colors: Black only
  • Rival products: 7 Protection Sam Hill Lite, Endura MT500 Lite knee pads, Scott Soldier 2 knee guards
Paul Burwell
Freelance writer

Paul has been testing mountain bikes and products for the best part of 30 years, he’s passed comment on thousands of components and bikes, from the very first 29ers and dropper posts to latest e-MTBs and electronic drivetrains. He first put pen to paper for Mountain Bike International magazine but then contributed to What Mountain Bike, Cycling Today and Cycling Weekly magazines before a  20 year stint at MBR magazine. An ex-elite level XC racer, he’s broken more bones than records but is now sustained on a diet of trail building, skills coaching and e-bike trail shredding.