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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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